Do you love potato chips and pizza but shun vegetables? Your mother may be to blame for your bad eating habits. If she regularly succumbed to cravings to the exclusion of healthy foods, it may have impacted your early palate.
A new study from Philadelphia’s Monell Chemical Senses Center suggests that children adopt their mothers’ food preferences through the flavors found in her breast milk and amniotic fluid; if mothers want their babies to eat vegetables, especially bitter green vegetables, they need opportunities to taste these foods first.
In the study, 46 pregnant women were assigned to one of three groups. Women in the first group drank carrot juice during the third trimester of pregnancy and water while breastfeeding; the second group did the opposite; and the third group drank only water throughout.
Infants who were repeatedly exposed to carrot flavoring ate an average of three times more carrot-flavored cereal than did infants whose mothers drank only water.
Mother’s milk is arguably the first flavor experience a child is exposed to, offering a taste of their culture even before birth. “It’s a beautiful system,” says Julie Manella, the study’s author, “Infants learn what foods are safe by flavor cues in the amniotic fluid and mother’s milk.”