Ensuring very young children get plenty of fruits and vegetables establishes lifelong healthy eating patterns, says Dr. Joseph Sweeney, a pediatrician with the Portland Clinic in Portland, Oregon. "If you feed the child like this early on, and ingrain [produce] into the child's habits, you are getting a more balanced diet to the child. Also, you are eliminating things that contribute to health problems later on," Dr. Sweeney explains.
In fact, "babies who are fed a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat these foods as toddlers and beyond," adds Dr. Richard Theuer, PhD, a nutritional consultant for Beech-Nut. "If you want a toddler to snack on green beans and foods with good fiber, you should feed them these foods as babies.
Sadly, most American children simply do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, says Dr. Furman, who explains that more than 90 percent of the calories consumed by children under the age of five come from sugar, flour, oil, and dairy. Only about five percent of American children's calories come from fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. The remaining "five percent is everything else," says Dr. Fuhrman, referring to chicken, pork, eggs, and other foods that don't quite fit into the categories listed above.