Complementary Feeding Strategies to Facilitate Acceptance of Fruits and Vegetables: A Narrative Review of the Literature

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Nov 19;13(11):1160. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13111160.


Complementary feeding (CF), which should begin after exclusive breastfeeding for six months, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), or after four months and before six months according to the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN), is a period when the infant implicitly learns what, when, how, and how much to eat. At the onset of CF, the brain and the gut are still developing and maturing, and food experiences contribute to shaping brain connections involved in food hedonics and in the control of food intake. These learning processes are likely to have a long-term impact. Children's consumption of fruit and vegetables (FV) is below recommendations in many countries. Thus, it is crucial to establish preferences for FV early, when infants are learning to eat. The development of food preferences mainly starts when infants discover their first solid foods. This narrative review summarizes the factors that influence FV acceptance at the start of the CF period: previous milk feeding experience; timing of onset of CF; repeated exposures to the food; variety of foods offered as of the start of the CF period; quality and sensory properties of the complementary foods; quality of the meal time context; and parental responsive feeding.

Keywords: breastfeeding; complementary feeding; eating behavior; feeding practices; fruit; nutrition; repeated exposure; vegetables.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Food
  • Male
  • Vegetables*