Background. Nutrition in early life is increasingly considered to be an important factor influencing later health. Food preferences are formed in infancy, are tracked into childhood and beyond, and complementary feeding practices are crucial to prevent obesity later in life. Methods. Through a literature search strategy, we have investigated the role of breastfeeding, of complementary feeding, and the parental and sociocultural factors which contribute to set food preferences early in life. Results. Children are predisposed to prefer high-energy, -sugar, and -salt foods, and in pre-school age to reject new foods (food neophobia). While genetically determined individual differences exist, repeated offering of foods can modify innate preferences. Conclusions. Starting in the prenatal period, a varied exposure through amniotic fluid and repeated experiences with novel flavors during breastfeeding and complementary feeding increase children’s willingness to try new foods within a positive social environment.
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