Pediatrician Harvey Karp (of Happiest Baby on the Block fame) once told me that when offered the choice of a green or a red lollipop, toddlers pick the red one almost every time. Why? Survival! In the wild, red meant fruits and berries, but green meant potentially dangerous stuff.
Now a new Yale study says the same: Avoiding green foods seems to be a leftover primitive survival instinct. And it may partly explain picky eating.
Psychologists watched the play interactions of 8- to 18-month-olds. They clearly avoided real or pretend plants. It’s the old better-safe-than-sorry instinct: “This behavioral strategy would protect infants from the dangers posed by plants,” the study explains, “by decreasing the likelihood of ingesting plant toxins (by either consuming plant parts or ingesting toxins rubbed off on their hands from damaged plant parts) or incurring injuries from plants’ physical defenses (e.g., fine hairs, thorns, or noxious oils).”
Of course, babies do learn to love veggies. Some just get over this hardwired instinct faster than others.
Here, five kinds of green stuff your baby can learn to like, too:
Why: Loads of vitamins, fiber, and healthy fat in a consistency you can easily control.
Try: Mash avocado by itself or mix with banana for a great first food.
Why: Fiber and vitamins — but it can be gassy. Stick to small amounts of the floret part.
Try: Try steaming, pureeing, and cooking with eggs, a la broccoli soufflé. When your baby is ready for finger foods, she might go for the “broccoli tree” con.
3. French green lentils
Why: Like all lentils, they’re a good source of protein as well as fiber. Be sure to cook long enough to get nice and tender.
Try: Mixing with other veggies or serving solo; makes it fun for a finger-food eater to pick up (if a little messy).
4. Green beans
Why: Lots of vitamin A in every bean.
Try: Simmer them in apple juice or chicken broth to amp up flavor. Handy to serve mashed (remove strings) or as finger food.
Why: This green veggie is loaded with vitamins A and C. Fresh peas are a lot of work, but frozen still gives you all the nutrition payoff.
Try: Puree this old standby with potatoes. Or stir pea puree into a little yogurt — your baby doesn’t know a parfait has to be fruit-sweet.
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