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Health Update: 3 Ways to Help Your Baby Love Fruits & Veggies

baby nutrition

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When peaches were first introduced, breastfed babies ate more of them than non-breastfeed babies -- if their moms ate lots of peaches while nursing too. "We know flavors from a mom's diet are transmitted to her baby through breast milk," says study author Julie A. Mennella, PhD, a biopsychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia.

The lesson: When you eat plenty of produce while pregnant and breastfeeding, your baby's palate is naturally predisposed to like those foods too. A friendly reminder: You should aim for three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruits a day (though most adults fall way short of these recommendations). The best way to get all that in? Eat some with every meal or snack. For example: A glass of OJ and a cup of berries in breakfast cereal, baby carrots as a midmorning snack, an apple or banana with peanut butter in the afternoon, and a large salad with dinner every night is about what you need to stay healthy -- and get your baby off to a good start too.

In the same study, breastfed and formula-fed babies tried green beans daily for more than a week -- and both groups ate nearly three times as many veggies by the end of that time period as they did at the start.

The lesson: Give it time. "Babies are born with a natural dislike of bitter-tasting foods, which most green vegetables are," says Mennella. "They're an acquired taste -- and your baby will learn to like them the more he eats them."

You can also try serving veggies with sweeter-tasting fruit. In this study, babies seemed to like green beans more when they were fed peaches shortly after. "Babies learn to associate the sweet flavors from fruit with veggies, which may encourage them to eat more over time," says Mennella.

Yes, your baby will probably make a nose-wrinkling, brow-furrowing, mom-why-are-you-making-me-try-this face the first time you serve him something unfamiliar -- but that doesn't mean he won't eat still it. "That displeased look is a knee-jerk reaction," says Mennella. "We found that babies continued to accept spoonfuls of veggies even after making those faces."

The lesson: Look at the big picture. You don't want to force food on your baby, but don't go on his facial expressions alone. With repeated exposure, your baby may be quicker to increase fruit and veggie intake than he is to change the faces he makes while eating them.

Copyright © 2008 Parents.com. Updated 2010.

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