Founder and CEO, Fresh Bellies
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine predicted that 57 percent of children and teens will be obese by the age of 35. Not surprising, considering the CDC’s findings that only one in 10 Americans eats the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. This projection, however, need not be our destiny. When it comes to babies, for example, early exposure and education are two foundational ways to generate healthier, more sustainable life choices.
Healthful eating and its benefits are already a growing part of the American narrative. Yet, certain categories are largely absent from the conversation. Baby food is one of them. For years, bland, flavorless purees were recommended as the ideal first foods for babies and unintentionally contributed to creating a generation of picky eaters. These foods were primarily sweetened with fruits to make them palatable to children, ultimately predisposing them to prefer sweet foods over the savory foods and flavors that are superior nutritionally. Today, we know that a far better and more sustainable alternative to baby food is to repeatedly expose children to many bold flavors, bright colors, and varied textures early in life.
Like many other behaviors we learn in childhood, there is benefit to repetition and diversity when it comes to food. How many authors and books were we exposed to as babies before we learned to read? Similarly, we begin to train our palates the very moment we take our first bite. We are not born disliking broccoli or having an aversion to kale, but if we forgo repeated exposure to these flavors, we are less likely to eat them as grown ups.
To help curb the rise in unhealthy eating habits, we must focus on prevention for future generations. Let’s teach our kids to eat many foods by broadening their flavor horizons and encouraging them to be curious and adventurous eaters. Let’s train baby palates to take on bold and savory flavors and help shape children’s eating habits for life.