Eating habits of parents and children are deeply interconnected. It all starts even before the conception. Nowadays everyone knows that pregnant women should eat healthy. Do not drink alcohol, do take folic acid, these are the most well-known recommendations. However, not everyone knows about other nutrients (for both upcoming mothers and fathers) and factors that are important for the optimal development of a child. I will list them in this article.
Underweight and pregnancy
Not all expectant mothers know that being underweight (a result of wrong nutrition or unhealthy ideas about beauty) is very dangerous for the child. The embryo in the womb adapts to a lack of nutrients as this is necessary for survival. The lack of calories in the mother’s diet results in the unborn baby’s body systems being programmed to conserve each calorie. This adaptation helps the child survive in the event that it also becomes malnourished after birth. But under conditions of abundance of food (such as pretty much everywhere in developed countries), this leads to the child overeating throughout his life. This will have consequences, like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Excess calories are also harmful. Women who are overweight before pregnancy, during pregnancy and as a result of type 2 diabetes are more likely to have children who are also overweight and diabetic.
Childhood obesity is usually the result of poor eating habits. Overweight parents often have overweight children. Conversely, slim parents are more likely to have slim children. Usually this is not due to the genes. So-called monogenic obesity (obesity due to a genetic defect in one gene) is a very rare phenomenon. Almost all other cases are the result of wrong dietary habits and choices.
Nutrients play a key role during the first 1000 days of life, that is, from conception to the end of the second year after birth. During this period, an imbalance in diet can have irreversible harmful effects on health. Take the mineral iodine, for example. The thyroid gland plays the most important role in the development of the brain and mental faculties. But the thyroid can only function optimally with sufficient intake (via food) of iodine. A significant iodine deficiency during a child’s first 1000 days can lead to hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormones) and brain damage.
Read more about iodine in this article.
Omega-3 fatty acid DHA
Another very important nutritional element in the diet of pregnant women is docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) of the Omega-3 family. It is known that adequate intake of DHA during pregnancy and lactation is a prerequisite for proper brain development and vision in infants. The presence of DHA in your child’s diet can protect him from asthma and other allergy conditions. DHA is found in fish and other seafood. Plant-based DHA supplements, derived from algae, are now available for vegans.
Vitamin D in fathers’ diets
Not everyone knows that the lifestyle (including diet) of the father before conception also plays an important role. For example, researchers have found a link between vitamin D deficiency in the father and the height/weight of his children. The children whose fathers (regardless of the mother’s vitamin D status) were deficient in this vitamin were not tall enough and underweight by the age of five.
Cod liver is a good source of vitamin D, as well as fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel. In addition, this vitamin is present in meat, eggs and dairy products, but to a much lesser extent. Plant-based foods contain virtually no vitamin D.
Hopefully you know that pregnant women and children under the age of four should take vitamin D at a dosage of 10 mcg per day (400 IU), regardless of their diet. In winter, children over the age of 4 who follow a strict vegetarian diet (do not eat animal products at all) should also take 10 mcg of vitamin D daily.
Eating habits of parents and children
Eating habits of parents and children are linked. The baby has a preference for the foods that his mother has eaten a lot during pregnancy. This is believed to happen through the smell mechanism. So, if you want your child to prefer healthy food, you should also eat healthy during your pregnancy.
Children imitate the habits (including the eating habits) of their parents. Therefore, if you cook broccoli once a month and eat it with disgust on your face, don’t expect your child to ever love broccoli.
An important indicator of whether your child is getting enough nutrients from the diet is their growth, well-being and level of energy.
If you want to learn more about children’s nutrition, please go to this article.