A new study now says that a baby’s first food should not be mashed banana or rice but rather broccoli.
Child food experts at University College London are advising parents to choose bitter vegetables such as broccoli, spinach or cauliflower as their baby’s first solid food.
According to experts, baby rice, chosen by more than half of parents, is too bland and a ‘missed opportunity’ to make them less fussy eaters.
They further add that fruits such as mashed banana are feared to give a baby an early sweet tooth and make them less open to trying vegetables later on.
Speaking about the study, Dr Clare Llewellyn and Dr Hayley Syrad, who have researched baby eating habits for over a decade, said they want the first foods introduced to children at around six months to be bitter vegetables, as these are the foods most commonly disliked by children.
They say parents who attempt to give infants vegetables after starting them with fruit ‘may be disappointed’. Even if it takes 15 attempts with a vegetable to make children like it, studies suggest this strategy works to make children less fussy, healthier eaters.
The academics have written a book, Baby Food Matters, on what and how to feed children from conception to their second birthday, based on nearly 100 scientific papers and articles they have published on the subject.
Speaking about their deductions, Dr Llewellyn said, ‘The most important thing when you introduce solid foods is to introduce the foods babies are more likely to reject. If you introduce savoury foods, particularly the more bitter-tasting vegetables like broccoli and spinach which children often struggle with, or cauliflower which they are reluctant to eat, they are more accepting of those foods going forward.”
Evolutionarily it makes sense for them to like sweet flavours, as they contain the calories needed to grow properly, and to dislike bitter flavours, which could signal foods are poisonous.