If my many pregnant friends and family members have taught me anything, it’s that the whole wild-craving thing during pregnancy is not an urban legend. Case in point: A friend who is currently pregnant with her second child is obSESSED with hot dogs. Like, she can’t get enough of them. This, from a girl who is otherwise the healthiest, cleanest eater I know.
Researchers from Philly’s Monell Chemical Senses Center have found that what moms eat during pregnancy may have some seriously long-lasting consequences for their kids. Specifically, the more varied mom’s diet, the more likely her kid will be open to a diverse range of foods and flavors. And if you keep reinforcing a diverse diet once the kid is weaned, he’s likely to carry those eating preferences into older childhood and beyond.
Listen to this explanation, from Monell researcher Julie Mennella, who was quoted in an opinion piece in the New York Times over the weekend:
“What’s really interesting about children is, the preferences they form during the first years of life actually predict what they’ll eat later. Dietary patterns track from early to later childhood but once they are formed, once they get older, it’s really difficult to change — witness how hard it is to change the adult. You can, but it’s just harder. Where you start, is where you end up.”
So, of course, there’s a flip side: If your kid cements poor eating habits early in life, changing them later on will be a beast of a task. At the public health level, Times op-ed contributor Kristin Wartman argues, it could have major consequences for future generations. Think about it: If we’re eating a lot of processed, high-fat foods and passing those habits on to our kids, the cycle will likely perpetuate and snowball—ad nauseum (literally).
Not that my preggo friend should give up her hot dogs all together, of course. The key is balancing those cravings, wild as they may be, with a wide variety of other kinds of foods—from fresh veggies and fruits to beans and legumes and more. The more, the merrier.