Why should parents avoid tasting baby food

If baby food doesn't taste good to parents, will their kids eat it?

An article from

Dive Brief

Published May 12, 2017


Caroline Macdonald

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Dive Brief:

  • Many parents sample their children's baby food, meaning the product's taste must appeal to adults as well as babies, according to Mintel.

  • Adults may eat baby food products in an effort to convince their children to try it, or to ensure it has the appropriate temperature or texture. Many also help finish their children’s food by eating it themselves, including almost half of French parents of children up to age 4.

  • The top concern for parents when buying baby food is that it is free of additives, preservatives and contains no added sugar. The market reflects these demands, with more than half of all baby foods and drinks recently launched in Europe featuring a no additives/preservatives claim, and 45% featuring a no/low/reduced sugar claim, compared to a third of products launched the previous year.

Dive Insight:

Although flavor is a top concern for adults when buying foods for themselves, it is secondary to health concerns when buying food for children. However, there is some overlap between health and good flavor. Parents’ preference for additive-free foods is not just about avoiding certain ingredients, it is involves a perception of quality when choosing foods that contain wholesome, fresh-sounding ingredients.

In the U.S., leading brand Gerber has lost ground to smaller organic companies because of this perception, even though the legacy brand has innovated with pouched products and organic lines. Gerber now represents about 25% of the baby food market. Its sales fell 2% last year, according to Euromonitor International. Meanwhile, parents are turning to upstart natural brands, such as Ella’s Kitchen, Sprout, Happy Baby, Earth’s Best and Plum Organics.

Parents are not the primary consumers of baby food, but they want their children to eat as well as possible. As a result, many health and wellness trends in adult food also apply to what is consumed by a baby, and often to an even greater extent.  

Product launches containing kale, for example, have skyrocketed in recent years, and nowhere more so than in baby food. According to Nielsen data, launches of baby food containing kale were up 391% in the 12 months through February of this year. The fastest growing category for adult-targeted foods – wholesome snacks – saw 143% growth over the same period.

Baby food manufacturers may benefit from paying attention to the types of foods adults aspire to eat – rather than what they actually eat – as a sign of what they are likely to buy for their children.​


Filed Under: Manufacturing, Ingredients

In Baby's 'First Bite,' A Chance To Shape A Child's Taste : The Salt : NPR

Heard on Fresh Air

Food writer Bee Wilson says that babies are most open to trying new flavors between the ages of 4 and 7 months. Duane Ellison/iStock hide caption

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Duane Ellison/iStock

Food writer Bee Wilson says that babies are most open to trying new flavors between the ages of 4 and 7 months.

Duane Ellison/iStock

Food writer Bee Wilson has a message of hope for parents struggling to get their children to eat their veggies: "As parents, we have a far greater power than we think we have to form children's tastes," Wilson tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

In her new book, First Bite, Wilson examines how genetics, culture, memory and early feeding patterns contribute to our food preferences. She says that a child's palate can be formed even before birth. And this insight can be helpful for parents who want their children to eat well and healthfully.

Wilson is also the author of Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat. Charlotte Griffiths/Basic Books hide caption

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Charlotte Griffiths/Basic Books

Wilson is also the author of Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat.

Charlotte Griffiths/Basic Books

"One of the main things we know about taste is that liking is a consequence of familiarity, so the things that our mothers eat, even before we're born, affect the way we'll respond to those flavors when we later encounter them because they seem familiar," Wilson says.

A mother of three, Wilson notes that babies are most open to trying new flavors between the ages of 4 and 7 months. But, Wilson adds, even if parents miss introducing a food during the so-called "flavor window," all hope is not lost.

"It's not that the flavor window then flips shut ... and we can never learn to love bitter green vegetables. Humans can learn to love new flavors at any age," Wilson says. "One of the amazing things about our relationship with food is how malleable it is, how plastic it is. But we don't usually as adults give ourselves an opportunity to change."

Interview Highlights

On the "flavor window" that occurs between 4 and 7 months

Researchers I've spoken to [about] the question of how you get children to be less picky eaters [and] how you get them to try more different vegetables say that the World Health Organization advice, which currently says you should keep them on an exclusive milk diet up to 6 months, is wrong. It's not that a child necessarily needs any nutrition besides milk before 6 months, it's that you're missing an opportunity to introduce them to all of these flavors which they would likely accept at this age. Then, having accepted them, they would seem familiar when they encounter them again as toddlers.

