Early determinants of fruit and vegetable acceptance

Pediatrics. 2007 Dec;120(6):1247-54. doi: 10.1542/peds.2007-0858.


Objective: Our goal was to evaluate the effects of breastfeeding and dietary experiences on acceptance of a fruit and a green vegetable by 4- to 8-month-old infants.

Methods: Forty-five infants, 44% of whom were breastfed, were assigned randomly to 1 of 2 treatment groups. One group was fed green beans, and the other was fed green beans and then peaches at the same time of day for 8 consecutive days. Acceptance of both foods, as determined by a variety of measures, was assessed before and after the home-exposure period.

Results: During the initial exposure, infants ate more calories from peaches than from green beans. Breastfed infants showed greater liking of peaches, as did their mothers, who ate more fruits in general than did mothers who formula fed. Although formula-feeding mothers ate more green beans, there was no difference in their infants' acceptance of this vegetable. For breastfed and formula-fed infants, repeated dietary exposure to green beans, with or without peaches, resulted in greater consumption of green beans (56.8 vs 93.6 g). Only infants who experienced green beans with peaches displayed fewer facial expressions of distaste during feeding. Mothers were apparently unaware of these changes in acceptance.

Conclusions: Breastfeeding confers an advantage in initial acceptance of a food, but only if mothers eat the food regularly. Once weaned, infants who receive repeated dietary exposure to a food eat more of it and may learn to like its flavor. However, because infants innately display facial expressions of distaste in response to certain flavors, caregivers may hesitate to continue offering these foods. Mothers should be encouraged to provide their infants with repeated opportunities to taste fruits and vegetables and should focus not only on their infants' facial expressions but also on their willingness to continue feeding.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Vegetables*