Introducing New Flavors to Babies

By Mindy Hermann, MBA, RD
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Believe it or not, babies start tasting foods long before they get the first spoonful of cereal. In fact, researchers at the Monell Center in Philadelphia discovered that a baby's sensory system can taste flavors from its mother's diet that travel through the mother's bloodstream into the amniotic fluid.

Breast Milk Introduces New Flavors

Your newborn tastes more new flavors during breast-feeding. Spices, herbs and natural flavors from foods like onions and garlic can give breast milk a distinct taste. This introduces your baby to the taste of foods in your diet. "Breast-feeding moms should eat a diversity of foods — especially fruits and vegetables — to maximize the nutritional content of their breastmilk," says Torey Armul, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, who is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Babies benefit from the variety of vitamins, minerals and flavors. It's easy to blame a certain food for causing fussiness or digestive discomfort in your baby. The truth is that young babies cry for many different reasons, and mom's diet usually is not the culprit."

Try Foods More Than Once

Babies are naturally afraid of new things so you may have to serve the same food several times before your child takes a taste. "If children reject a food, that doesn't necessarily mean they don't like it," Armul says. "Reintroduce the food again in a few days to build exposure and familiarity. One of the best things parents can do is make mealtimes enjoyable. Refrain from pressuring your child to eat certain foods. Model good eating behavior in front of your children, and keep exposing them to a variety of new and repeat foods."

Once your child has progressed to table foods, serve dishes with seasonings that are part of your family food culture such as cinnamon, curry powder, chili powder, cilantro or garlic. Avoid highly spicy seasonings that could irritate the mouth or tongue such as cayenne pepper or hot sauce until your child is a bit older. Also, keep salt to a minimum so that your child gets used to the natural flavors of unsalted or lightly salted foods.

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