Kids Eating Habits Are Set During Infancy

Baby sitting in pot with water and vegetables
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The foods children eat as babies influence how healthy they eat later in life.

Studies published in the journal of Pediatrics suggest parents should be concerned about the quality of their child’s diet at an early age.

Research on Childhood Diet Habits Influenced During Infancy

Over 11 studies were published in the September 2014 journal Pediatrics with support from the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration.

Researchers examined the diets of nearly 1,500 6-year-olds, comparing their eating patterns to those they had before age 1.

Lower intake of fruits and vegetables during the first year of life correlated with less healthy eating as kids.

The Negative Impact of Sugar During Infancy

When infants are exposed to sweet drinks, like cranberry or apple juice, they had a lower consumption of healthy foods at 6 years of age. 27% of children studied were exposed to sugary beverages during their first year of life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends only breast milk, formula, or water until after 12 months of age. Infants should avoid exposure sugary drinks, as the research supports they are developing a taste for sugar, even during these early months.
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Breast Milk Influences Future Tastes

In one CDC study, breast-fed children consumed more water (and less sugar-sweetened drinks), with a corresponding increase in fruits and vegetables at age 6.

The flavor of breast milk changes depending on a mother’s daily diet, while formula always tastes the same. These subtle taste variations may help broaden the child’s long term taste preferences.

10-12 months of age is the ideal time to expose children to new foods.

Provide a Variety of Foods, and Stick with It

It’s easy for kids to like sweet or salty foods, but developing a taste for exotic flavors like sour or bitter vegetables takes time.

Don’t give up if kids take to new flavors initially; children need multiple exposures to new foods. Even if they have a negative experience with certain flavor, keep offering it again. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

Dr. Kelley Scanlon from the Center for Disease Control and senior research study author suggests 10-12 months of age is the ideal time to expose children to a variety of healthy foods, when their taste palates are most influenced.

While children may not eat large quantities at this early age, simply exposing their taste buds helps shape their palates later in life.

What to Do for Older Kids?

Not all is lost if you missed the flavor window. Healthy eating is a family affair. If your kids see you eating brussel sprouts, they are more likely eat theirs too!
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Infant Feeding and Long-Term Outcomes: Results From the Year 6 Follow-Up of Children in the Infant Feeding Practices Study II
Laurence M. Grummer-Strawn, Ruowei Li, Cria G. Perrine, Kelley S. Scanlon, and Sara B. Fein
Pediatrics 2014; 134:S1-S3

A Longitudinal Analysis of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Intake in Infancy and Obesity at 6 Years
Liping Pan, Ruowei Li, Sohyun Park, Deborah A. Galuska, Bettylou Sherry, and David S. Freedman
Pediatrics 2014; 134:S29-S3

Fruit and Vegetable Intake During Infancy and Early Childhood
Kirsten A. Grimm, Sonia A. Kim, Amy L. Yaroch, and Kelley S. Scanlon
Pediatrics 2014; 134:S63-S69