While every child’s taste buds are unique, there are two baby food “universal truths” as told by pop culture: (1) kids love sweets; (2) kids hate vegetables. Now, there are always exceptions to pop culture truths. However, it turns out that evolution did work to steer us clear of bitter-tasting, poisonous plants and prefer sweet tasting food (like fruits!). What does this mean for your baby’s taste buds? Research shows that you can help train your baby’s tastebuds through “palate training” during what’s called “flavor learning windows.”
In simple terms: til the age of 18-20 months, you can have an easier time shaping what tastes your baby likes to eat.
Traditionally, in the United States, baby food brands have provided single-grain, bland tasting cereals that are generally baby’s first food. This creates a lost opportunity to introduce flavor learning for babies at the time they can start having their first solid foods. In a study at the University of Leeds, Dr. Marion Hetherington found that when babies were fed a rotation of vegetable flavors even before they were weaned, they were more likely to eat more vegetables and enjoyed them more than those babies in the control group.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
The idea is to start introducing your baby to a variety of healthy solid foods at the outset, even if they initially react with unpleasant faces to the flavor and texture of the food. Creating complex flavor mixes can help with the transition and palate training as well. For example, creating baby food combinations such as papaya and carrot or peas and apples.
The key thing is to find combinations that not only introduce your baby to healthy solid food flavors but also baby foods that cover their nutritional needs.