One of the most common questions among parents is whether little ones can have garlic (or anything flavorful) or if sticking to bland food is the way to go. We’d be out of work if introducing cardamom to your baby’s applesauce wasn’t both healthy and delicious for them. We understand your worry though, most of us grew up with strict guidelines — either rooted in a family or the pediatricians—that told us that babies were to be introduced to foods in this order: bland food, fruits, and then veggies.
Turns out, the new American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation states that there is no scientific evidence to prove that foods need to be introduced in any particular order. The good news? You can now focus on variety and flavor from the start and help craft an adventurous eater in the process.
In Bee Wilson’s book, First Bite, a tactic called “tiny tests” is encouraged. What you want to do is introduce a new veggie or spice to your little one, bite by bite, and multiple times. But before we get there, let’s debunk some common myths.
Myth #1: If your baby didn’t like it the first time, they never will.
This is one of the most common misconceptions among parents. Studies show that repetitive exposure to a new food, whether fruit or veggies, is the biggest indicator of whether a baby will acquire a taste for the food. In fact, it can take upwards of 20 tries for your child to become receptive to a new flavor. Don’t give up on your little one or your desire to expand their food repertoire. It takes a lot of practice, patience and commitment to learning to love the food rainbow.
Myth #2. Babies are to be introduced to bland foods first.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has actually walked back this suggestion. While at first, they recommended that parents stick to bland flavors when introducing food to their babies, they have now moved to recommend a wide array of flavors. Ultimately, it’s the introduction of different flavors and textures that will help expand your little one’s palate and reduce the risk of pickiness, or neophobia (being afraid of new foods).
Myth #3: Babies will only eat veggies and spices if they’re masked by sweet fruit tastes.
Babies are drawn to new food like magnets, they don’t have a point of reference on the fact that they’re supposed to dislike Swiss chard and love bananas. Wilson recommends introducing all flavors to baby within their flavor window, which lasts from month 6 to month 18, to up your chances of them loving bitter, bold, and savory flavors.
Myth #4: Breastfed babies are used to sweet flavors because breastmilk is sweet.
Actually, as our resident Pediatrician, Mary Versfelt, MD, noted babies are introduced to hints of the same flavors that mama introduces into her system. Both through pregnancy and breastfeeding, research has shown that what a woman eats can influence a baby’s food preferences and is a child’s first exposure to flavors.