If you eat a lot of veggies during your pregnancy, will your baby be more apt to like them? By consuming a lot of sugary foods and candies while pregnant, are you giving your baby a predisposition for a sweet tooth later in life? Recent studies show that the answer to these questions is a resounding yes.

In psychology, it is a known fact that humans like what is familiar. You may have noticed that your spouse or partner grew more and more handsome every day you spent together upon first meeting. He wasn’t spending extra time at the gym or getting facials. Instead, your brain started to like his appearance more because it was growing accustomed. The same can be said for taste preferences, which is exactly why your baby’s are shaped in the womb. If you eat a lot of vegetables, the taste of those veggies will be directly transferred into your amniotic fluid. Your baby ingests multiple ounces of amniotic fluid every day, so he or she tastes everything you eat.

To find out whether or not babies could taste amniotic fluid, researchers designed a sniff-taste with volunteers. Without fail, people could smell the difference between the amniotic fluids of women who drank sugar water versus those that did not. Flavors that come out particularly strongly in amniotic fluid include carrot, garlic, vanilla, anise and mint.

This development of preferences in the womb explains why kids from their native culture enjoy their native foods. Kids born into 100% Chinese families in the United States are not as crazy about pizza or pasta as those born to American parents, and they’re more likely to enjoy Chinese foods with what others might consider acquired tastes. These tastes might be acquired, but these kids have been “acquiring” them since they were 21 weeks old.

Believe it or not, you actually have control over what food your child will like. You should take advantage of this occasion and eat as much healthy food as possible so that your baby will actually enjoy the taste of carrots, spinach, and anything else you want him or her to eat a lot of. By doing so, you’ll have a healthier birth, so it’s worth giving it a try. The best thing you can do while pregnant is eat a nutritious and diverse diet so that you stay healthy and your baby experiences many flavors.

Sources: L Cooke et al: The Impact of Flavor Exposure in Utero and During Milk Feeding on Food Acceptance in Weaning and Beyond. Appetite Volume 57 Issue 3 pp. 808-811

December 2011 Gretchen Cuda-Kroen: Baby’s Palate and Food Memories Shaped Before Birth. National Public Radio August 2011