Flavor Learning in Utero and Infancy

Posted on February 13, 2012


In the February 2010 issue of the Association for Psychological Science’s magazine, the Observer, University of Florida professor Linda Bartoshuk interviews Julie Mennella, a biologist and research pioneer in the field of chemical senses, on the connections between maternal food consumption and taste preference in offspring.

“We cannot easily change the basic ingrained biology of liking sweets and avoiding bitterness. If this is the bad news, the good news arises from our growing knowledge of how, beginning very early in life, sensory experience can shape and modify flavor and food preferences. In other words, what we can do is modulate children’s flavor preferences by providing early exposure, starting in utero, to a wide variety of flavors that signal healthy foods.” Mennella, J. (2010, February). Flavor Learning in Utero and Infancy. APS Observer, 23(2).

Harvesting summer squash @ WFCFThose words are like beautiful music to the ears of every nutrition and whole foods advocate. As a garden educator, I have seen firsthand the positive effect that inclusion in food production- from planning to growing to harvesting to preparing- can have on children’s willingness to try healthy whole foods, but I am also deeply interested in the preliminary development of taste preferences and the implications it can have on future diets.

You can read this informative and inspiring piece here, but then join me in the discussion: what are your experiences in maternal food consumption and child taste preference? Can a mother’s dietary choices have a significant impact on her offspring’s palate?