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Is this the key to getting kids to eat their greens?

Photo by hui sang on Unsplash
Getting kids to eat veges has been perplexing parents for generations. New research from Massey University may have the answer – but you have to start early. By Sonia Speedy

There’s nothing quite like having a lovingly pureed spoonful of pumpkin spat right back in your face, a look of total disgust coming across your baby’s face.

It can be a scenario that plays out in various forms for years as we plead with older children to please eat their broccoli, while dangling threats of no pudding as we go.

But recent research by Dr Jeanette Rapson, a Massey University Human Nutrition PhD graduate, has found that introducing vegetables to babies as their very first foods resulted in an increase in the amount of vegetables those babies were eating by the time they were nine months old.

“The results of this trial suggest that the start of complementary feeding is an ideal time to introduce vegetables as a first food, since infants are willing to try new foods, even those with more bitter tastes such as vegetables,” Dr Rapson says.

“Offering vegetables first is an effective way to support infants to learn to accept and eat more vegetables,” she says.

Dr Rapson’s findings were recently published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. She recruited 117 Auckland six-month-old babies about to start solids for the first time. The babies were split into two groups, with one group (the control), given a combination of fruit and vegetables in their first four weeks of starting solids, while the test group received only vegetables.

The trial found that at nine months of age, the infants given veges-only, ate double the amount of broccoli and spinach as those given fruit and veges.

The difference was that at the nine-month mark, the vegetable-only infants ate equal amounts of fruit and veges, while the control group babies ate significantly more fruit than veges.

“Consumption of fruit is as important as vegetables during childhood, but fruit needs less encouragement compared with vegetables due to a baby’s innate preference for sweet tastes,” Dr Rapson says.

She urges parents to offer their babies a wide variety of vegetables when introducing solids. She will be monitoring the research infants’ vegetable intake at 12, 24 and 36 months to assess the long-term impacts.

So while it might be tempting to give babies some pureed apple just to get them in the habit of eating– hold off! You could be lining yourself up for years of dinner table angst.

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