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What You Eat While Pregnant Influences Your Baby’s Stress And Emotional Regulation Systems.

Pregnancy is an important period where the main hormonal, immune and brain systems are being developed. During this time, the foundations of life-long physical and mental health are being laid, and adequate nutrition is central to healthy stress and emotion-regulation systems.

A large study of over 20,000 mothers and their children led by Prof Felice Jacka and colleagues showed that the children of mothers who ate an unhealthier diet during pregnancy had higher levels of behaviours – such as aggression, hyperactivity or conduct problems – that are linked to mental disorders. Additionally, obesity during pregnancy in mothers is associated with an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders and neurodevelopmental delay. It’s not just Mums either (thank god!); Dads who are overweight or obese are also more likely to have children with autism spectrum disorders.

A good quality diet during pregnancy is made up of a variety of nutrient rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and high fibre cereals, fish, good quality meats and vegetable oils such as olive oil. A lower-quality diet consists of more processed foods; sugary snacks, highly processed cereals and processed meats. Importantly, both of these dietary patterns are independently related to the mental health of children, suggesting that while many mothers are careful to eat good quality foods, junk foods consumed on top of a fairly healthy diet may still have a negative impact.

This is why it’s so important to have control over your diet, educate yourself regarding what a beneficial pregnancy diet is and not to fall for the myth of eating for two and eating whatever you want. The negative health consequences for both you and your baby moving forward could be significant.

Two easy ways to improve your pregnancy dietary pattern to benefit both you and your baby are:

· Removing highly processed foods from your pantry so that when tired or nauseated or having an extreme craving you cannot turn to a tub of ice-cream, a packet of chips or a block of dairy milk to get the energy or emotional lift you are searching for.

· Educate yourself on what a serve is and track your intake for a week to understand where you are at and what needs to change. Visit this link for a chart that is helpful for understanding portion size.

Pregnancy food needs increase very little till the third trimester and a majority of Australians eat too many cereals / starchy carbohydrates, discretionary foods and not enough vegetables or fish.

If you’d like further assistance, please get in touch for a pregnancy consult that will be tailored to pre-conception or the trimester you are entering. I can be reached vianereda.merrin@thebalancedbody.com.au or +61 419 358 465.

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