Green Vegetables are Hard to Find in Baby Food

(​May 2018) Convincing children to eat green vegetables might be difficult in part because their tastes often aren’t nurtured in infancy to accept the bitterness of dark green vegetables.

The inability to foster a taste for those vegetables isn’t simply because parents shy away from them due to infants’ reaction. It’s likely related to the lack of commercially prepared single-vegetable products available to parents and caregivers to offer their infants and toddlers, according to a study by researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

The study, which is to be published this spring in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is the first study to examine the prevalence and types of vegetables in infant and toddler food manufactured and sold in the United States.

The researchers compiled a database of 548 infant and toddler foods sold by more than 20 U.S. companies. They then examined the ingredients and nutrients using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s vegetable categories.

Of the foods in the database, only 52 were single-vegetable products and none of those were dark green vegetables or beans/peas. In baby food that had multiple ingredients, fruits were listed as the first ingredient in 37.8 percent of the products, more commonly than all vegetables. Red/orange vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, were the first ingredient in 23.7 percent of products, while dark green vegetables were listed first in only 1.1 percent of products.

“The commercial infant and toddler foods market in the U.S. does not appear to provide caregivers with an adequate type and selection of products to facilitate children’s later acceptance of the kinds of vegetables they will encounter and be encouraged to consume once they have transitioned to table foods,” writes Kameron J. Moding, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pediatrics, and her co-authors. 

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