On how our palates are formed while we're still in the womb

[Our palate is] formed [before breast-feeding] — it's formed when our mothers are expecting us. There have been remarkable studies done showing that if someone eats a lot of garlic when they're pregnant, their amniotic fluid will taste and smell garlicky. So imagine swimming around in that for 9 months. ... That baby will grow up to love garlic. ... It feels like home, it tastes like home. One of the main things we know about taste is that liking is a consequence of familiarity. So the things that our mothers eat, even before we're born, affect the way we'll respond to those flavors when we later encounter them because they seem familiar.

The flavor of milk is then hugely important as well. With mothers who breast-feed, there was a study done showing that if they drank a lot of carrot juice, when those babies first tasted solid food, they preferred cereal that was flavored with carrot juice. So the flavor of carrots goes into the [breast milk], the babies experience it, and then they have all of these wonderful, positive feelings about carrot. This is getting replicated many, many times. In most cases it's not something like carrot or broccoli. There have been studies done with rats who are fed on a junk food diet and their babies gravitate towards junk food rat chow.

On how store-bought formula can also affect taste long-term

Breast milk has varied flavors, whereas formula milk has a single flavor, depending on which brand you pick. But even with formula-fed babies there are some interesting things that have come out of scientific experiments. There's a type of formula called hydrolysate, which is designed for babies who can't tolerate regular cow's milk, and to adults it has a really offensive, horrible, hay-like, musty aroma. But to the babies who've been reared on it, it's like nectar. One study showed that these children, when they were older, when they're aged 4, gravitated towards sour flavors. So it was if they were imprinted with the flavor of this nasty formula milk. But, again, it's a really useful case of how powerful these early tastes can be. As parents, we have a far greater power than we think we have to form children's tastes.

On how we are hard-wired to love sweetness

All human beings are hard-wired to love sweetness. This is a cross-cultural phenomenon — it's been seen in babies in every continent of the world, that they smile if you offer them a little taste of something sweet. Equally, we all are born with a mild aversion to bitterness. And curiously, with salt, we have no feelings at all about salt when we're born. And then [by age] 4 months we get switched onto it and develop a salt preference, and nobody really knows why that's true. But with the sweetness thing — so, we're hard-wired to love sweetness. Many people have interpreted this to mean that we're doomed to grow up and love junk food. ... All of our specific tastes for particular flavors are learned. As omnivores, this has to be the case because human beings are forced to eat in such different food environments. So the fact that we love sweetness as a baby doesn't mean that we're going to love nothing but chocolate; we could get that sweetness in the form of corn on the cob, or caramelized fennel. All of our flavor preferences are ones that we learn over the course of a lifetime. The trouble is that most of us don't see it that way.

On how children's food has changed since World War II

If you look to previous generations, before the second world war, and indeed afterwards a bit, there was a nursery food mentality. So the idea was it was safest to give children foods that they didn't actually like, which were very plain but very nourishing. Then, in the postwar years, partly fueled by a transformation of the food supply, much greater industrialization, we went to a completely opposite view of what children's food should be. It was that it should be sweet and palatable and designed to make children smile. We all know that the kid's breakfast cereals are the ones which are highest in sugar in the whole of the cereal aisle. And it's really curious that we should've swung in this way from one extreme to another — from food which was nourishing but unpleasant, to food which was too pleasant and deeply un-nourishing. The ideal way to feed children would be somewhere in the middle. And actually, the ideal way to feed children would be to give them food that's not that dissimilar from an adult diet.

On authoritative, authoritarian and indulgent styles of feeding

An authoritative feeder would place high demands on the child to eat well. In other words, you wouldn't be stocking your house with loads of junk food. You'd make sure there were nutritious, home-cooked meals on the table, but equally you would be highly responsive to the child and their needs, and you would be respectful when they say "no. " ... On the one hand, there are authoritarian forms of feeding. ... Force-feeding would be an extreme example, but also just any form of saying, "I demand that you eat this." ... "I want a clean plate." ... That style of feeding ... creates an unpleasant atmosphere at the dinner table, but, interestingly, research shows it also seems to result in children who are actually less responsive to their own hunger cues, so they're more likely to end up overweight, paradoxically. The parent who thinks that they're doing the right thing by insisting that you finish this nourishing meal is not allowing the child to develop their own skills, their own judgment about when they stop and when they start eating.

