MS, RD, LDN, CBS
Janel holds a Master’s in Nutrition Communication from Tufts University. As the recipient of the 2010 Massachusetts Young Dietitian of the Year award, she believes in making healthy eating simple, sustainable, and delicious.
Don’t be surprised if your baby doesn’t seem to like a new veggie on the first try. Repeatedly offering small amounts of a particular vegetable to let babies get used to the taste of it can improve vegetable acceptance. It can take 10 or more tries for a baby to like a new food, especially when it comes to bitter vegetables. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 A negative facial reaction to a food doesn’t necessarily mean your little one dislikes the food. Oftentimes they react with strong facial cues in response to any new flavor or texture.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend a specific order for introduction to various food groups. Although, one study showed that at 12 months of age, babies who started solids with vegetables had a 38% higher vegetable intake when compared with babies who started with fruit. 6 Whether you start with infant cereal, pureed fruit, smashed avocado or pureed peas, be sure to continue to offer a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and good fats to increase acceptance of all foods.
Infants who are fed a variety of vegetables on a regular basis are more likely to accept new vegetables and new foods in general. 3, 6-9 There is no shortage of vegetables to try, just be sure they’re prepared in a texture appropriate for your baby. You can also try different cooking methods (steam, roast, sauté) and ways to add flavor (fresh or dried herbs and different cooking oils like olive and avocado oil) to not only expose your baby to even more flavors and textures, but also increase the likelihood that they’ll accept a new veggie.
When preparing a new vegetable, you can gradually advance how it is prepared, starting with the vegetable pureed with breastmilk or prepared formula and then advancing to mix the vegetable with another already accepted food, such as a fruit puree or cereal. As your baby gets older, you’ll progressively advance to lumpy mixtures, soft solids, and soft table foods as your baby shows readiness. Once your baby is self-feeding, be sure veggies are cooked enough to be “smushable” between your fingers and pea-sized to prevent choking.
Aim to eat meals together as much as possible. Babies tend to mimic parents’ behaviors, so when they see you consistently eating veggies at mealtime, they’ll be more likely to want to take part! Modeling healthy eating at one year predicted higher frequency of vegetable consumption at 2 years. 11
As frustrating as it is to see your baby refuse veggies time and time again, keep in mind that exposure doesn’t necessarily mean your baby has to eat the vegetable. It can include letting your baby touch, smell, lick, or even play with the food on their tray. This visual and tactual exposure is really beneficial in bridging the gap between your baby refusing a veggie to one day trying it because of repeated past visual exposure.
Even breast feeding contributes to early vegetable acceptance. The different flavors in mom’s diet impact the taste of the breastmilk, which gives your baby exposure to new flavors before they’ve even begun solids! 1, 8, 10
With repeated exposure, variety of veggies, and positive mealtimes with the family, you’ll be setting up your baby to learn to love vegetables for life.
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