Healthy Training Starts Early
Parents' struggle to teach kids to eat their greens should begin before birth, experts say.
Unborn babies get taste for fruit and vegetables from their mothers and are more accepting of foods their moms eat while pregnant, a new study has found.
Pregnant women with a varied diet are less likely to give birth to fussy eaters, researchers found, and babies are more accepting of foods mothers eat regularly while expectant and breast-feeding.
In one study, children whose mothers often drank carrot juice ate twice as much carrot-flavored cereal when being weaned, the Daily Mail reported.
"The research clearly shows that if mothers eat a lot of fruit during lactation and pregnancy, then their child will be much more open to eating fruit during weaning. The same goes with vegetables," researcher Dr Julie Mennella from the Monell Center in Philadelphia said.
"Babies are biologically hardwired to be attracted to foods containing sugar and salt, but may not be attracted to bitter foods such as green vegetables," Mennella said.
"They have to be exposed to fruit and vegetables if they are to learn to like these flavors. The good news is our research shows babies can learn very early on about healthy foods," she said.
"The message is, eat the healthy food you enjoy and when the baby is old enough to start weaning they will be familiar with those flavors," she added.
Mennella tested 46 babies aged between six months and a year for their liking of carrot-flavored cereal. Those whose mothers drank carrot juice several times a week consumed more than 80g of the cereal, compared with only 44g in other babies.
"It shows how we are primed by our earliest exposures. Children get sensory information in the womb and through their mothers' milk," she said. Mennella also found that bottle-fed babies quickly accept fruit and vegetables if they are given them when they start eating solids.
In another test, green beans were given to babies for eight days. On the first day, they ate an average of 50g of beans, but over eight days their consumption increased to 80g.
"Regardless of if a child is breast or bottle-fed, it can still learn as soon as it starts to wean. If they are repeatedly exposed to fruit and vegetables, they soon begin to accept these foods," said Mennella.