How is it that I am not even pregnant anymore and I still have to feel guilty about what I shoved into my pie-hole during the months that I was gestating a human? My toddler is a picky eater and apparently it’s all my fault – according to an op-ed I read in the New York Times this week titled, Bad Eating Habits Start In the Womb.
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research organization in Philadelphia, have found that babies born to mothers who eat a diverse and varied diet while pregnant and breast-feeding are more open to a wide range of flavors. They’ve also found that babies who follow that diet after weaning carry those preferences into childhood and adulthood. Researchers believe that the taste preferences that develop at crucial periods in infancy have lasting effects for life. In fact, changing food preferences beyond toddlerhood appears to be extremely difficult.
Great. I literally ate bagels, peaches and Kit-Kats during my son’s entire last trimester in the womb. I am Greek and Italian and absolutely love vegetables – but I couldn’t even stand the sight of them when I was pregnant. Frankly, I couldn’t stand the sight of anything. All those amazing, varied Mediterranean flavors that normally comprised my diet made my stomach turn.
I thought my child was a varied eater when we first introduced solids. His first food was avocado and he quickly took to just about every food we introduced. He even liked olives and capers. Now, all of a sudden the only thing I can get him to eat is oatmeal and pasta.
“What’s really interesting about children is, the preferences they form during the first years of life actually predict what they’ll eat later,” said Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist and researcher at the Monell Center. “Dietary patterns track from early to later childhood but once they are formed, once they get older, it’s really difficult to change — witness how hard it is to change the adult. You can, but it’s just harder. Where you start, is where you end up.”
So is he going to have the preferences of the foodie infant who liked capers and olives or the picky toddler who only eats oatmeal? I certainly hope the former. It may be hard for him to get a date if it’s the latter.
Another recent study conducted at the FoodPlus research center at the University of Adelaide in South Australia found that exposure to a maternal junk food diet (defined in the study as any food that was energy dense, highly palatable and had a high fat content) results in children with a preference for these same foods.
It seems I may have doomed him with my bland pregnancy palate. Damn you, bagels and Kit-Kats.
(photo: Getty Images)