The other style of parenting, or feeding, would be indulgent. And there are signs that this is becoming one of the most common ways of feeding a child, and as with so much of what we do as parents, it comes with the most loving intentions. To feed a child in an indulgent way would be to be highly responsive to them as a person, what they love, what they seem to need, the foods they crave, the foods they demand, but the indulgent style would place no demands on them to eat well, or fewer demands. There'd be no sense of, "Are you really hungry?" There'd be no sense of, "Well, I only want you to have these foods because they're the ones that'll do you good." Again, there are studies done showing indulgent parenting is strongly correlated with higher child obesity. ...

Food and love are so bound up, it's sometimes hard to see where the sugar ends and the love begins.

Bee Wilson

It's such a wonderful feeling to see the treat disappear and to see the happy face. Feeding, no less than eating, is a learned behavior, and we learn to feed through our parents, who probably themselves rewarded us with food. Food and love are so bound up, it's sometimes hard to see where the sugar ends and the love begins.

CONSULTATION for parents Topic: "Baby food: what, when, how?" | Methodical development:

Baby nutrition: what, when, how?

There is hardly a mother who would not understand the importance of baby food for a child from the first days of his life. Of course, every mother decides for herself whether to breastfeed her baby or not, there are times when there is no physical possibility of breastfeeding, but even a supporter of artificial baby food will not dispute the benefits of mother's milk. nine0003

Much has been said about the benefits of breastfeeding, but today we will talk about baby food as such. After all, the health of an adult throughout life largely depends on what kind of nutritional culture has been laid in him since childhood! No one will argue that it is useful to eat healthy food, but how often parents do not pay attention to what they feed their child. But to understand the full responsibility of the first introduced baby food should every parent, grandparents. In a word, baby food up to a year is a very important stage on the way to health. nine0003

Until 5-6 months of age, infants are fed only breast milk or formula. All artificial baby food companies adhere to the established standards for the manufacture of baby food. They are divided into two mandatory age categories - mixtures for feeding young children (up to 6 months on average) and later (from 6 months and above). For a later age, the caloric content and protein content are higher than for the early age. Mixtures are made fully adapted or partially adapted, which manufacturers inform us about with inscriptions on the packaging. Made from cow's milk, the mixtures are amenable to special processing, saturated with microelements, amino acids, vitamins and much more necessary for babies. This makes it possible to bring artificial baby milk food as close as possible to the replacement of breast milk. nine0003

Parental reviews of baby food are overwhelmingly positive, so choose a formula based on your own preferences and price range. If you can’t choose for yourself, ask your pediatrician for advice.

Time flies quickly when a baby received all the substances useful for the body exclusively from mother's milk. At the age of 5-6 months, the baby is already ready to try new baby foods.

Recipes for baby food at this age are simple and unpretentious. Boil vegetables, grind them in a blender - babies need to make baby food of a homogeneous consistency. Do the same with fruit (not counting the banana, which you can simply crush with a fork). Remember that it is always worth starting with one product so that in case of an allergy, it is easy to identify the allergen. nine0003

Puree baby food is sure to please your little one. Preparing baby food for a half-year-old will not be difficult for mom, and the child, thanks to him, will begin to learn new taste sensations. If the baby is naughty and refuses, it is better not to insist - this can for a long time reject the desire to try a new dish. It is better to offer mashed potatoes from another vegetable or fruit, and return to this later.

Your baby may not like a new baby food for another reason. It is possible that he has not yet developed a chewing reflex, and then the baby is simply not physically ready to take more solid food. In this case, you should postpone complementary foods and try again in a few days. nine0003

When the baby tastes fruit and vegetable purees, start giving egg yolk, bread, a little later start meat (veal, beef, chicken, turkey will do) and fish (sea fish will do) purees. Even if the baby has teeth, he is hardly ready to chew like an adult, however, it is no longer necessary to grind food to a liquid state, gradually switch to a meat grinder or grater - it's time for the baby to start learning to chew. You should not sweeten or salt dishes for the baby - believe me, due to ignorance of the taste of sugar and salt, children easily get used to proper and healthy baby food with a natural taste. nine0003

Children should drink water, unsweetened teas made from rose hips, chamomile, fennel, and dried fruits. Introduce dairy products into baby food - low-fat cottage cheese, home-made yogurt, kefir. Thus, already up to a year, the baby food menu, in principle, approaches the menu of the general table, but we must not forget that baby food up to a year categorically excludes fried, smoked, spicy, fatty foods, as well as confectionery, caffeine.

Introduce complementary foods gradually, watching for any allergic reactions. Let your baby fall in love with a new product, because this will not only expand his diet, but also help to avoid many health problems in the future. nine0003

If you come across a special whim, you do not have enough experience in cooking new dishes, or all your imagination has run out, or maybe you just want to diversify the children's table more, then by looking at the thematic forum, you can find many delicious, easy, varied recipes for baby food shared by parents.

