WASHINGTON — It’s not easy to instill a love of vegetables in your children.
Sally Squires, who writes the Lean Plate Club™ blog, says 25 percent of preschoolers don’t eat vegetables, and exposing kids to vegetables as early as possible is key for healthy habits down the road.
One way to win them over with greens is to introduce them in ways that make them more palatable, rather than simply demanding that kids eat their peas or broccoli.
It’s also instructive to know that, for the child, the process begins in utero, Squires said. What Mom eats starts to influence her child’s preferences while she’s pregnant. Flavors are passed on to babies through the amniotic fluid, so babies are learning about food and developing preferences inside the womb. Once the baby is born, flavors are conveyed through nursing.
We know this, she said, because researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, in Philadelphia, did a study in which new mothers drank vegetables juices while breast-feeding, and their babies’ tastes for vegetables was monitored.
Researchers found that starting early — before two weeks of age — was more effective than starting later. They monitored the babies’ brows lowering and raising, nose wrinkling, upper lip raising and squinting — all used to show like and dislike of tastes and flavors.
Breast-feeding also offers many general health benefits, including a better body weight for mom and a lower risk of obesity for baby. It’s also a critical way to get moms and infants to eat better.