Newsflash for expectant and nursing moms: If you want your kids to eat their veggies, eat them yourself. A study by the Monell Chemical Senses Center, an independent institute dedicated to interdisciplinary research on the senses of taste and smell, has found that the flavor components a baby is exposed to through amniotic fluid in utero or through breast milk during the first months of life influence his or her taste preferences.
Researchers observed expectant mothers in their last trimester of pregnancy. They had one group drink carrot juice four times a week for three consecutive weeks. A different group of mothers was given carrot juice during the first two months of lactation. At six months, the babies in the study ate cereal prepared with carrot juice. The ones who had been exposed in utero — as well as the babies who had been exposed only through breastfeeding in the first two months — responded much more positively to the carrot flavor than did babies who hadn’t been exposed to it at all.
There does, however, seem to be a cutoff point for this palate malleability. Center director Gary Beauchamp, PhD, says that when they tested babies’ reactions to a bitter-tasting formula in a separate study, they found that, unless the infants were exposed to the formula before the four-month mark, they rejected it strongly and profoundly.
So if you’re pregnant or nursing a newborn, pile your plate with veggies now so you won’t have to cajole your kids to “Eat your veggies!” later.