Lack of vegetable choices in infant and toddler food is widespread

April 10, 2018, CU Anschutz Medical Campus
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Eat your vegetables is a well-worn message that weary parents have been giving reluctant children at the dinner table for generations.

It turns out that convincing children to eat those green vegetables is difficult partly because their tastes aren't always nurtured in infancy to accept the bitterness of dark green vegetables.

And that inability to foster a taste for those vegetables isn't simply because the infant makes a face at the first taste of those greens. It's more often related to a lack of commercially prepared single- products available to parents and caregivers to offer their and toddlers, according to a new study led by researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

"The commercial infant and toddler foods market in the U.S. does not appear to provide caregivers with an adequate type and selection of products to facilitate children's later acceptance of the kinds of vegetables they will encounter and be encouraged to consume once they have transitioned to table foods," writes Kameron J. Moding, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pediatrics, and her co-authors.

The article appears online in the current issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It is the first study to examine the prevalence and types of vegetables in infant and toddler manufactured and sold in the United States. The researchers compiled a database of 548 infant and toddler foods sold by more than 20 U.S. companies.

After building the database, they examined the ingredients and nutrients using the U.S. Department of Agriculture's vegetable categories. Of those 548 foods in the database, only 52 were single-vegetable products and none of those were dark green vegetables or beans/peas.

Further, when the baby food had multiple ingredients, fruits were listed as the first ingredient in 37.8 percent of the products, more commonly than all vegetables. Red/orange vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, were the first ingredient in 23.7 percent of products, while dark green vegetables were listed first in only 1.1 percent of products.

The researchers note that infants are predisposed to accept sweetness while they must learn, through repeated experiences, to accept the bitterness commonly found in dark green vegetables. In the U.S., though, commercial food providers "may not provide caregivers with the variety and specificity of products they need to adequately expose their infants and toddlers to vegetable flavors."

Moding and her colleagues recommend developing and expanding the commercial availability of infant and vegetable products to improve the rates of vegetable consumption among children. Previous national studies have found that about 30 percent of infants and toddlers do not consume any vegetable on a given day. The lack of commercially prepared products to help children learn to like these flavors may contribute to children's low intakes during infancy and later in childhood.

Explore further: U.S. toddlers eat more french fries than vegetables

Related Stories

U.S. toddlers eat more french fries than vegetables

May 1, 2017
(HealthDay)—American toddlers are more likely to eat french fries than green vegetables on any given day, according to a new national survey on children's eating habits.

Baby foods packed with fruit and vegetables, but unlikely to encourage children to eat their greens

August 31, 2015
Commercial baby foods contain large amounts of vegetables but are probably too sweet to encourage children to eat their greens, say scientists.

Spicing it up: High school students may prefer seasoned veggies over plain

March 6, 2018
High school students prefer vegetables seasoned with herbs and spices, rather than plain veggies, according to Penn State researchers, who add this may lead to students liking and eating more vegetables, and result in less ...

Herbs, spices on vegetables may increase their appeal to men, young adults

June 5, 2017
Adults who don't routinely eat vegetables for lunch may be more likely to consume them if the vegetables are seasoned, a new study suggests.

Creative ways to get children to eat vegetables

April 29, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Can you imagine a young child eating spinach, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts or even asparagus? Yes, it can happen. "But how?" you ask.

Recommended for you

Experts caution study on plastics in humans is premature

October 23, 2018
Scientists in Austria say they've detected tiny bits of plastic in people's stool for the first time, but experts caution the study is too small and premature to draw any credible conclusion.

Can organic food help you reduce your risk of cancer? A new study suggests the answer may be yes

October 22, 2018
To reduce your risk of cancer, you know you should quit smoking, exercise regularly, wear sunscreen, and take advantage of screening tests. New research suggests another item might be added to this list: Choose organic foods ...

A topical gel that can prevent nerve damage due to spraying crops with pesticides

October 22, 2018
A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in India has developed a topical get that can be used by farmers to prevent nerve damage due to chemical crop spraying. In their paper published in the journal Science ...

Moderate exercise before conception resulted in lower body weight, increased insulin sensitivity of offspring

October 22, 2018
Men who want to have children in the near future should consider hitting the gym.

Modern conflict: Screen time vs. nature

October 22, 2018
Even rural kids today spend more time in front of screens and less time outdoors, according to a new study of middle-school students in South Carolina.

Community health workers can reduce hospitalizations by 65 percent and double patient satisfaction with primary care

October 22, 2018
Community health workers—trusted laypeople from local communities who help high-risk patients to address social issues like food and housing insecurity—can help reduce hospital stays by 65 percent and double the rate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.