Ever wish you could program your child’s taste buds to prefer healthy foods? Well there may be a way to increase the chance that your child will eat their brussel sprouts without putting up a fight, but you’ll have to start planning early on. According to new research from the Monell Chemical Sciences Center, a non-profit institute in Philadelphia, the foods a mother eats during pregnancy may shape her infant’s taste preferences for a lifetime.

According to the research, the smell and scent of the foods a mother eats during pregnancy are transmitted through amniotic fluid in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The growing baby is exposed to these flavors just as taste receptors on their tongue and nasal cavity are quickly developing. The flavor of the amniotic fluid, determined by the foods the mother eats, appears to influence the developing baby’s future palette. Distinct flavors such as vanilla, garlic, carrot, and mint have been shown to be more strongly transmitted to amniotic fluid.

The recent Monell study showed that five- month- old infants of women who drank carrot juice four times a week during pregnancy were more willing to eat carrot-flavored cereal than infants of mothers who did not drink carrot juice during pregnancy.

Additionally, an Israeli study found that if babies of pregnant mice were exposed to a particular flavor in utero, they were more likely to try foods with the same flavor after they were born.

They intuited that their mother survived after eating this particular flavor while they were in the womb, so they naturally knew they could survive after eating it as well. They were more cautious, though, of flavors that were not exposed to in utero. This supports the idea that if babies are exposed to many different flavors in the womb, then they are biologically programmed to try these foods later on because they instinctively know that they won’t cause harm.

And there’s still hope if you want to influence your child’s palette after birth. Flavors are transmitted through breast milk as well. The Monell study showed that breastfed babies were more likely to enjoy carrot flavored cereal if their mother was consuming carrot juice during lactation even if she didn’t consume it during pregnancy.

So to increase the chances of your child being an adventurous, healthy eater, strive to consume a varied diet both during pregnancy and after. Based on the research, whether pregnant or breastfeeding, both you are and our little one are what you eat!

Journal of American Academy of Pediatrics