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Break Out the Broccoli! Parents Can Shape Baby's Taste

Turns out parents can get their babies to eat — and like! — veggies after all!

In her book "First Bite," food writer and mother of three Bee Wilson reveals that children have a lot of influences when it comes to their taste preferences, with some preferences even developing in the womb.

"One of the main things we know about taste is that liking is a consequence of famliarity," Wilson tells NPR's Terry Gross, "so the things that our mothers eat, even before we're born, affect the way we'll respond to those flavors when we later encounter them—because they seem familiar."

Even if you skipped the broccoli and Brussels sprouts during Baby's nine months in utero, don't worry. Wilson says there's a "flavor window" when infants are "most open" to exploring new tastes. And that window is between 4 and 7 months.

In fact, Wilson openly contradicts the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which advises parents to feed babies milk exclusively for the first six months of life.

Calling the recommendations "wrong," Wilson tells Gross, "[I]t's not that a child necessarily needs any nutrition besides milk before 6 months, it's that you're missing an opportunity to introduce them to all of these flavors which they would likely accept at this age."

Luckily for parents, that window doesn't close once Baby passes the 7-month mark. As humans, Wilson explains, we have many opportunities to acquire new tastes and "learn to love new flavors" as we age.

It's just helpful, of course, to get that process started early.

While we're also predisposed to liking sweet tastes (not surprisingly), Wilson admits — and that is cross-cultural, too — she says we can also find sweetness in fruits and vegetables, as well as those addictive doughnuts.

One thing Wilson does recommend is parents should find a happy medium between authoritarian forms of feeding (demanding a clean plate, for example) and indulgent feeding (giving in to cravings with few demands for them to eat well).

After all, babies need balance, as well as broccoli, too.

Image via Twenty20/kristel.limbo

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