Taste Buds are our balancing boards of flavor. The four basic tastes: Salty, Sweet, Sour and Bitter work together to create flavors that are yummy, yucky or somewhere in between.
Salty: Salty foods enhance flavor and also stimulate thirst and appetite. Salty foods are often found in first courses, such as salads and appetizers. Don’t limit yourself to table salt. Other salty foods include: soy sauce, anchovies capers and olives. Many of these items can be mashed to hide their texture and appearance from little (scrutinizing) peepers.
Sour: Sour foods are refreshing and quench thirst. Sour foods tend to “brighten up” the taste of a dish. Recipes often call for adding citrus zest or vinegars at the end of cooking to give the the dish a little flavor boost. Tomatoes, lemons, vinegars, mustards and yogurt are the most common sour foods.
Bitter: Bitter foods stimulate the appetite. Bitterness is the most sensitive of the tastes, and is perceived by many to be unpleasant or sharp (this is especially true in children). When used in moderation, bitter foods provide a perfect balance to sweet and sour food. Think of it – coffee (bitter) and sugar (sweet) – a perfect duo! Along with coffee and tea, some bitter foods include nuts, greens (ie kale, collard, rappini, chard, etc), unsweetened cocoa, green peppers, and cabbage.
Sweet: Sweet foods satisfy and make you feel full, so it makes sense they are served to finish a meal. Sweet foods find their best balance with bitter or sour foods, such as chocolate, lemon, tomatoes and nuts.
Sugar, honey, maple syrup and fruit juices are the most obvious sweet foods, but onions, carrots, corn, bananas and parsnips add sweetness too.
Umami The 5th Taste: (pronounced oo-MA-mee) First identified by a Japanese scientist, Umami is considered the fifth taste. Unmami’s taste is kind of hard to describe, but it means savory, meaty, or satisfying. Although umami is gaining popularity in the western dishes, the taste is most commonly found in Asian dishes.
Ingredients such as parmesan cheese, mushrooms, chicken stock and truffles are considered to add the umami taste to foods.
Encouraging Your Child to Appreciate Their Taste Buds
Encouraging healthy eating is about balance – even when it comes to taste. You may be reading this newsletter and already thinking where your child fits in the balance board of taste. Here are a few tips that can help your expand or improve the balance in your child’s taste buds.
Experiment With Tastes: Allow your child to experience and identify the four unique tastes that make up flavor. Taste small amounts of different ingredients to identify which taste category they belong to. This can be a fun kitchen activity when preparing dinner!
Stay Balanced: Good taste is a balancing act. Include a variety of tastes in your meals and encourage your child to try all foods. Experiencing the same tastes all the time is not a path to healthy eating.
Ask Them and Talk About It: When you hear “that’s yummy!” or “Yuck – that’s terrible!” – ask which flavor is best or bothering. The more you understand your child’s taste preferences the easier to guide (and expand) their food choices.
Sweet Tendency: Both breast milk and formula are sweet. It is the first taste we develop and as a result we’re already “off balance” when we begin eating foods. It is believed the earlier you introduce your child to other tastes, the better chance you have of keeping a “sweet tooth” from overpowering the taste buds.