Did you know that the food consumed in the first 1000 days of life are crucial for optimal development?
Affection, care and security are what most people think is essential for a child’s development. It is perhaps a lesser known fact that the quality of food a child consumes is absolutely crucial for optimal development. The first 1000 days (from conception until two years) lay the foundation for the child’s physical and mental health for the rest of her life (1).
The first 1000 days mean the most because the child is in a rapid growth phase and many of the changes happening in this period will not occur later in life (1). For example, folate (vitamin B9) plays an important role in the closure of the spinal cord in the foetus during pregnancy, iodine is important for language development and vitamin B12 is key for strong motor development.
In the first 1000 days, we have the greatest opportunity to support optimal development. Yet this is also the period of life during which the child is most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies. It is called “the window of opportunity”. You can almost say that you gain more for the time you spend in the kitchen today than the time you spend tomorrow. It is simply an investment in your child’s health for the rest of their life.
It can of course be overwhelming to think about all the things that you could do or could have done better when it comes to food for your little one. One change at a time is a good rule. The stress of striving for a “perfect” diet can ruin the positive health benefits of a good diet. You need to find a balance that suits your family.
The brain you end up with for life evolves till two years of age.
The brain grows and changes throughout life, but the period during which the brain grows the most and is most malleable is the last three months of pregnancy and until the child turns two.
Five months into pregnancy, the baby’s brain looks very simple and smooth, like a coffee bean. At nine months of pregnancy, the brain has grown and is starting to resemble a walnut. By the age of two, a child’s brain will have gone through a major transformation process (1).
Nutrients that have been shown to support neurological development are protein, zinc, iron, choline, folate, iodine, long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamins A, D, B6 and B12 (1). Understanding the complex interplay between nutrition and neurologic development is a key factor in understanding that it is not enough to only recommend “a healthy diet” to parents of young children.
Nobody expects you as a parent to handle all of this alone Instead, we want to make it as simple as possible by giving you tips on food that contain these essential nutrients! You will find most of these nutrients in cod, saith, haddock, egg, avocado, liver, broccoli, citrus fruits, cocoa powder, bean, flax seed, chia seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, walnuts and Brazil nuts. Vitamin D is most easily formed in the body by exposure to the sun without sunscreen. Be sure not to burn the skin though by keeping your little one away from hot direct sunlight in the Summer.
Another reason why it is good to invest in offering wholesome food in the first few years is that the intestinal microbiota or gut flora is established at around 2-3 years of age and food is one of several factors that affect the intestine (2.3).
Finally, good habits and behavioural patterns are established at an early age and can stay for life. Health and living habits set early in life have also been proven to positively influence success in school and professional life (4).
(1) Schwarzenberg, SJ. & Georgieff, M. (2018). Advocacy for Improving Nutrition in the First 1000 Days to Support Childhood Development and Adult Health. Nature. Hentet fra: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/141/2/e20173716
(2) Stanislawski, M., Dabelea, D., Wagner, B., Iszatt, N., Dahl, C., Sontag, M., Knight, R., Lozupone., C., Eggesbø, M. (2018). Gut Microbiota in the First 2 Years of Life and the Association with Body Mass Index at Age 12 in a Norwegian Birth Cohort. Hentet fra: https://mbio.asm.org/content/9/5/e01751-18
(3) David, LA., Maurice, CF., Carmody, RN., Gootenberg, DB., Button, JE., Wolfe, BE., Ling, AV., Devlin, AS., Varma, Y., Fischbach, MA., Biddinger, SB., Dutton, RJ., Turnbaugh, PJ. (2014). Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature. Hentet fra: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24336217?dopt=Abstract
(4) Finansdepartementet. (2018). Muligheter for alle – Fordeling og sosial bærekraft. Meld. St. 13 (2018–2019). Hentet fra: https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/meld.-st.-13-20182019/id2630508/sec1