Babies develop a taste for salty food from the age of six months.
Researchers found that infants weaned on processed foods prefer the taste of meals with salt in them.
The discovery adds to evidence linking flavour preferences with the first months of a child's life.
By the age of four, youngsters who were given salty food at six months were more likely to want plain salt on their meals.
The study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, tested the salt preference of 61 babies aged both two and six months old.
At each age, the infant was allowed to drink from three bottles for two minutes each.
One bottle contained water, another contained a moderate concentration of salt (one per cent, about the same as chicken noodle soup) and the third bottle had a higher concentration of salt of around two per cent, which tastes extremely salty to adults. The two-month-old infants were either indifferent to, or rejected, the salt solutions.
But by the age of six months, there was a link between the preference of babies for salty food and their previous eating habits.
The researchers focused on processed foods, such as breakfast cereals, bread and crackers, which are often used to wean children on to solids.
Lead author Dr Leslie Stein, a psychologist at the Monell Centre, Philadelphia, said: "Our findings suggest that early dietary experience influences the preference for salty taste."
Previous research by Bristol University showed that seven in ten babies are getting too much salt from processed foods - increasing their health risks in later life.
- DAILY MAIL