Perhaps one of the parents’ most challenging tasks at the dinner table is to convince their little ones that vegetables taste good. While setting a good example to children (don’t let them see you eat processed foods or sweets before a meal) has its own merits, parents - mothers especially - can influence their children’s appetite for healthy eating as early as infancy, and some studies even claim, as early as pregnancy.

Eating habits, like any other habit, are set at a very young age. Several research studies have looked into the eating habits of infants, and again five years later. Those who ate vegetables at the age of one became vegetable-lovers at the age of six. As expected, those who were not introduced to leafy greens and all their companions at age one were not as excited to meet the same during meals five years later.

Studies like these reinforce earlier research among gestating mothers and their diets. The studies noted patterns in the pregnant mothers’ diets and the rate of adoption of healthy eating among toddlers: Those mothers who mostly ate vegetables were likelier to have children who were three times as readily willing to eat vegetables than those who did not have colorful dinner plates.

The theory is that what a mother eats flavors her amniotic fluid to which the fetus is sensitive to. The researchers theorized that fetuses who were exposed to such a healthy taste actually develop fondness for it once outside the womb.

The same findings were noted among pregnant mothers who subsisted on diets loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats. Not only does this diet deprive pregnant mothers of folic acid (which is crucial in the development of a fetus’ spine and brain) abundant in vegetables (especially leafy greens), it also flavors the amniotic fluid in such a way that children develop sugary cravings at a very young age.

Of course, it’s not too late to cultivate a taste for all things veggie among infants. By the time they are able to eat solid foods, gradually ease them into vegetables that their undeveloped tummies can digest. Sometimes, it’s all about removing their ability to choose by presenting them options that are all healthy.