How to Use Flavor Profiles to Help Your Child Become a More Adventurous Eater

When you start learning about cooking, you realize there’s more to food than the individual ingredients on the plate—it’s about how they work together to create something yummy. Another way to refer to that harmonious mix of sensations is a flavor profile. Get to know the secrets, and you’ll easily transform fresh ingredients from Walmart into new family favorites.

What’s in a flavor profile?

Having a sweet tooth or reaching for chips and salsa instead of chocolate has no bearing on how your taste buds actually work. They are designed to respond to five distinct flavors: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami (the Japanese term for meaty, savory flavors).

Different combinations of those flavors that follow a pattern create the flavor profile of a cuisine, and, in turn, much of what creates the cuisine itself is due to simple geography.

In Italian cuisine, for example, you won’t see many dishes that mix dairy and fish-but that is merely due to the distance between many fishing villages and dairy farms when travel and trade were difficult, rather than their tastes together.

One food, many flavor profiles

Many different combinations can be made just from utilizing different spices, herbs, and various cooking techniques and methods. Take chicken: Marinating your chicken and then smoking it over a fire of aromatic woodchips gives it that classic tangy, sweet, and smoky barbecue flavor. Chicken Parmesan? The tomato sauce brings in the acidity needed to cut through that savory umami flavor of the cheese and breaded chicken.

And for a sweeter example, take the humble cookie. Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sea salt, and caramel have different flavor profiles, with dough as a common canvas.

How to use flavor profiles
to your advantage

Understanding flavor profiles is especially important when it comes to kids, who are born sensitive to bitterness and gravitate toward sweeter foods until approximately their late teens. It’s why the “finish your vegetables” battle is age-old, but dessert disappears quickly.

Neutral starches like bread and pasta are family dinner’s best friend when it comes to introducing kids to new ingredients. Pasta primavera with fresh vegetables may be tough for kids, but macaroni with broccoli or veggie-filled pasta Alfredo cuts any bitterness with umami and salt. And instead of sugary cereal or ice cream, try natural yogurt with chopped fresh fruit for a healthy dessert or breakfast option that delivers sweetness naturally.

Fresh family meals start with Walmart.