Starting babies and toddlers on a lower protein Nordic-style diet with a greater focus on plant-based food may be the key to healthier eating habits, according to new research being presented today at the 54th Annual Meeting of the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN).
Babies fed taster portions of the new Nordic diet of fruit, berries, roots, and vegetables, as well as breast or formula milk, from the age of 4-6 months of age, were eating almost double the number of vegetables (46% more), than those fed a conventional diet, by 18 months of age.
Researchers from the University of Umeå, Sweden, Stockholm County Council Centre for Epidemiology, and the University of California, USA, followed two groups of babies from 4-6 months through to 18 months, as part of the OTIS trial. A total of 250 babies took part and 82% completed the trial.
Babies fed the new Nordic diet, who had been supplied with Nordic home-made baby food recipes, protein-reduced baby food products, and offered parental support via social media, consumed 42-45% more fruit and vegetables at 12-18 months of age, compared to those who were fed the conventional diet currently recommended by the Swedish Food Agency.
Lead researcher Dr Ulrica Johansson, a Medicine Doctor in paediatrics and registered dietitian at the University of Umeå, Sweden commented: “A Nordic diet with reduced protein introduced to infants naive to this model of eating, increased the intake of fruit, berries, vegetables, and roots, establishing a preferable eating pattern lasting over a 12-month period.”
“A Nordic diet reduced in protein is safe, feasible and may contribute to sustainable and healthy eating during infancy and early childhood,” she added.
The novel research could pave the way to broadening the taste spectrum in infants and potentially provide an effective strategy for instilling healthier eating habits early in life.
The Nordic diet has a higher intake of regionally and seasonally produced fruit, berries, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, tubers, and legumes, as well as whole grains, vegetable fats and oils, fish and eggs, and a lower intake of sweets, dairy, and meat.
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