Being a parent comes with many challenges — and introducing new foods is just one of them. As your baby develops, their diet should too, and a big step is beginning to introduce fruit and vegetables.
As part of our last Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS 2008), we discovered that up to 25% of babies do not eat a distinct portion of fruit, and 30% do not eat a distinct portion of vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet and introducing flavor and texture variety early has been linked to increased vegetable acceptance in later childhood.
Here are some quick tips to help you as your baby experiences fruit and vegetables for the first time:
- Start with one variety at a time
If your baby has been introduced to iron-fortified infant cereals, they may be ready to start trying single ingredient pureed fruit and vegetables. While there is no particular order of introduction, it’s important that parents start by offering just one new variety at a time, such as carrots or apples, not a mixed variety, as this will help you detect if your baby has any food sensitivities. Wait about three days before offering another food, as some babies can take this long to display any signs of sensitivities or allergies.
Once your baby has tried several single varieties of vegetables and fruits, you can start serving mixed baby food combinations to increase flavor and variety.
2. Playing with food is good!
As your baby grows, continue to offer new flavors and textures that are developmentally appropriate — a good tip is to let your baby explore the feel and touch of each new food in their hands. This may be messy (you can put a sheet down under the high chair for easier clean up), but makes for some fun photo sharing.
3. Get started with the familiar.
It’s good to start meal times with breast- or bottle-feeding first so that your baby is not overly hungry, and then start with just a few teaspoons of the new food. Your baby will let you know when they are no longer hungry, often by turning their head away. During this process, it’s not necessary to reduce the amount of breast-milk you offer beforehand.
4. Don’t Give Up!
Introducing a new food may not work at first. Don’t be surprised if your baby’s first taste comes right back out at you. It’s a natural reflex. If your baby seems unhappy about this experience, give it up for now and try again later. It can also take some time to get used to new flavors. Studies suggest that a baby may need to try a new food up to ten times before they get used to the taste — so just stick with it!
Remember to stay positive and try to maintain a sense of humor as your baby learns to enjoy new tastes.
It’s likely to be messy, and you’ll probably end up with plenty of fruits and veggies on your clothes, but it’s worth it in the end!