We have officially started to wean Georgia using the vegetable first approach and it’s going really well so far.
With my background in biology, I was keen to find out more about whether this really is the best method by looking into what research has been done.
I never trust a statement about nutrition – or anything else for that matter – without doing some research to find out if it really is accurate, or whether it’s based on untrustworthy sources. The media can spin a statement from research out of proportion until it’s regarded as a fact without having a scientific base.
For example, red wine is good for you… no it’s bad you… no it’s fine if in moderation… We’ve all read those ‘Daily Mail’ stories!
So, I did bit of digging into the research behind weaning as to why the vegetable first method is suggested as a good method and I thought I’d share it with you. I’ve looked at an unbiased approach here to see the facts, rather than cherry picking particular studies that support this view.
Our survey says… veg is good!
Research conducted in the UK split 53 babies into two groups. The first group of 28 ate pureed vegetable every day (no mixing!), with 5 different vegetables in rotation for 15 days. The second group of 25 were asked to start weaning as they normally would.
After 15 days the parents were told to start to vary their diet. The research group then visited each baby after the 15 days and offered them Artichoke (chosen because it’s an unusual choice not often found in baby food, so unlikely to have tried it yet).
The group who had the veg first approach were much more likely to try and enjoy the artichoke puree than the control group.
Interestingly, this study was also conducted in Portugal and Greece but they didn’t find a difference between the groups as their ‘normal’ approach is pretty much a veg first approach.
This difference suggests that as our UK culture has a sweet tooth approach to weaning, that swapping to a veg first approach like that already adopted in other countries could help babies to accept a wider variety of veg.
There is also research that suggests that eating a variety of vegetables makes those who are weaned at 6 months more likely to accept new tastes, as opposed to those who ate a single repeated taste. Interestingly, this study did not find that this was true in those who were weaned before 5.5 months, suggesting that there is a small window of opportunity where weaning should be introduced to allow a greater acceptance of tastes.
What don’t we know?
It’s important to know that even if babies do start off with a varied diet of veg, it doesn’t mean that they’ll be destined to shun crisps and chocolate later in life instead of a carrot stick… it may just make the weaning process easier!! Researchers don’t yet fully understand the relationship between weaning diet and habits later on in life as more research is needed (see links for more info on this!)
It’s also important to know that a study group size of 53 is small fry. It adds to other pieces of research that already suggests this approach, but by no means does it provide concrete evidence.
So… it seems that there is some evidence to suggest that a veg first approach to weaning can help to introduce variety, but there really hasn’t been any major studies to solidify this that I could find (if you find or know of any, let me know as I couldn’t find any!).
It’s working for us so far, but I’m happy that I know the facts and flaws of the statement that a vegetable first approach is best.
If you’re interested in reading more about these studies… here’s an article from the Guardian on the veg first approach as well as the Abstract from the research paper on a veg first approach which is a bit more detailed if you’ve got a head for scientific abstracts!
Also, here’s the abstract for how little we know about the effects of infant nutrition on eating habits later in life.
And another one on how the exposure to a variety of vegetables is beneficial if weaning after 6 months.