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