When I was raising my kids, I made a conscious decision about the foods they were routinely fed. I did not bring fast food or junk food or soda for that matter into their food repertoire, at least on the home front. If we went to someone’s home or a restaurant, or to a special event, I allowed them to choose special treat foods. But those experiences were infrequent, compared to the tasty and healthy food choices they received daily. Most experts would credit my mommy nutrition as the key to their healthy eating habits now, as young adults. According to new research that would be partially true.
According to this research, the fact that I ate super healthy during my pregnancy might also have contributed substantially to their palate preferences. In fact, it had occurred to me before I got pregnant, because of my health training, that what I was eating before and during pregnancy would clearly impact the health and well being of my growing child. I also realized that during my nine months, the vitamins I was taking and foods I chose to eat would support my own health, and by-products would cross the placenta to the baby. I'm a big fan of fruits and vegetables, eat mostly eggs, fish, beans, legumes and nuts for protein, drink skim milk and nut milks, and use measured portions of healthy fats when cooking. I watch my bread and grain intake, and most of my selections are whole grains and high fiber. Apparently eating like this during my pregnancy, and then breast feeding while consuming a similar diet, may have worked hand-in-hand to shape the food preferences of my kids. And it may also have helped them to avoid obesity tendencies, despite its strong presence in my lineage.
The study seems to indicate a smaller window of opportunity than previously postulated, for shaping a baby’s tastes, mostly in utero, and then during the first three months of life. The preference for savory or sour tastes, in particular like broccoli (something I eat a fair amount of) may be developed in this crucial time. If so, then it speaks volumes about ways to help a child to develop taste preferences that may nudge them to obesity, or help to minimize or reduce the risk. And though there seems to be a faster rate of growth for babies on formula compared to those breastfed, there may be variations among formula-fed babies, depending on the composition of the formula. Specifically, babies fed cow’s milk earlier in life, seem to overfeed substantially.
The takeaway message? This idea of throwing caution to the wind and eating anything and everything in sight while pregnant – because you are going to gain weight anyway – needs to be reconsidered. Your body is basically a feeding zone of health (or not) for your child. You and growing baby benefit from a diet rich in healthy portion-controlled food selections. Simply put – do not pig out and do not minimize how your eating affects your baby – during, and just after birth.