Having taught the baby at home to proper baby food, most likely the food in the kindergarten will be perceived by the child naturally. Coming to the garden, children who eat at home only what they like and, most often, monotonous food, may face a big problem for them. Often a child, having entered the garden for the first time, refuses to go there anymore, cries, is naughty, and does not sleep well at night. At first glance, this is a typical psychological problem when a home child adapts to kindergarten. But few people think that it is possible to facilitate getting used to the kindergarten by adjusting the food in advance. After all, having become accustomed to eating buns, sausages, etc. at home, the child experiences real stress when he is asked to eat something that he has never eaten before 4 times a day. nine0003

Nutritional norms in kindergarten must include a balanced diet with the right amount of proteins, fats, carbohydrates for the child's body. “Nehochukha” finds it difficult to come to terms with the new food for children in kindergarten - stewed vegetables and casseroles, milk porridge, carrot cutlets and much more, which, if not taught from infancy, is difficult to get used to later. And only my mother's task is to make sure that food in kindergarten does not become an everyday nightmare for a child. The norms of children's nutrition in the garden include the entire set of products - cereals, cereals, vegetables, fruits, cottage cheese, milk, meat, fish, the calorie content of products is specially calculated for a certain age category of the child (up to 3 years and from 3 to 7 years). Catering in kindergarten includes breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, which are equal to 25% -35% -15% -25% as a percentage. nine0003

Recipes for baby food exclude fried, smoked, spicy, fatty foods; food is steamed in kindergarten, stewed or baked in special ovens. The menu is approved 10 days in advance, in advance the municipality at the interquarter auction determines food suppliers for preschool institutions, with whom contracts are drawn up, where all items are clearly spelled out by name, timing, delivery, etc. Before giving the finished dish to children, a sample is always taken. nine0003

However, parents' opinions about baby food in the kindergarten are ambiguous. Meals in kindergartens include only healthy products

Most children still like food in kindergarten. Many of them at home ask their mothers and grandmothers to cook the same omelet or casserole as in the kindergarten. So the reviews of parents about baby food in the garden often speak only about the personal taste preferences of the mothers and fathers themselves. What can I say, even if many adults remember the favorite taste of some dishes from the kindergarten and carry these memories through their whole lives! And, you see, this speaks volumes. nine0003

Nutrition in kindergarten: rules and regulations

Every mother cares what her child is fed in kindergarten. There are many questions about nutrition, let's try to figure it out.

The excitement of parents who have to send their "home" child to a kindergarten is quite understandable. Will the baby get everything he needs, will he be fed with calories and quality? And most importantly, will he gobble up kindergarten food with appetite after homemade delights?

We hasten to reassure all mothers and fathers: food in kindergartens today is at the required level and there is no reason to worry. As for baby addictions, be prepared for the fact that, perhaps at first, your child will be a little naughty, turning away from unusual, in his opinion, too bland food. Yes, in kindergarten no one will offer him a spicy seasoning, his favorite fried meat or a hamburger. But it’s really better for kids to do without fried, spicy and fatty foods. All whims are temporary. Of course, the child will have to get used to the new menu, but all this is only for the benefit of his health. And in a cheerful company of peers, the process of tasting new dishes and getting used to them will go faster. nine0003

Order in everything

The basis of proper nutrition in kindergartens is the norms approved by the decree of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan. And for different age groups - the rules of their own. If your baby is 1 to 3 years old, he needs an average of 53 g of protein, 53 g of fat and 212 g of carbohydrates per day, and from 3 years to 6 years - 68 g, 68 g and 272 g, respectively.

Health workers in children's institution make up a menu, taking into account nutritional standards. The child should receive a certain amount of meat, butter, kefir, fruits and so on per day. nine0003

Every kindergarten has a brokerage journal (stringed, printed), where many indicators are recorded: what children get every day for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, volume, quality. The consumption of each type of product must comply with the norm.

Who is on the delivery?

Private child care providers can choose their own providers. These can be well-known or less well-known firms whose product quality suits kindergartens. Unlike private traders, budget-funded children's institutions work only with those firms that have won a tender for the supply. Some products (pasta, sugar, cereals, etc.) are allowed to be purchased at wholesale markets, but only if there are appropriate quality documents. nine0003

Any product supplied to a kindergarten must be accompanied by three mandatory documents: a delivery note, a quality certificate and a veterinary certificate. Without them, not a single children's institution will take the product, and the storekeeper and, of course, the doctor and nurse must accept the goods. In addition, a company that delivers products must have sanitary certificates for the car, a sanitary book for the driver and for people accompanying the goods. These are the rules for everyone.

