Does your diet in pregnancy influence baby's taste preferences?

If you are pregnant, take a moment to think about the last meal you ate. It might just be influencing your baby’s taste preferences!

Over the past few decades, research has shown that flavors from the pregnant mothers’ food can be tasted by babies through the amniotic fluid and human milk[1],[2]. This begins early in the second trimester, when your baby is busy developing their taste buds.

As if there weren’t enough reasons to eat well, your baby’s experiences with healthy food while they are in utero may be shaping their preferences for those foods later on in life. Studies have shown that when infants are introduced to solid foods that their mothers ate while pregnant, they winced less than those infants that were not exposed to those foods in utero[3]. So when you are eating broccoli and spinach during pregnancy, your baby can also enjoy those flavors and may be more likely to eat their veggies at the dinner table!

Just like you, pregnant women around the world are eating foods common to where they live. Whether you love spicy ethnic foods or prefer simply prepared meals, you are gearing your baby up to accept the culinary traditions of your family. After all, chances are high that what you are eating now will be what you feed your child in the future. 

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourages a healthy diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins, while limiting excess salt, fat and added sugars[4]. So if you are concerned if your child will eat their vegetables or will be a picky eater, you may want to focus on these foods while pregnant, since we know your diet can help establish preferences for healthy foods later in life. Flavor exposure also continues for babies through breast milk. So if you plan to breast feed, your baby will also share the spicy, sweet, sour or bitter flavors you’ve eaten between feedings[5].

Next time you hear someone say you are “eating for two,” what they might actually mean is that your baby tastes all the flavors of your food with you! So go ahead and enjoy a healthful and varied diet - for the both of you!

[1] Mennella JA, et al. Vegetable and Fruit Acceptance during Infancy: Impact of Ontogeny, Genetics, and Early Experiences. Adv Nutr. 2016 Jan; 7(1): 211S-219S
[2] De Cosmi V, et al. Early Taste Experiences and Later Food Choices. Nutrients. 2017 Feb; 9(2): 107
[3] Mennella JA, et al. Prenatal and postnatal flavor learning by human infants. Pediatrics, 2001 Jun;107(6):E88
[4] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and US. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at
[5] Beauchamp GK, Mennella JA. Flavor Perception in Human Infants: Development and Functional Significance. Digestion, 2011 Mar; 83(Suppl 1): 1-6.