Registered Dietitian Nutritionist's Book Club Review: First Bite


Registered Dietitian Nutritionist's Book Club Review: First Bite

23, June 2016 3:41 PM

First Bite bookLast month, the San Jose Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Book Club gathered to discuss First Bite by Bee Wilson, an award winning food writer. The book outlines the many factors that lead to our food choices including family and culture (including the food environment), memory, hunger, love and more. The book explores a broad cross-disciplinary view of eating: nutrition, neuroscience, anthropology and history providing a thesis that both adults and children have potential to learn to eat better.

For nutrition junkies like us, this book is a great read since it looks at the whole business of eating from the very broadest perspective. The history of children’s food is fascinating. Throughout most of history, children’s food was not a separate category, they ate what adults ate but less of it. In the hierarchy of a working family, parents (especially fathers) got most of the protein, since the man did manual labor to provide food for the family. 

In the 1870s, the middle and upper classes developed the concept of children’s food which was bland and flavorless since flavorful food was deemed too dangerous for children. The modern notion of “kid food” emerged after WWII. Parents raised on rice pudding and porridge wanted their children to enjoy eating. Post-war kid food became “fun” and flavored with fat, sugar and salt.  

Take-away recommendations:

  • Eating is a learned behavior and we have the ability to learn new eating habits at any age.
  • Follow structured mealtimes.
  • Respond to internal cues for hunger and fullness.
  • Change habits and preferences until delicious food and healthy food are one and the same.

Insights for pregnant women and new mothers:

  • Eat as wide a variety of foods (from all five food groups) as possible. What you eat impacts the future food preferences of your child.
  • Between the ages of 4 to 7 months of age, there seems to be a window of receptivity to new flavors. Introduce a wide variety of new tastes to infants (in very small, pea-sized bites) while the lion’s share of calories are provided from breast milk or infant formula. 

San Jose Registered Dietitians Book Club meeting Most dietitians in our group (pictured at left) are also mothers and reared children when it was recommended that highly allergenic foods (like eggs and peanuts) be introduced later to avoid the development of allergies. Newer recommendations now encourage feeding foods in small portions that are potentially allergenic since early introduction of these foods reduces the likelihood of future allergies.

Recommendations from the book are similar to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility and Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch’s Intuitive Eating approach. It adds a new dimension to attempt to broaden the palate of children by introducing foods in small pea-size bites in ways that are fun and do not force or pressure children to eat foods (that is known to backfire). The book is filled with tips on how to do this effectively. 

Additional topics in the book include hunger, disordered eating (from conditions such as anorexia and autism) and dietary counseling. These chapters are well written and carefully referenced. Our only complaint about the book is that it is “pretty dense” and a slow read, but worth the time to plow through it.

We wholeheartedly recommend First Bite to highly interested parents (this is not written for the consumer) and health professionals who work with children. 


Maureen Bligh, MA, RDN
Director, Resource Development and Marketing

Kristal Shelden, MPH, RDN
Project Manager, Nutrition Sciences


Maureen and Kristal are registered dietitian nutritionists and members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


American Academy of Pediatrics, Infant Food and Feeding recommendations. 
Fleischer, David M. et al. (2015) Consensus communication on early peanut introduction and the prevention of peanut allergy in high-risk infants. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 136 (2), 258 - 261.
Carol, A. (2016, April 25). Avoiding Peanuts to Avoid an Allergy Is a Bad Strategy for Most. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Tags: Dietitians Book Review division of responsibility healthy dietary patterns Healthy eating Kristal Shelden Maureen Blig nutrition research registered dietitian book club

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