CHEF: Teaching Pediatricians About Taste

The taste of food impacts our eating habits and, in turn, our health from a very young age, even from the womb.

On Friday, February 26th, Dr. Julie La Barba, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and Medical Director of Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF), presented to and discussed with pediatricians, medical students, and other healthcare professionals in San Antonio how taste and food preferences are formed and how these preferences can impact a child’s diet.

Dr. La Barba is committed to building a healthier culture and showing how food and medicine can work together. The new CHEF program, under Christus Santa Rosa Health Care, targets practitioners and teaches them the importance of healthy eating and how taste applies to medicine and healthcare through in local Chefs, educational videos, and taste testing.

San Antonio, (63.2% Latino), has a diabetic population of over 14 percent, which is double the national average (7%), according to the American Diabetes Association. Because taste preferences influence diet and diet impacts health, it is important for pediatricians to understand this connection.

“Taste preferences have cumulative effects on our overall health,” said Dr. La Barba, “As a pediatrician, you are in a pole position to effect the ways family feed their children, they are looking to you for information.”

Follow Dr. La Barba’s suggestions to help kids incorporate healthier eating preferences below.


  • Increase availability and palatability (offer healthy foods often and in different ways)
  • Model the desired behavior (eat what you want them to eat)
  • Incorporate different flavors to healthier foods (e.g. broccoli cooked with sesame oil to combat bitter taste)
  • Give positive reinforcement


  • Offer contingencies, rewards, bribes or threats (e.g. “If you eat this, I will give you that”)
  • Feel at fault or try to control everything they eat
  • Use guilt or anger to make them eat healthier (e.g. “No one ate all these vegetables!”)

SA! Salud America – by Lisa

A Simple Pantry: Mexican Caesar Salad Recipe

Back in January, I was able to attend the Culinary Medicine Boot Camp through the Goldsbury Foundation, and The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, which took place at the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio. To say it was an amazing experience is an understatement. I learned a lot about cooking, and especially prepping, to help bring more whole foods into our daily routine, as well as expand our palates by changing a few simple ingredients in normal, everyday San Antonio cuisine. Take, for instance, this Mexican Caesar Salad Recipe.

It’s kind of the bees knees of easy and delicious. If you love classic a Caesar salad recipe, then I promise you are going to straight up ADORE this fun new version.

Blogger – A Simple Pantry Easy Gourmet

Raising Healthy Eaters

Five tips for rearing kids who prefer broccoli to Twinkies

Lofty January resolutions largely forgotten, parents see February’s busy schedules and convenience triumphs over healthy eating. Dr. Julie La Barba, director of the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s new Culinary Health Education for Families (CHEF) program, says it doesn’t have to be that way. CHEF Program Director Maria Palma, Registered Dietitian Celina Parás and La Barba sat down with us to share some easy (but often not followed) steps for raising kids who will eat their vegetables, which La Barba, a mother of four, says can help prevent a whole host of diseases later on.

Chop Veggies Before You Need Them
Parás and Palma say a healthy diet begins with a prepared kitchen. With nutritious options waiting in the fridge and pantry, meals come together in minutes. Keep low-sodium canned beans on hand for an easy addition to salads, stockpile frozen fruit for smoothies and take the time to cut fruits and veggies after you shop so they’ll be just as easy to use in snacks and meals as pre-packaged foods that are higher in sugars and fat. “Being prepared and having a game plan for the kitchen can help save time,” says Palma. “By washing and chopping or slicing a few key items you are set up to throw something together in a pinch.”

Make Lunch Before Bedtime
Leaving lunch packing until morning is a recipe for disaster. Spend a few minutes before bed putting together a meal your child will look forward to—that way you’ll have time to pack something healthy and you’ll have time for breakfast in the morning. “(It) lessens that Grand Central Station effect we seem to experience in our home each morning,” says La Barba.

Start Small
Sometimes switching to a healthier diet is as simple as choosing wheat over white. “Try making a couple of small attainable changes at a time and stick to them for at least three months to allow yourself to get used to them,” says Parás. Eating whole wheat rather than white bread is a start. You can also flavor dishes with fresh herbs instead of extra salt.

Add Healthy Twists to Old Favorites
Have picky eaters? Serve what they like but with a healthy twist. Quesadillas can go from filler food to healthy meal with a few key changes. “Try choosing corn or whole wheat tortillas; add low-fat cheese and fruits and vegetables of your choice,” says Parás. Try broccoli, tomatoes, spinach or even fruits like apples.

Shop Along Store Edges
Grocery shop at the outer edges of the store first, where the produce department, butcher and other sections with fresh foods are usually located. Your cart will be filled with fresh foods before you can even consider other options. “Eat a variety of colored plant-based foods that are in their most natural form,” says Palma.

San Antonio Magazine – By Lauren Moriarty