Jeanette Rapson

PhD Student

Thesis Title: Vegetables as a first food for babies.

In New Zealand, complementary feeding is recommended to start at around 6 months. Suggested first foods include vegetables, fruits, meat, and commercial infant foods including baby rice.

Taste preferences start to develop early in life and can influence dietary patterns. It is well known that babies naturally have a fear of unfamiliar foods and prefer sweeter foods over bitter foods, which is why it may be difficult for babies to like certain vegetables. However, evidence suggests that early and repeated exposure to unfamiliar foods can improve food acceptance and intake. This supports our hypothesis that early exposure to vegetables during complementary feeding will improve liking of vegetables, and therefore improve vegetable intake throughout the lifecycle. 

The primary objective of this randomised control trial (RCT) study is to evaluate the impact of a vegetables-first approach to complementary feeding on taste preferences for vegetables in babies compared with placebo at 8-months and 12-months of age. A secondary objective is to determine the impact of this approach on their gut microbiota. If our hypothesis is proven, the results of our study will contribute to the evidence for recommendations around a vegetables-first approach to complementary feeding.

Affiliated with Massey University