Product labels with the production date are kept in the kindergarten for two days for control. All licensed preschool institutions (by the way, state kindergartens should now also have a license) are strictly checked by a special commission and a sanitary and epidemiological station, and responsible supplier companies now do not want to lose their prestige and customers for anything and are responsible for their products. nine0003

Let's look into the kitchen

The mystery of cooking dinners and breakfasts takes place in the kitchen. It is from here that delicious aromas spread throughout the kindergarten. Kitchens in kindergartens are equipped with new equipment. In children's institutions there are electric stoves, ovens, boilers, ovens (they bake delicious buns), and other kitchen utensils.

According to sanitary requirements, the kitchens have separate areas - for cutting raw products, a meat shop, a vegetable shop, a room where dishes are washed, a hot shop. Wooden cutting boards, all with inscriptions: "for vegetables", "for meat", etc. Carving knives also each have their own "customer": meat, bread, vegetables, eggs ... The latter, for example, are washed in a special container before cooking and even smashed with a special knife. nine0003

All products are processed and stored in their own refrigerator, it is completely impossible to find raw meat and, for example, butter on the shelves. Refrigerators are plentiful and necessary.

Chefs must leave one portion of each dish in the refrigerator for a day. With any check, you can immediately make sure that the children ate on that particular day.

What and how do we eat?

The main meal in kindergarten is lunch. It is at this time that the baby eats the maximum amount of meat, fish and vegetables. The first courses are represented by borscht, broths, meat, fish and vegetarian soups. The second is usually given meat dishes (cutlets, meatballs, goulash, stew). It is advisable to use vegetables more often as a side dish. But there are also cereals and pasta. On the third - fresh juice, compote, jelly. For breakfast and dinner, kids get milk porridge with vegetables and fruits, vegetable dishes, cottage cheese dishes, and so on. Twice a week, children are given sour-milk products (kefir, fermented baked milk), be sure to give fish once a week. nine0003

There are no problems with fruit at any time of the year. In addition to four meals a day, in almost every kindergarten, every day at 11.00, kids receive apples, bananas, kiwi, juice.

Private and public kindergartens can make preparations for the winter: pickle cabbage and tomatoes, freeze berries in refrigerators, stock up on potatoes so that children can have delicious borscht, side dishes, salads, compotes and gravies later in winter. Blanks are also necessarily accompanied by a certificate from the SES. nine0003

As an example, we offer a menu for a day in a kindergarten:

Breakfast: Carrot salad, Milk soup, long loaf with butter and cocoa with milk.

11 o'clock: Apple.

Lunch: Peasant soup with bone broth. Meatballs with a complex side dish (mashed potatoes plus stewed cabbage), dried fruit compote with vitamin C. Rye bread.

Snack: Freckle bun, tea.

Dinner: Buckwheat-loose porridge with milk, tea with milk, white bread.

As you can see from the one-day menu offered in the table, the food is balanced. In no menu you will find cereals (in the form of porridge) twice a day. If you want to get acquainted with the two-week menu, you will make sure that the same dish is not repeated there. Same with other products. The menu in kindergartens is posted in the lobby and in the locker room in each group so that parents can familiarize themselves with it at any time.

If your child is allergic…

Will they help you if your child has food intolerance? Of course. True, to a greater extent this applies to private kindergartens. Although the budget ones are now also trying, as far as possible, to replace forbidden dishes for such children. nine0003

Tips for parents:

- If you decide to send your child to a kindergarten, be sure to ask the administration for a license. Its absence suggests that the kindergarten is never subject to inspection by the city's licensing commission and you will not receive a guarantee that your child will be fed according to the rules, with high-calorie and high-quality products.

- Ask if the garden has a promising menu, where the products come from and if they have quality certificates. Otherwise, your baby will not be immune from gastrointestinal disorders. nine0003

- If your baby is already attending kindergarten and eating well, try to stick to the menu at home that the child is used to in kindergarten. It often happens that, having visited a cafe with his parents on the weekend and tasting delicacies, the baby overloads the stomach and enters a group with an intestinal disorder, and doctors have to restore his health.

- If your child is allergic to certain foods, visit the kindergarten and discuss in advance the possibility of adjusting his menu. nine0003

Source: My Child magazine, March 2010

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