Infant and Toddler Responses to Bitter-Tasting Novel Vegetables: Findings from the Good Tastes Study

Susan L. Johnson, Kameron J. Moding, Kevin J. Grimm, Abigail E. Flesher, Alyssa J. Bakke, John E. Hayes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Infants are born with the biological predisposition to reject bitterness. Dark green vegetables contain essential nutrients but also bitter compounds, making them more difficult to like. Objective: The Good Tastes Study was designed to determine whether reducing bitterness by adding small amounts of sugar or salt would alter infant acceptance of kale purées. Methods: Caregivers (n = 106, 94% mothers, 82% Non-Hispanic White) and children (53% male, aged 6-24 mo) participated in a videorecorded laboratory visit during which infants were offered 4 versions of puréed kale: plain, 1.2% or 1.8% added sugar, or 0.2% added salt. Caregivers rated their children's liking for each kale version. Videos were coded for the number of tastes accepted and for children's behaviors and acceptance of each kale version. A multilevel ordered logistic model was fit for the number of accepted tastes and caregiver ratings of child liking of kale versions with age, breastfeeding history, order effects, and kale version as predictors. Results: Infants 6 to <12 mo accepted more tastes (b = 2.911, P < 0.001) and were rated by caregivers as liking the kale more than older toddlers (≥18 mo; b = 1.874, P = 0.014). The plain kale was more likely to be accepted (P < 0.001); also, the first version offered was more likely to be rejected (b = -0.586, P < 0.007). Older infants (≥18 mo) exhibited more avoidant behaviors (b = 1.279, P < 0.001), more playing (b = 2.918, P < 0.001), and more self-feeding (b = 1.786, P = 0.005) than younger infants (6 to <12 mo). Children who were reported to have been breastfed more in the last 7 d were more likely to self-feed (b = 0.246, P < 0.001) and play with food (b = 0.207, P < 0.005). Conclusions: Our findings support that there may be a sensitive period, during the early phase of complementary feeding, to improve success of introducing a novel, bitter, more difficult-to-like food. When low levels of sugar or salt were added, no advantage of bitterness reduction was observed. This study has been registered with as NCT04549233.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3240-3252
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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