NNIW95: Taste development, perception and food preference in young children
To understand the development of children’s flavor preferences, it is important to consider the context of the parental feeding environment. Although children are predisposed to prefer sweet-tasting foods and beverages and to avoid bitter-tasting foods such as green leafy vegetables, throughout development parents play a central role in shifting these food acceptance patterns. Beginning before birth, the fetus detects the continually changing flavor profile of amniotic fluid, which reflects the mother’s diet. If mothers choose to breastfed, these sensory experiences continue after birth. Through this process of familiarization, women who maintain a healthy diet throughout pregnancy and lactation prepare their infants to like healthy foods. Upon the introduction of solid foods, repeated exposure to a variety of healthy foods further promotes preferences for these foods and acceptance of novel foods. In addition to providing early flavor exposures, parents can also shape children's flavor preferences by modeling healthy eating behaviors and by creating supportive feeding environments. The degree to which parents engage in these practices is influenced by demographic and societal characteristics. By considering the context in which children and families live, more effective evidence-based strategies can be developed to empower families to provide environments that support healthy eating habits.