Where it all starts.....A HEALTHY PREGNANCY
To look at the impacts of non-nutritive food consumption on health especially in children, we need to begin by looking at pregnancy itself – that’s where a lifetime of good or bad health is created for a foetus.
When pregnant (whether you’re eating healthy or not) your foetus is drawing whatever nutrients it needs from your body stores. You both share a similar blood environment. So you can't eat whatever you want including health damaging foods and expect a healthy baby. Not only will you suffer from nutrient deficiencies, your baby will have to adjust to a nutritionally substandard rather than a nutrient - rich environment which may have unwanted consequences too like inferior brain and bone development.
Fortunately most women are now aware of healthy eating practices and are made aware through the public health system but what about the traditional practices of making ‘special’ items for pregnant and lactating women? These are mostly deep fried savouries or high fat sweets.
A pregnant woman may receive various food gifts from many people – is it OK to have a little bit each day? Absolutely not! The best policy is to ask for healthy gifts like fruits, dried fruits and nuts in advance. If such zero - nutrition gifts are received, distribute them amongst your domestic staff or donate to the destitute (it’s not healthy for other family members to gorge on them either).
The danger comes from eating non-nutritive foods instead of nutrient - dense ones. Pregnancy is a physiologically demanding process and your baby and body NEED more nutrients than usual. If you are not focusing on consuming high nutrition foods at all times, chances are you’ll fall short. Supplements can only do so much and won’t prevent associated problems like pre-eclampsia (high BP), gestational diabetes, constipation, heart burn and haemorrhoids which consumption of zero nutrition foods can cause.
There is ongoing research into the impact of obesity in pregnancy which suggests:
- Prenatal exposure to junk food flavours in amniotic fluid and then as an infant to breast milk may result in postnatal preference for junk food.
- Gestational consumption of junk food may result in children being at risk for developing obesity, heart disease and diabetes in later life.
- Maternal obesity before and during pregnancy may affect the health of the foetus and subsequently the child with respect to behavioural disorders like ADHD and Autism.
Now this research does not provide conclusive proof but enough food for thought that we need to look at the bigger picture and ask ourselves if we are really willing to take a chance with the current and future health of our offspring.
Plan your pregnancy and start getting as close to your ideal body weight and nutritional status at least 3 – 6 months before even conceiving. During pregnancy, ensure that you are following an extremely strict healthy, balanced dietary and exercise regimen – this is the least and best that you can do for your unborn!
YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR CHILD’S HEALTH OR DISEASE….
Half of the impacts of zero nutrition foods consumption in children stem from the fact that they eat these foods at the expense of healthier ones on a frequent basis.
Compare the healthfulness of a few biscuits versus boiled peanuts as an evening snack. The biscuits contribute some quantity of unhealthy fat and refined carbs along with sugar plus some harmful chemicals. The boiled peanuts on the other hand supply healthy fat, valuable protein, age and disease defying fibre, resveratrol, isoflavones, Vitamins E and B complex and many minerals.
If your child had biscuits instead of the boiled peanuts, he lost out on the boost to his all-round growth, metabolism, immunity and cognitive development (resulting in lower IQ)! These aspects are the main cost of feeding zero nutrition foods instead of nutrient-dense ones to your child.
Research has indicated the following harmful effects in children:
- May contribute to aggressiveness and behavioural disorders.
- Increases risk of lifetime asthma prevalence. In several studies there was a strong link between high fast food consumption and more attacks of asthma and wheezing. The respiratory system in children is highly susceptible and needs to be strengthened through good nutrition. Conversely, a high intake of fruits, veggies and fish corresponded with low incidence of asthma in children
- Heart Disease. The stage for cardiovascular conditions in later life can be set even in toddlers due to empty calorie consumption.
- Insulin resistance is caused primarily due to abdominal obesity (a common occurrence in children eating convenience and fast foods often). This condition leads to deterioration of pancreas function (this organ makes and secretes insulin), leading to Type 1 Diabetes. The cases of children with this disorder are flooding in and no points for guessing the culprit.
- Digestive disorders, the most common one being constipation, in turn leading to more serious bowel conditions in little ones. Gastro Oesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) can also result.
- Development of food allergies and other conditions due to many harmful chemicals ingested.
- Metabolic Syndrome – a constellation of risk factors – abdominal obesity + insulin resistance (high blood sugar) + abnormal lipid levels in blood + high blood pressure. Children with even three of these symptoms are said to have the condition and have increased risk of diabetes, heart and kidney disease at a young age itself.next............how to inculcate healthy food habits in children.
This article was published in Parent Circle, March, 2013