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April 25, 2018  |  Login
Taste Beginnings
By Dr. Alan Greene

Our taste preferences are formed by a complex mix of genetics and how we are raised. The great news is that we can start even be­fore our babies are born to help them to learn to love great foods. The latest science is un­covering fascinating connections between what moms eat while pregnant and what foods their babies enjoy after birth. Remarkable, but true. Babies have more taste buds before they are born than at any time later in life. Amniotic fluid is a flavored soup of what Mom has been eating, and babies in the womb taste, remember, and form preferences for some of these foods. I call this period “Taste Beginnings.”

Consider a fascinating study involving carrot juice. As part of the study, one group of pregnant women drank ten ounces of carrot juice four times a week for three consecutive weeks. Another group of women in the study drank water. When their babies were old enough to start eating cereal, it was time to look for a difference between the groups. An observer who didn’t know to which group each baby belonged studied the babies as they ate cereal mixed with carrot juice. The babies who had missed this earlier experience protested and made unhappy faces when they first tasted the juice, whereas the others readily accepted and enjoyed the carrot juice in the cereal.1 There was a dramatic difference between those who had sampled carrot juice in the amniotic fluid and those who had not.

The latest evidence from a 2006 study of identical and fraternal twins supports these findings and suggests that preferences for fruits, vegetables, and desserts are learned behaviors.2 So as amazing as it seems, if you make it a priority to eat a diet that is loaded with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and short on sugary, fatty, and processed foods, you might actually influence your child’s long-term taste preferences. What an opportunity to start training your child’s taste buds to eat healthy nutritional food!

Eating For Two

I frequently see moms-to-be quickly adjust their diets after getting the good news of the pregnancy. Without always knowing exactly how or why, most expectant moms instinctively understand that “eating for two” means they have an opportunity to be the direct source of healthy foods that supply all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals a tiny fetus needs to thrive.

A case in point is the vital role that choline, a little-known nutrient, plays in protecting your baby’s neural tube development in the earliest weeks of pregnancy, when the most rapid cell division occurs. Like the better known folate, it can reduce the risk of devastating brain and spinal chord defects. The March of Dimes recommends choline, along with protein, calcium, and folate for healthy pregnancies.

Choline remains important throughout your pregnancy as a critical building block of cells in your baby’s rapidly growing brain. Getting plenty of choline appears to have a lasting effect on children’s memory. Most women do not get an adequate supply from their prenatal vitamins. You can find lots of choline in eggs, cauliflower, asparagus, and spinach, as well as other vegetables, meats, fish, nuts, grains, herbs, and spices.

Choline is just one of the many vital nutrients you’ll be supplying your baby through the foods you eat. And like choline, each has a significant role to play in your baby’s healthy development. The best way to make sure you’re providing everything he needs is to enjoy a varied diet of your fa­vorite fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, healthy fats, and lean sources of protein and calcium—plus a vitamin supplement as a safety net.


1.Mennella, J. M. “Prenatal and Postnatal Flavor Learning by Human Infants.” Pediatrics, 2001, 107, e88

2.Breen, F. M., Plomin, R., and Wardle, J. “Heritability of Food Preferences in Children.” Physiology and Behavior, 2006, 88, pp. 443–447.



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