How to Help Your Baby Love Vegetables

Try these simple practices to instill a love of veggies in your baby and make the transition to solid foods smoother.

Did you know that your baby's first taste of vegetables will be before they are even born? Yes, the results of one fascinating study show that third-trimester babies between 32 and 36 weeks could taste the veggies their gestational parent ate and even reacted to the flavors by smiling or frowning.

Infants are typically open to trying a wide variety of tastes, and then it becomes normal for kids to become more picky around 18 months to 2 years of age. To help minimize some of this pickiness where possible, it's helpful for caregivers to offer a lot of different tastes early on.

If you're curious about how to set your baby on the path toward a lifetime of loving their veggies and greens, try these seven simple ideas. And remember, your baby might not like every single vegetable that lands on their plate, but with plenty of exposure—and practice—your baby is sure to develop a love of exploring new foods, even veggies. Keep reading to learn more.

01 of 07

Introduce Flavors Early Through Breast Milk

feeding baby
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According to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, babies are more likely to enjoy the foods their breastfeeding parent ate while nursing over new foods they were never exposed to.

"We know flavors from a mom's diet are transmitted to her baby through breast milk," says Julie A. Mennella, Ph.D., a biopsychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "Babies can detect the flavors and, if they have experience with those flavors, they are going to be more accepting of the food."

The lesson? If you're breastfeeding, start your baby's love of veggies early by piling some on your plate.

02 of 07

Make Veggies One of Their First Foods

baby eating
Linda Farwell

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's a good idea to introduce your child to solid foods starting around 6 months.

You can add soft cooked veggies to the mix as soon as you want. Try starting with sweet- or mild-flavored vegetables, such as winter squash or carrots.

Avocado is also a great food to introduce early because of its naturally baby-friendly texture. Feeding a few teaspoons of veggies once a day for a week can help your baby get accustomed to the flavor. Then, gradually increase the amount until they eat half a cup daily.

03 of 07

Avoid Uncomfortable Side Effects

chubby baby
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Veggies high in sulfur, such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and beans, may give your baby a tummy ache because they can produce excess gas. If gas becomes a problem, you can wait to introduce these foods until your little one is older, or mix the vegetable with another vegetable, such as potato, to decrease its potency.

04 of 07

Ignore Those "Yucky" Faces

baby eating in highchair
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Yes, your baby will probably make a nose-wrinkling, brow-furrowing, why-are-you-making-me-try-this face the first time you serve them something unfamiliar, but that doesn't mean your baby won't eat it.

"That displeased look is a knee-jerk reaction," says Dr. Mennella. "We found that babies continued to accept spoonfuls of veggies even after making those faces."

When your child does make a yucky face at their first bite of spinach, avoid making one with them. Keep your poker face to make trying veggies a positive experience. By your child's fourth exposure, they may even want seconds!

05 of 07

Sweeten the Deal

baby food on spoons
Alexandra Grablewski

To make veggies even more palatable, try serving them with sweeter-tasting fruit. Your baby may like green beans more when they are fed peaches shortly after green vegetables. "Babies learn to associate the sweet flavors from fruit with veggies, which may encourage them to eat more over time," says Dr. Mennella.

"Babies are born with a natural dislike of bitter-tasting foods, which most green vegetables are. They're an acquired taste, and your baby will learn to like them the more [they] eat them."

06 of 07

Serve Veggies Daily

baby eating
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"Regardless of whether the baby is breastfed, once a baby is exposed to the food about eight or nine times, [they] will become more accustomed to and accepting of the taste," says Dr. Mennella.

Breastfed and formula-fed babies tried green beans daily for more than a week during Dr. Mennella's studies, and both groups ate nearly three times as many veggies by the end of that time period as they did at the start.

07 of 07

Remember, You Need Vegetables, Too

Woman with baby and apple

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should aim for about 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits a day. Most adults fall way short of these recommendations.

What is the best way to get all that in? Eat some with every meal or snack. For example, a glass of 100% orange juice with 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 are about what you need to stay healthy and set a good example for your little one.

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