Public Health Nutrition

Biological and behavioural determinants

Long-term consequences of early fruit and vegetable feeding practices in the United Kingdom

Helen Coultharda1 c1, Gillian Harrisa2 and Pauline Emmetta3

a1 Department of Psychology, Hawthorn Building, DeMontfort University, Leicester LEI 9BH, UK

a2 Department of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK

a3 Department of Community-based Medicine, Bristol University, Bristol, UK


Objective To describe fruit and vegetable (FV) feeding practices at 6 months, and to examine whether these practices predict children’s FV intake at 7 years of age.

Design A prospective, longitudinal design was adopted. The mothers completed self-reported questionnaires at 6 months and 7 years postpartum, containing questions about their child’s FV intake.

Setting The study was carried out on a geographically representative population of infants born in Avon, UK, from 1991 to 1992, as part of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

Subjects Information was collected from 7866 mothers of infants.

Results Hierarchical linear regressions were used to predict FV consumption at 7 years from the early feeding variables. Children who were given home-cooked fruit or vegetables more often at 6 months were more likely to be eating a higher proportion of FV at 7 years, than those who were given home-cooked FV less often. There was no positive difference found in consumption of FV at 7 years according to how often ready-prepared fruits or vegetables were given at 6 months. The age of introduction to home-cooked vegetables moderated the relationship between frequency of consumption at 6 months and 7 years.

Conclusions The findings support the concept that exposure to FV is important in the early weaning period. The finding that consumption of ready-prepared FV was not positively associated with later FV consumption needs to be further investigated, with reference to theories of exposure, modelling and parental food choices. If vegetables are introduced later in weaning, they need to be fed frequently, to ensure adequate exposure.

(Received June 11 2009)

(Accepted February 17 2010)

(Online publication June 08 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email