If mealtimes are a battle, with your kid happily gobbling up the pizza but leaving the salad, you could be to blame. New research suggests your diet during pregnancy could determine whether you end up with a picky eater or one who favors a more balanced diet.
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found that children whose mothers ate plenty of fruits and veggies while pregnant were less likely to turn their noses up at the healthy foods during weaning. What mothers eat while pregnant is transferred to babies in the womb (and after birth through breast milk) and plays an important role in shaping their palate. Since we’re naturally attracted to sugar and salt but automatically have an aversion to the more bitter or sour taste of some fruits and vegetables, early exposure to less favorable flavors makes babies more receptive to them once they’re born.
One trial found that babies whose mothers drank carrot juice several times a week during the last trimester or while breastfeeding ate twice as much carrot flavored cereal while being weaned than those whose mothers didn’t drink the juice. Another trial found that babies who were fed green beans for a week straight ate more on the last day than on the first day, suggesting they’d quickly developed a taste for the vegetable during that time.
Meanwhile, a diet heavy in junk food could prime your child for a life of unhealthy eating (and dinner time battles) by decreasing sensitivity to opioids, the brain chemical released when eating foods high in fat and sugar. A study by Australian researchers suggests that children whose mothers eat lots of sugary or fatty food during pregnancy could be born with a “higher tolerance” to junk food, meaning they’ll have to eat more to satisfy cravings.
Scientists studied two groups of baby rats, one whose mothers were fed human junk food during pregnancy and one who were fed regular rat food. Then, the newborn rats were injected with an opioid blocker. In rats whose mothers were on the junk food diet, the opioid blocker was less effective at reducing fat and sugar consumption.
To see what else you should or shouldn’t eat while pregnant, check out this round up of pregnancy diet facts and fictions.