By Infant Nutritionist Claire Baseley
Alarmingly, over 30,000 two year olds in the UK have never even tried a vegetable and a further one in five regularly refuse to eat their veggies, according to a new study by Ella's Kitchen.
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) conducted an independent literature review (commissioned by Ella's Kitchen) to identify evidence-based ways to help children develop heathy eating habits. The findings highlight that introducing a variety of veg during the early stages of weaning is associated with increased acceptance of these foods during the weaning period and into later childhood.
The research supports the launch of this pioneering new campaign - Veg for Victory - which aims to raise awareness of the benefits of starting weaning with vegetables.
It will be spearheaded by Sir Weanston Churchill - a tiny orator who is rallying the nation to start weaning with veg, with fun + practical steps along the way, including plant a love for veg, new veg new day and ten tries to triumph. Famous for his inspiring + galvanising speeches (plus, don't all babies look a bit like Winston Churchill?) - Sir Weanston will be inspiring parents to try veg first, frequently + in variety.
Five reasons why it's important for little ones to eat their veggies
Plant a love for veg - introducing veg first, frequently and in variety at the start of weaning can help babies quickly learn to accept them and research shows they go on to eat more veg even when they're a year old. Other studies show that little ones that regularly eat veg during weaning eat more veggies and fruits when they're 7 years old!
Super nutrients - vegetables contain lots of nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fibre so they provide great nutrition for little ones. Many veg, especially the green leafy ones like spinach and broccoli, are a source of vitamin C which helps little bodies to absorb iron. Once babies are 6 months old, their iron stores are running low so combining a source of vitamin C with a source of iron (from spinach, kale or cabbage) helps them make the most of this vital mineral.
New day, new veg - the more variety little ones eat, the more likely they are to accept new tastes. Babies who were given a variety of vegetables, with a different veg each day, were more likely to accept new tastes even from other food groups. So eating a range of veg can actually help babies learn to like a wider variety of foods overall!
Tiny taste buds - little ones are born with a naturally sweet tooth but during weaning, they are really receptive to new tastes. Introducing savoury veg like broccoli, cabbage or green beans early in the weaning process can help little ones to learn about the world of tastes and get used to flavours that are not as sweet. Don't give up if little ones pull a face the first time they try a new taste - it can take up to 10 tries before they accept a new food.
More veg, less junk - eating plenty of veg and fruit is linked to lower risk of obesity as well as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and some cancers, so it's very important to plant a love for veg as early as possible during weaning.