Commercial baby foods may be too sweet to help children become used to a variety of flavours, a new study has found.

The study of 329 baby foods, conducted at the University of Glasgow, found that across all major brands manufacturers are more likely to use fruit or sweet vegetables in their products, often omitting more bitter flavours.

The most common ingredients were revealed to be apple, banana, tomato, mango, carrot and sweet potato. Green vegetables such as spinach or chard were rarely used.

The authors of the report claim that the lack of variety in commercial baby foods will not help children to develop a taste for a full range of foods. They suggest that parents need to take greater responsibility for providing non-sweet foods at home.

Introduce new foods early

Dr Ada Garcia, the lead researcher, commented that: “Infants have an innate preference for sweet foods. While manufacturers clearly recognise the demand for products that appear to be healthy, commercial pressure will ensure these products are highly palatable.

“Taste learning requires parents to introduce their children to less palatable bitter tastes and keep offering them. However, it is probably unrealistic to expect commercial products to assist in this process.

“Infants usually accept new foods and tastes well if vegetable tastes are introduced early, and this early experience influences food preference later in childhood.”

Responding to the research, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), supported the idea that it is beneficial to provide young children a wide selection of cooked and raw foods so that they can learn to like the taste.

They also point out that this research does not indicate that commercial baby foods are necessarily ‘bad,’ but rather highlights the importance of a balanced diet: “It’s not fair to say on the basis of this research that buying baby food from the shops is ‘a bad thing’.

“Instead, it highlights the need for parents to read food labels carefully if they want to give their kids a healthy, balanced diet.”

Sources: Guardian; NCBI