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Developing healthy eating habits early on

Researchers are looking for 120 Auckland-based mothers and babies to take part in a new study which will evaluate whether exposing babies to vegetables when they first move to solids, could improve their chances of enjoying eating vegetables later in life.

Jeanette Rapson, PhD candidate and registered

Taste preferences start to develop early in life and can influence food choices in the future. Now, a new Massey University study is investigating how exposing babies to a variety of fruit and vegetables when they first move to solids, could help form better eating habits in the future.

The study is being led by PhD candidate and registered dietitian Jeanette Rapson, who wants to know if early exposure to vegetables during complementary feeding (when babies begin to progress from breast milk or formula) will improve the chances of children liking vegetables.

“In New Zealand, suggested first foods for babies include vegetables, fruits, meat and commercial infant foods like baby rice,” Ms Rapson says. “During this critical window, repeated exposure to a variety of tastes may be a successful strategy to promote vegetable intake amongst children. It is important that children eat plenty of different vegetables and fruits to ensure they are getting the vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre needed for growth and development.”

Few studies have investigated vegetables during complementary feeding, especially in New Zealand. “The aim of our study is to compare two different feeding regimes which differ in the types of vegetables and fruits they provide. We will also examine the mother’s diet during pregnancy and breast feeding, as these may have some impact on the taste preference of their child,” she says.

“The results of our study may contribute to recommendations around first foods for babies in New Zealand, and worldwide.”

Researchers are looking for 120 Auckland-based mothers and their babies to participate in the study.

“As soon as you think your baby is ready to start solids, we will ask you to feed them age-appropriate vegetable and fruit baby foods that we provide to you for free for four weeks. We would also like you to take a few video recordings of your baby trying the foods and keep a weighed infant food diary.”

Participants will need to visit the Human Nutrition Research Unit at Massey’s Auckland campus in Albany, when their baby is four months old. “We can visit mums and babies at home for follow-ups at the end of the four-week trial, then again when the baby is nine months and 12 months of age,” Ms Rapson says.

All mothers will have the opportunity to meet with a New Zealand registered dietitian, who can offer support with infant feeding and nutrition. Mothers will also have access to free nutrition information throughout the study. This study, entitled ‘Vegetables as first foods for babies’, is being supervised by Dr Cath Conlon and Associate Professor Pam von Hurst from the School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition.

For more information about the study or to register your interest, please click here.

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