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A Baby’s Natural Sweet Tooth

Your Mom may have told you, your best friend, your Aunt or even your pediatrician may all have told you

“Don’t give your baby fruits before vegetables or he’ll get a sweet tooth!”

Another variation of this advice often given is that you should never introduce orange foods before green food. Is there any sound medical evidence that suggests that introducing fruits before vegetables, or orange before green, will definitely give baby a sweet tooth, The answer is no, there is no medical evidence to prove that your baby will get a sweet tooth if you offer him bananas before peas! As many worry that introducing sweet potatoes before green beans will develop with a sweet tooth, there have been a few studies that show the order of solid foods that baby is introduced to really doesn’t matter (keeping in mind potential allergens and age appropriateness that is).

The Feeding Infants and Toddlers (FITS) study done in 2002, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and sponsored by Gerber Products Co, found that babies as young as 4-6 months are acquiring a “sweet tooth”. This early shaping of a sweet tooth is not due to parents offering sweet potatoes before peas and not even due to offering bananas before green beans. The study found that “10% of 4-to-6-month-olds consume desserts, sweets or sweetened beverages daily and By the time they are 2, 60% of toddlers eat some kind of pastry every day.” The study further concluded that “babies and toddlers are also learning early on to indulge their sweet tooth.” Although added sugar was removed from most jarred baby foods in the mid-1990s, baby-food companies continue to offer dessert lines with flavors such as vanilla custard pudding and peach cobbler, loaded with sugar and starch.

“Early exposure to intensely sweet foods has long-term consequences,” says Amy Lanou, a senior nutrition scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington-based nonprofit. “When we’re really young, our taste buds are especially attuned to sweet flavors. If you’re offered bananas and berries at an early age, that level of sweetness will satisfy. But if you’re given concentrated sweets, a taste for those intense sweets will follow you for the rest of your life.”

Is there an advantage to offering a sweeter food as a first food, One advantage of offering a more “sweet” food as a first food is exactly that, it’s a sweet and palate pleasing taste. Starting solid foods is a whole new experience for a baby and many advocate making that experience as pleasent as possible. By offering your baby a banana or sweet potato as a first food experience, your baby may be less inclined to reject the food and possibly reject further attempts at introducing solid foods. Another option for introducing solid foods that many advocate is to offer a fruit, a vegetable, a fruit then another vegetable and so on.

While the science shows that babies are indeed prone to prefer sweet foods – breast milk is sweet after all – babies will not develop the “bad” sweet tooth unless parents offer them foods that include copious amounts of sugar (not fruit sugars!) and other sweeteners and artificially sweetened foods. Further medical recommendations clearly state that the order of introducing solid foods to baby does not matter. You should of course keep allergies and age appropriatness of foods in mind.

The Start Healthy Feeding Guidelines for Children Ages 6 to 24 Months concludes that “There is no evidence for a benefit to introducing complementary foods in any specific sequence or at any specific rate.” The guidelines were published in the March 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and also appear on the CNRC website. These guidelines were developed jointly by the American Dietetic Association and Gerber Food Products Company with guidance and oversight by a panel of academic pediatric nutrition specialists. The panel included CNRC scientists Dr. William Heird and Dr. Nancy Butte, Tufts University professor Johanna Dwyer, Indiana University professor Dr. Karyl Rickard, WIC project nutritionist Laura Graney, and nutrition consultant Kathleen Cobb.

“We found that some recommendations concerning the order in which complementary foods should be introduced and how often new foods should be introduced were not based on sound scientific evidence. As a result, the new guidelines are more flexible in these areas,” he said. (CNRC scientists Dr. William Heird)

The guidelines were published in the March 2004 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and also appear on the CNRC website. The specific research question and conclusion are as follows:

Research Question: How quickly and in what order should complementary foods be introduced,

Conclusion: There is no evidence for a benefit to introducing complementary foods in any specific sequence or at any specific rate. However, it is generally recommended that first solid foods be single ingredient foods and that they be started one at a time at 2 to 7 day intervals. The order of introduction of complementary foods is not critical, except for providing nutrients required from complementary foods. Combination foods (instead of single-ingredient foods) may be given to older infants after tolerance for the individual components has been established.

Serve up those Sweet Potatoes and Peaches and Bananas and fear not the development of a sweet tooth! Offering a variety of foods, both naturally sweet and not sweet, will only help expand and enlighten your baby’s taste buds. Stay away from baby “desserts” and other commercial baby foods such as cereals mixed with fruits or yogurt. These foods often contain added sugars that your baby simply does not need and may give your baby the real sweet tooth you’re trying to avoid!

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