Your Child’s Brain Health and the First 1,000 Days
Can you relate to the dreaded battle at mealtime?: Child vs. Adult.
In this corner, weighing in at 30 pounds, hailing from the womb, Child! (crowd goes wild)
In that corner, weighing in at undisclosed, hailing from The Wrong Side of the Bed, Adult! (crowd murmurs and smiles placatingly)
OK, maybe it’s not a full on boxing match.
But broccoli is flying instead of fists.
As much as you might want to give in and avoid the impending tantrum or mess (that you will have to clean), it’s critical you persist in encouraging your child to eat healthy foods.
Science shows that their life going forward depends on it.
Nutrition and the first 1,000 days
The first 1,000 days of your child’s life – from conception to about two years old – has a profound impact on their growth, development, health, and their ability to learn and thrive into adulthood.
It sounds like a stretch, but there’s a lot of research backing up this critical period in your child’s development, and nutrition is the single greatest influence.
When a child receives good nutrition, they have a stronger immune system and are less likely to contract diseases, perform better in school, have stronger emotional health, optimize their capacity to learn, and even have a higher earning potential.
Who wouldn’t want that for their little one?
What is “good nutrition”?
The reason nutrition is so impactful is because of food’s influence on brain development. During the first 1,000 days, the brain is creating new cells, establishing connections, and rapidly increasing in complexity.
Each brain region requires a different nutritional cocktail, and those needs change over time, but some of the basics remain the same: protein, fatty acids, iron, zinc, and vitamins A and B.
To achieve these nutritional building blocks, children need varied diets of whole foods, including those sometimes-dreaded vegetables.
The challenges of malnutrition
“Malnutrition” is often thought of as a lack of food, but it can also mean an unbalanced diet. “Under-nutrition” and “over-nutrition” are two common problems that face children in households without properly balanced meals, and both lead to reduced brain development.
When a child consumes cheap, more filling foods on a regular basis, the damage can be irreversible, including a predisposition to infection, disease, and obesity.
The statistics are real. In a study of children under three, children in food-insecure households (families without consistent access to healthy foods) were 90% more likely to have fair or poor health as compared to good or great, 31% more likely to spend time in the hospital, and 76% more likely to have problems with language, cognitive, and behavioral development.
It doesn’t have to be daunting
As a new parent, it can seem overwhelming to add “nutrition” to an already-full list of things to do. But healthy eating doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, it can be enjoyable.
Consider your food exploration a new adventure within your family. From easy recipes to new baby foods on the market that emphasize a balanced diet for your little one, see what you can uncover. Challenge your little one to try new foods and spices they may never have sampled.
And, if you have the opportunity, get them started young! As a family, you can rewrite the story of your nutrition, making health a given in your household.
In the process, you will be ensuring your child has the best opportunity at the future you hope they’ll have. And it all starts with those vegetables going from their plates to their mouths.
For tips on early childhood nutrition, see our article: From Pick to Adventurous: 5 Steps for Boosting Early Childhood Nutrition
From our home to yours,
David and Danny, fathers and founders, Kekoa Foods