Every mother wants her child to grow up with a love for vegetables knowing that vegetable eating habit is associated with health. The secret to creating veg munchers might be to make a special effort to munch vegetables while breast feeding.
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia, have discovered that the flavours encountered during the first few months hardwire likes and dislikes that last a life time. The window of opportunity to programme taste preferences is small – by 6 months old the favourite flavours are pretty much set.
This discovery is based on experiments feeding babies bitter tasting milk formula. Babies who “grow up on it”, end up liking bitter tastes into their teenage years. But if a baby is exposed to bitter formula for the first time at the age of 6 months, you’re like to find the child would opt to starve, rather than drink the bitter tasting liquid.
Same pattern holds for sour flavours.
So what does breast milk taste like ?
Breast milk picks up the flavour chemicals floating around in mom. Each feed is a combination of what Mom just consumed, so the infant is exposed to a kaleidoscope of flavours.
If Mom just ate a hefty helping of broccoli or brussel sprouts, the milk meal would be decidely bitter. A helping of pilchards, will release fishy flavours. A cream puff will leave sugar and fat flavours dominating the milk.
Unfortunately, if a baby is being fed commercial formula it will always tastes the same. The sameness is rather bland.
How to raise a vegetable lover
Vegetables tend to have bitter flavours, so junior needs to be primed to enjoy bitter tastes, which are actually quite horrible.
The easiest way to create a vegetable lover would be to eat vegetables, lots of them, while breast feeding. Priming your child to like bitter flavours will mean that the brussel sprouts are less likely to be left on the plate.
NOTE : Taste is dependent on genes as well as environment.
The benefits of being a vegetable eater
I really do hate broccoli and brussel sprouts. I can intellectualize their value, but it still takes heaps of commitment to shovel undisguised broccoli into my mouth, chew and swallow.
I was raised on formula. I think I developed a preference for sweet things rather than bitter things in those early days which has plagued me into adulthood. I wish I loved vegetables !
A preference for vegetables is a great health gift to pass onto your child.
So make the effort – become a flavour junkie while nursing and make sure you keep eating the vegetables.
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