Objective: We examined whether exposure to a greater number of fruits, vegetables, and noncore foods (ie, nutrient poor and high in saturated fats, added sugars, or added salt) at age 14 months was related to children's preference for and intake of these foods as well as maternal-reported food fussiness and measured child weight status at age 3.7 years.
Methods: This study reports secondary analyses of longitudinal data from mothers and children (n=340) participating in the NOURISH randomized controlled trial. Exposure was quantified as the number of food items (n=55) tried by a child from specified lists at age 14 months. At age 3.7 years, food preferences, intake patterns, and fussiness (also at age 14 months) were assessed using maternal-completed, established questionnaires. Child weight and length/height were measured by study staff at both age points. Multivariable linear regression models were tested to predict food preferences, intake patterns, fussy eating, and body mass index z score at age 3.7 years adjusting for a range of maternal and child covariates.
Results: Having tried a greater number of vegetables, fruits, and noncore foods at age 14 months predicted corresponding preferences and higher intakes at age 3.7 years but did not predict child body mass index z score. Adjusting for fussiness at age 14 months, having tried more vegetables at age 14 months was associated with lower fussiness at age 3.7 years.
Conclusions: These prospective analyses support the hypothesis that early taste and texture experiences influence subsequent food preferences and acceptance. These findings indicate introduction to a variety of fruits and vegetables and limited noncore food exposure from an early age are important strategies to improve later diet quality.
Keywords: Child weight; Dietary intake patterns; Early exposure; Food preferences.
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