Texture preferences of 12-month-old infants
and the role of early experiences
, A. Collins
, M. Kiely
, C. Delahunty
Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
Sensory Science Research Centre, Department of Food Science, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
Received 13 October 2005; received in revised form 14 February 2006; accepted 3 March 2006
Available online 11 May 2006
The present study examined infants’ preferences for diﬀerent food textures and aimed to identify factors that play an important role in
shaping these preferences. In a home setting, 70 twelve-month-old infants were exposed to cooked carrots prepared in two diﬀerent tex-
tures; pureed and chopped. Infants’ mean intakes in grams for the pureed and the chopped carrots were 70.9 ± 49.1 g and 24.6 ± 28 g
respectively. Infants consumed signiﬁcantly more pureed carrots (t(69) = 8.50, p < 0.001) and mothers’ rating of the infants’ enjoyment
for this texture was signiﬁcantly higher (t(69) = 3.65, p < 0.01) than for chopped carrots. However a great variability in the consumption
of chopped carrots was found within the infants. Spearman’s correlation and PLSR analysis showed that familiarity with diﬀerent tex-
tures, especially chopped foods, is the strongest predictor of intake and liking of chopped carrots. Furthermore, infants with higher die-
tary variety, more teeth and a greater willingness to try new foods were more likely to consume more of the chopped carrots. Food
pickiness and fussiness had a negative inﬂuence on the intake of, and liking for, chopped carrots. The present research is a ﬁrst step
to explain the variation in infants’ consumption and liking of diﬀerent textures. It highlights the importance of not only varying the
child’s experiences with diﬀerent ﬂavours but also with diﬀerent textures to foster the infants’ transition to an adult diet.
Ó 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Infants; Food texture; Intake; Liking
It is established that human infants are born with
genetic predispositions that can inﬂuence what tastes are
liked or disliked (Steiner, 1979). These predispositions
include an innate liking for sweet tastes and the rejection
of sour and bitter tastes. But more importantly, the devel-
opment of food preferences and eating habits are strongly
inﬂuenced by early experiences with diﬀerent tastes and ﬂa-
vours, which start even before children have their ﬁrst solid
foods. The development of food likes and dislikes is depen-
dent on a number of diﬀerent factors – including maternal
diet during pregnancy and lactation (Mennella & Beau-
champ, 1991a, 1991b, 1993; Mennella, Jagnow, & Beau-
champ, 2001), the early feeding regime (i.e., breast or
bottle) (Sullivan & Birch, 1994) or the ﬁrst foods oﬀered
to the child (Birch, Gunder, Grimm-Thomas, & Lang,
1998; Gerrish & Mennella, 2001). Research by Mennella
and Beauchamp (1991a, 1991b, 1993); Mennella et al.
(2001) has shown that ﬂavours from the mother’s diet are
transmitted to the amniotic ﬂuid and later to breast milk.
These ﬂavours can be detected by the children and might
aﬀect their later preferences. In a recent study they demon-
strated that infants who experienced carrot juice either in
the amniotic ﬂuid or in the mother’s milk showed a prefer-
ence for cereals prepared with carrot juice over cereals pre-
pares with water during weaning (Mennella et al., 2001).
Experiences with diﬀerent infant formulas can also have a
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Food Quality and Preference 18 (2007) 396–404