Looks like a varied healthy diet is important before a kid is even able to eat solid foods. Specifically, it is important for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, since a child’s first experiences of flavor occurs prior to birth through milk feeding and amniotic fluid in utero.
SO eating a variety of vegetables and fruits influences acceptance of these foods at the weaning stage (~5.7 months).
Breastfeeding is crucial (vs. formula-feeding), since it prepares kids for novel flavors through the mother’s diet being transmitted to milk [Flavors so far known to be transmitted through breast milk are garlic, ethanol, carrot, mint, blue cheese, and cigarettes]. If formula-feeding is the only option, it is important to switch formula flavors and types to allow for variety.
Conclusion: varied diet in pregnancy and during breastfeeding is recommended. Some suggest that up to 6 month is the period we are most sensitive at for introduction of different flavours..and that we are never again as open to new experiences!*
Note: repeated exposure to one flavor can become monotonous and actually decrease liking in a child.. so that would be counterproductive (again, variety is good!).
Being overweight or having a “junk” diet (for mothers) can be potentially detrimental for kids.
1. Being overweight/obese is a risk.. The problem- overeating and obesity during pregnancy lead to in utero overnutrition..and can cause the development of obesity in the adult offspring (even when the child had normal feeding and lactation).
During pregnancy leptin resistance and hyperphagia occur, which lead to increased deposition of fat.. In lean individuals this is a great adaptation allowing mothers to store energy in preparation for lactation (a high metabolic demand activity).. But in the current “obesogenic” environment this adaptation would make it hard for women to regulate their food intake (especially those predisposed to obesity).**
2. While I haven’t found a study on humans, studies on rats show that rats born to mothers fed junk food during gestation & lactation developed an increased preference for sugary, fatty, and salty foods; they also exhibited increased weight and BMI. Data from numerous studies shows that maternal junk food diet can change the ofsprings’ epigenetic marks related with long-term changes in gene expression (opiods & dopamine) and behavior (stronger preferences for palatable foods- sugar/fat/salt).***
* Article doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.05.317
** Article doi: 10.1210/en.2008-1106
*** Article doi:10.1210/en.2010-050