In 2013, I read a New York Times article that reshaped my thinking on children’s eating habits. My wife is a dietician, so discussions about nutrition are pretty common around our house and often include our two children who have grown to be pretty savvy on the subject themselves. The article, which Jeanne and I discussed that day was entitled, Bad Eating Habits Start in the Womb. It introduced the idea of “flavor learning” in children. The concept, proven by numerous studies, centers around the fact that the flavors of a mother’s diet are transmitted to her amniotic fluid and breast milk and that babies perceive these flavors. In fact, research shows that later in life children are more accepting of foods which were introduced in utero and via breast milk. In other words, if mom eats broccoli during pregnancy and while breast feeding, her baby will be more likely to grow up liking broccoli – or at the very least be more accepting of bitter tasting foods like some vegetables.
While I don’t blame mom for my aversion to butter beans, I have to say I found this idea of flavor learning quite fascinating. So I did a little digging online and to my surprise, other than a few studies and resulting articles, found that the subject of flavor learning was practically non-existent on the web. The next thing I did was check the table of contents and indexes of a few nursing/breast feeding books at Barnes and Nobles. Again, to my surprise there was no mention of flavor learning, or the fact that the flavors of the mother’s diet can effect the flavor of breast milk.
As a children’s soccer coach and the father of two kids in middle school, I’m keenly aware of the childhood obesity epidemic in our country and regularly encounter children who are overweight. Could a little awareness of flavor learning have helped? I wonder.
So my wife and I started this blog to get the conversation going. To get people thinking. And to promote the idea of flavor learning with new mothers, which we hope will ultimately encourage a lifetime of healthy eating habits among today’s children.