Struggles with picky eaters is a commonly heard complaint from moms. My kids won't eat anything but chicken nuggets. My daughter hates drinking water. He's waged war against anything leafy. She only eats white bread. We've heard these issues way too often.Some info suggests that finicky eaters could be a result of their diet as a baby -- both the liquid diet and the solid foods.
We know babies taste flavors of the foods you eat when you're pregnant, and when you're breastfeeding, too. Flavors babies are exposed to in the 2- to 5-month period can affect their food preferences for life -- for better or worse.
Breastfed babies seemed to enjoy a wider variety of flavors than their formula-fed counterparts, even into toddlerhood and as far as adolescence. Those who were given sour or bitter formulas (like the high-calorie formulas for preemies) continued to like the sour taste even as they got much older, long past weaning. On the other hand, babies who weren't given the especially sour formula in those first six months outright rejected it if offered a little while later.
The coolest part about this speculation is that as babies start discovering things to put in their mouths, they'll recognize tastes that are food because they remember the taste from being in the womb or from their first foods, like a banana, and reject bad tastes of things that could be dangerous, like toxic plants or chemicals.
The problem might come in when babies are fed really bland diets in the first months, like the American formula to rice cereal and bland, unseasoned baby food, rice puffs, and cow's milk.Apparently babies on this diet can end up with a "beige carbohydrate" preference, where they really only want things like, well, white breads, white rice, salt, and sugars. In fact, there's a strong argument against these "white" foods, especially for babies.
None of this is all that surprising, of course, but what it does suggest is that if you're breastfeeding, you may have a leg up, as long as you continue to eat a wide variety of healthy foods (which is best for you anyway). If you're not nursing, when you do introduce foods, try skipping the bland and flavorless, unnecessary carbs like white rice cereal and puffs. Go for a wide variety of real flavors and tastes instead. If you puree foods, try doing it at home where the cooking and processing and watering down foods won't kill all the flavors, or try baby-led solids where you just start out with whole foods and even spices.
Most of all, it's good to know that babies CAN handle flavor -- by assuming they can't, we really shouldn't be surprised when, as they get older, they don't branch out in tastes. Start your kids out with adventurous eating and they're more likely to continue that way. Start them out with bland, basic, and carb-loaded foods, and well ... welcome to the "Standard American Diet," aptly shortened to "SAD." Though sometimes despite your best efforts, kids can go through phases where they really limit themselves to certain foods. Kids who may not be neuro-typical aside, at that point you can really just choose what you allow and what you don't. If they're demanding peanut butter, say it can only go with bananas or after some sweet potato fries. Allow kids, even toddlers, to choose from a variety of fresh fruits and veggies themselves. Often food battles are about control, not taste, especially if you've given them an appreciation of a variety of foods in infancy.