How To Train Your Baby’s Palate

Research now shows that a baby's palate can actually be primed and trained to prefer healthy foods.

  • It can take a baby 10-15 times of trying a new food before accepting it
  • Model good eating habits yourself, your baby really is watching!
  • Shortcuts are welcome – like Little Spoon!

Have you ever noticed how French kids eat anything and everything under the sun but typical American children won’t touch anything unless it’s white (think French fries, chicken nuggets and pasta)?  So, what’s the reason those Frenchies are such good eaters? Because they are introduced to fresh, adventurous and flavorful foods straight from the start!

Much like manners and organizational habits, parents can have a huge impact on their children’s healthy food preferences. When my first son Pearce was born way back in 2007 I was determined to pass on my passion for food to him. We regularly hit up the Union Square Greenmarket each week, checking out what’s in season, talking to the farmers about their produce and smelling herbs like lavender and thyme. Whenever possible, I would drive him up to Blue Hill at Stone Barns north of New York City to stroll through a real farm, feeding the sheep and collecting eggs from the chicken coop. I did everything I could do prime his senses for food – he saw where the food was grown, smelled delicious herbs and spices up close and heard me constantly talking about how wonderful fresh food is. When it was finally time to introduce him to his first bites of food, I went absolutely crazy researching online all of the best possible ways to roll out new flavors, ensuring my darling boy would become the foodie I knew he had in him. The truth is that normal moms just simply don’t have time for all of this.

In the depths of my research, I came across a term I had never heard of: palate training. Children are born with innate food preferences regardless of tasting or trying a particular food. For example, have you ever met a child who doesn’t like fruit or sweets? However, before a baby tries their first solid food, their palate can be seen as a blank canvas. Research is now showing that a baby’s palate can actually be primed and trained to prefer and enjoy healthy foods such a vegetables, superfoods and fruits when introduced with patience, persistence and repetitively over time. Think of your baby’s first year of food as the “palate training” time. Exposing your baby to a variety of foods and flavors is essential, but it is equally important to serve real foods and avoid processed foods as much as possible.

Palate training isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but with my top tips, I promise this can be a manageable – dare I say even fun – experience for you and for baby!

  • The best time of day to introduce new foods is the morning. Everyone is fresher at the beginning of the day (baby and parent) so it makes sense to offer up something new when we know everyone will be in good spirits (and more likely to accept something new).
  • Try, try again. Remember your baby will need to try each new food and flavor combinations several times – sometimes up to 12 times – before the accept and enjoy it.
  • Pair a new food with old favorites to increase the chances of a successful introduction. 
  • Monkey see, monkey do! Remember to model good eating habits yourself. If you want your baby to eat avocados, make sure they see you eating them as well!
  • Use all the senses whenever possible. Palate training should always involve all the senses: smelling herbs and spices you plan to use in a dish (smell), let your baby play with their food and when older, they can help you prepare a dish (touch) and use gorgeous, vibrant colors (sight) to catch your baby’s attention. All of these senses go hand-in-hand with taste. The more senses you use to introduce a new food, the more likely your baby is to love it.
  • Go shopping! Bring baby with you to the grocery store or green market and involve them in the shopping process as much as possible. If they help pick out bananas, sweet potatoes or celeriac with you, they are much more likely to try and enjoy the food when prepared.
  • Short cuts are welcome! We can’t all be short order chefs – hello working moms and dads! You can and should use a delivery service like Little Spoon if you don’t have time to make everything yourself. We are so lucky to parent in a time with baby food delivery like mine, so don’t be afraid to use us for some or all of your baby food needs.

Remember that introducing solids and palate training is supposed to be fun. We are always here to help! Happy spooning!


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