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Is Healthy Food Only for Rich Babies?

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Good news moms who are struggling to get your kids to eat healthy food, there is a new study out to make you feel even worse. The journal, Pediatrics, published a supplement that included the results of 11 US government-funded studies, which tracked the eating patterns of 1,500 infants and then followed up with them when they were 6 years old.

The results of the studies showed that infants who ate few fruits and vegetables earlier on in life continued to do so as children. Conversely, infants who ate a lot of fruits and vegetables continued to do so as children. The study also showed that infants who were given sugary drinks like juice before they turned 1 were more likely to drink sugary drinks as children and had a higher instance of obesity.

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The article in Pediatrics notes: “It is not clear whether these associations reflect the development of taste preference during infancy or a family eating pattern that manifests at various ages, but the studies do point to the need to establish healthful eating behaviors early in life.”

According to the USDA's Economic Research Service approximately 23.5 million people live in food deserts, where access to affordable fresh food is nearly impossible.

Reaffirming what we as parents know: Our children need healthy food and they need it soon. Cutting down on sugary drinks and sweet and salty food is necessary for everyone, even children, to live a full and happy life.

So, the study's authors conclude, give your babies more fruits and vegetables early on and no juice. As if it were that easy.

In reading the analysis of the study, I was struck by how many women in the study were white, upper-middle class women. Women who had access to prenatal care. Women who took their kids to the dentist and the doctor on a regular basis. It’s no surprise then, that the ability to purchase large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables led their children to better and healthier eating habits later in life.

It’s one thing to say, “Feed your babies more fruits and vegetables” and quite another thing to accomplish that task.

As a white, upper-middle class woman, I do my best to feed my children fruits and vegetables as often as possible. I have a fruit bowl for snack time. My 3-year-old knows that when she’s hungry she can munch on a banana or an apple. The baby knows this too and more than once I’ve found him trying to crawl up on the table for an apple. But I also know that buying fresh fruits and vegetables is expensive. I live in a place with easy access to a grocery store, where healthy food is relatively inexpensive. But I still have a hard time keeping a variety of healthy fresh food in the home. It goes bad quickly, we are on a budget, meal planning is time consuming, so is finding bargains and coupon cutting (things I can do because I have a supportive partner who helps) and then there is the waste. And these are just the challenges I face.

According to the USDA's Economic Research Service approximately 23.5 million people live in food deserts, where access to affordable fresh food is nearly impossible. Not to mention the sky rocketing poverty rates. So, it’s one thing to say, “Feed your babies more fruits and vegetables” and quite another thing to accomplish that task.

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It makes me wonder if health isn’t quickly becoming a luxury of the wealthy and if we are dooming our babies from the start, not because of bad habits, but because of our inattention to inequality.

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