Doing what you can to try to prevent your child becoming a picky eater does not start with weaning. It does not even start with how you feed your new-born (although there is some interesting research about the impact of breastfeeding on children's food preferences). It starts in pregnancy.
According to the very informative 'what to expect' website, babies are tasting the amniotic fluid that surrounds them from about 21 weeks.
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Center in Philadelphia, found that what a mother eats in pregnancy heavily influences her child's palate. The New York Times quoted researcher Julie Menella who was involved in the study. She puts it bluntly:
"...where you start is where you end up"
Menella and her colleagues concluded that the greater the variety of foods you eat during pregnancy, the more open to a wide range of flavours your child will be.
An Australian study described in the New Phoenix Times, found that when pregnant women ate lots of junk food, their babies were desensitized to the impact of sugar and fat. This means that in later life, they need more of it to get the same "high", leading to higher rates of junk food consumption and in turn, higher levels of obesity.
This is useful information if you are pregnant - if you are able to eat a really varied diet, you could be increasing the chances of raising a little foodie. On the other hand, if your child is older and is already fussy with his food, do these links to eating behaviours and maternal diet in pregnancy imply that there's nothing you can do about your child's eating as it's all innate?
I am convinced that, whilst there are clearly inborn predispositions to certain reactions to food, how we parent has a massive impact on eating behaviour too. So whether your child is a teeny foetus busy tasting the amniotic fluid in your womb, or a strapping toddler with lots of ideas about what he will and won't eat, there's a huge amount you can do as a parent to give him a positive relationship with food.