Palate Training Your Baby and Toddler

Much like sleeping well and good behavior, parents can have a huge influence on their children’s healthy food preferences.  And like other behaviors, parents have the ability to condition babies and toddlers to enjoy fresh, healthy foods.  The process has been dubbed “palate training” and it begins before your baby is even born.

Palate Training Your Baby and Toddler

There’s no doubt that humans are hard-wired to enjoy sweet and salty flavors.  It’s almost impossible to un-condition those basic instincts.  However, exposing babies to a range of healthy flavors, especially from fruits and vegetables, can give them an appreciation for healthier foods.  This can lead to a better diet throughout their lives, which we all know has amazing benefits for our bodies and brains including less illness and disease, better cognition and more energy.

Babies are exposed to a range of flavors before they even take their first breath outside the womb.  A mother’s amniotic fluid contains the flavors of foods she eats every day.  In utero, babies become familiar with the taste of whatever mom is eating.  Studies have shown that if mom likes ice cream and fried chicken, their babies will recognize those flavors and gravitate towards them in the future.  But this also means that if babies are exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, they will are more likely to accept these healthy food options as part of their diet when they begin eating solids.

The same is true of breast milk, which also tastes like the foods that mom eats.  In most circumstances, regardless of what mom eats, breast milk is the healthiest option for feeding a baby as it provides hundreds of nutrients babies need to grow and thrive and antibodies to keep babies healthy.  There are countless benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers but an added bonus is that moms have the opportunity to expose their babies to an assortment of healthy food flavors even before babies are ready for solid foods.  That’s six additional months of flavors that formula fed babies aren’t getting.  This critical time period can significantly help palate training babies and toddlers.

Palate Training Your Baby and ToddlerAt six months of age babies can start their first solids.  One of the most important steps to palate training is to begin serving and continue serving healthy foods throughout infancy and toddlerhood.  Babies who were exposed to a diverse diet of fresh fruits, veggies and other foods in the womb and through breast milk will tend to prefer fresh food purees.  Yes, that’s a little more work for parents and care givers, but it’s worth it to have healthy eaters in the long run.

Texture and color are also an important part of palate training once your baby is eating solids.  Smooth purees are necessary at first, but as your baby develops a stronger swallow reflex, your homemade baby food can become chunkier to allow your baby to experience the texture of foods.  Gradually you slip from purees to chunks to tiny mushy bites to solid bites.  Infants and toddlers will also benefit from foods of a variety of colors.  Feeding your children the rainbow of fruits and vegetables is not only healthy, but also fun.  Some kids get hung up on the color of foods but starting colorful foods from a young age can help you avoid the “gross green” reaction.

If your baby does not seem to like a particular food initially, don’t give up on it altogether.  Instead, serve other foods for awhile and revisit the rejected food in the future.  The palates of babies and toddlers are constantly changing.  What they didn’t like two weeks ago may be their favorite food now.  Plus, when textures evolve, your child may enjoy certain foods better.

Palate training babies and toddlers makes for healthier children.  A diverse diet sets your child up for health and wellness now and in the future.  With just a little effort, you can condition your baby to enjoy a variety of healthy foods for a lifetime.