When is the perfect time to learn to like vegetables?
Apparently, mothers can already teach their infants to learn to like the taste of healthy foods while breastfeeding, a recent study suggests.
“What lactating mothers eat flavours breastmilk and, in turn, modifies their infants’ acceptance of similarly flavoured foods,” researchers said.
A randomized controlled study of 97 mother-infant dyads was conducted to determine the effects of the timing and duration of eating a variety of vegetables during breastfeeding on the liking of vegetables in both members of the dyad.
Lactating mothers drank vegetable, beet, celery and carrot juices for 1 month beginning at 0.5, 1.5 or 2.5 months postpartum or for 3 months beginning at 0.5 months postpartum. The control group drank equal volumes of water and avoided drinking juices.
At each monthly visit (0.5 to 4.5 months), mothers rated the tastes of the juices and self-reported dietary intakes. After weaning, researchers assessed on separate days the infants’ (age 7.9 months) acceptance of plain, carrot-flavour (exposed flavor) and broccoli-flavour (nonexposed flavor) cereals.
Exposure timing had a significant impact on the acceptance of the carrot flavour that did not generalize to the novel broccoli flavour. A relatively brief experience (1 month) with vegetable flavours in mothers’ milk, beginning at 0.5 months postpartum, was enough to change the hedonic tone. This led to a faster rate of eating carrot-flavoured cereal than that in infants expose during subsequent months or not at all.
There was a greater effect with 1 month of exposure compared with 3 months or no exposure. Regardless of when exposure occurred, infants were less likely to show facial expressions of distaste initially when eating the carrot cereal.
Furthermore, mothers liked the tastes of beet, celery and carrot juices more over time. However, there were no changes in their dietary intake of vegetables.
“More research is needed to facilitate the liking and eating of these foods by mothers, which will, in turn, increase the likelihood of their feeding these foods to their children,” researchers said.