Patterns of Complementary Feeding Behaviors Predict Diet Quality in Early Childhood

Nutrients. 2020 Mar 19;12(3):810. doi: 10.3390/nu12030810.


Infancy is a time of plasticity in development of taste preference. Complementary feeding (CF) may be a "sensitive period" for learning new taste preferences and establishing healthy dietary behaviors that may track later in life. Among 1162 children in the U.S. prospective cohort study Project Viva, we aimed to identify patterns of CF behaviors around 1 year and examine associations with diet quality in early childhood (median age 3.1y). We identified patterns of CF using latent class analysis (LCA) and examined later diet quality based on scores on the Youth Healthy Eating Index (YHEI). We identified four distinct CF patterns (latent classes). Later YHEI scores were highest in the class characterized by "breast milk and delayed sweets and fruit juice" and lowest in the "picky eaters" class. The classes defined as "late flavor introduction and delayed sweets" and "early flavor introduction and more fruit juice" had similar, moderate scores. Our results suggest that CF patterns that increase food acceptance and discourage the innate preference for sweetness may have persistent influences on diet quality.

Keywords: Youth Healthy Eating Index; complementary feeding; diet quality; latent class analysis; taste preference.

MeSH terms

  • Diet*
  • Diet, Healthy
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Food Quality*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors