Flavor Bridge

Speaker: Dr. Sahisnuta Basnet Asst Prof, Dept of Pediatrics Manipal Teaching Hospital, Pokhara Presented at: Nestlé Nutrition Institute, Kathmandu, Nepal


There is always a concern in parents about the food habits of their new born kids. One of the challenges to parents is to get their kids to accept the foods that are being offered to them, particularly a well-balanced diet. The key is to remember that healthy food habits develop over time. An early introduction to broad variety of flavours helps in determining the child’s acceptance to a particular food. This journey of exposure to taste and flavours should start at the prenatal stage itself since taste buds develop in second trimester of pregnancy. Flavour learning starts in the utero through the amniotic fluid. Mothers should be advised to follow a varied and healthy diet during pregnancy. By doing so there is a good chance of acceptability to new diet’s in a child.

Breastfeeding is also very influential in this respect. It has been noted that breastfed babies accept novel foods readily than those are formula fed. In formula fed babies the experience with flavours is limited and may be monotonous. It has also been observed that infants who were given different varieties of vegetables are more acceptable to variety acceptance later. It is also recommended that textures of foods offered should be varied after 6 months of birth.

Food neophobia i.e. fear of new foods or reluctance to try new foods is minimal during infancy which increases through childhood and then declines until low in adulthood. Parents face frustration towards this behaviour from kids. Most parents try 2-3 before they admit defeat. If they persist just a little while longer their efforts might pay off. Repeated exposure to unfamiliar taste can reduce neophobia thereby increase consumption.

Another approach is a method called modelling. Herein a child is exposed to food that they don’t like through the most important persons like parents. Families can be encouraged to eat more vegetables at home so that their availability is high and learning to accept vegetables is facilitated. Children like what they know and eat what they like. So if a certain food is not unavailable, it becomes unfamiliar to a child and they might like it less.

An example to this can be an adult switching to sugarless tea in an attempt to cut caloric intake. Initially it might be unacceptable but with repeated and increased familiarity the adult starts preferring sugarless tea. Similarly persistent exposure may lead to acceptance of food that are disliked by children. Apart from parents other children also act as role models. Children watching other children catering to vegetables that the observing child doesn’t like can also increase the vegetables acceptance. Culture is also one factor that affects the food habits of children. In third world countries scarcity of food may lead to lesser exposure to flavours, this may lead to underweight children and malnutrition.

To conclude we can say that healthy habits in children develop even before birth , the infants dietary experiences with flavours continues through breast feeding and complimentary feeding. We should also remember that no one recommendation fits all children.