Get Them Hooked on Veggies Young

By Meghan Rabbitt

If children are going to learn to love vegetables and other good-for-you foods, it’s important to expose them to healthy fare early on. How early? Starting in utero and continuing through breast-feeding, says new research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. “Flavors from a mother’s diet are transmitted through the amniotic fluid and breast milk, helping a baby learn to like a food’s taste,” says Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist at the Center and lead author of the study. The researchers found that babies whose mothers drank carrot juice while pregnant or breast-feeding showed a greater preference for the veggie itself than those born to women who had not drunk the juice.

Mennella explains that babies are born with a dislike of bitter tastes—part of our innate defense against poisonous plants. Babies can, however, overcome that bias, even for strong vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts, if their mothers eat those plants pre- and postpartum. Another example from the study: Older babies who were both breast-feeding and eating solids initially refused green beans but began to like them once their nursing mothers started eating them.