RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Brussel sprouts. Broccoli. And Beets. Those three B’s are the bane of every child’s dinnertime existence—but perhaps they needn’t be. A new study shows that vegetable lovers may be made in their first nine months of life.
THE DETAILS: Researchers from the University of Birmingham in England followed up on the children involved in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (a large study on the introduction of solid foods after 9 months), checking to see how those children were faring, eating-wise, at age 7. All told, the researchers received reports from 7,821 parents: 12.1 percent of their children were given solid, textured foods before the age of 6 months; 69.8 percent, between 6 and 9 months; and 18 percent (a group the researchers refer to as “delayed”), not until 9 months or later. At the age of 7, the delayed group ate fewer foods overall than the kids who'd been introduced to lumpy foods early. Also, they ate fewer fruits and vegetables, and were described by their parents as just pickier overall.
WHAT IT MEANS: Early introduction of solid food lines up with what many experts are saying. The World Health Organization recommends introducing solid foods that require chewing between 6 and 9 months of age. That’s because, according to the lead study author Helen Coulthard, children can rapidly develop preferences for different tastes and textures between 4 and 7 months, whereas in later childhood, 10 or more exposures to a certain food might be necessary before the child accepts it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends first introducing solid foods (not lumpy foods requiring chewing, but solids nonetheless) at 4 to 6 months—and they’re currently rethinking the best strategy for doing that. The new, recommended approach would be to introduce nutrient-rich foods (meat, fruits, and vegetables, pureed at first) rather than the traditional approach of starting with cereals.