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Introducing fruits and vegetables early could help in dealing with fussy eating later

Posted:  Monday, August 17, 2015

Mothers of young children would have ample stories of how feeding times in the house resemble a battlefield. Now, there is some good news for mothers of toddlers and mothers-to-be. A recent Australian research found that 14 month old babies who regularly tried fruits and vegetables were more likely to eat them and less likely to be fussy eaters at 4 years of age.

The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, compared the dietary habits of 174 children whose mothers received nutrition counselling against 165 of them who did not receive any counselling. It was found that mothers from both the groups had the same number of fussy children aged 14 months.

The mothers were given bi-weekly counselling by dieticians and psychologists during six 1.5- to 2-hour interactive group sessions. The researchers then collected information of babies at birth, age four months and age 14 months, with follow-up at two years and 3.7 years. The researchers used different questionnaires which captured information on the number of fruits and vegetables and “noncore foods” the children tried weekly at each age. Non-core foods included chips, candy, salty snacks and other unhealthy foods which were not a part of the core food groups.

They found that early introduction of fruits and vegetables helped facilitate acceptance of these foods at more than 3.7 years. However, trying fewer vegetables was linked to fussiness later on. Fruits and non-core foods were not linked to fussiness as they tend to be sweeter. These associations were strong even after accounting for maternal age at delivery, education and BMI, the child’s sex, breastfeeding duration, age when solid foods were introduced and infant fussiness.

Food preferences develop as early as the first 2 years of an infant’s life. However, research has shown that children don’t eat healthy but rather opt for unhealthy alternatives. In conclusion, the researchers said, “The take-home message for parents is pretty simple: introduce your toddler to a range of healthy foods early. This means offering your child a variety of different fruits and vegetables.”

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