Throughout your pregnancy, you've probably imagined what your future child would be like. While all mothers differ when it comes to the hopes and dreams they have for their child, almost all will agree that the most important thing is that he or she is healthy.
When you're pregnant, you may be tempted to eat some of the junk foods that you usually avoid, since you're not as concerned about maintaining your figure. However, according to recent research from the University of Adelaide, this may set your baby up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits.
The scientists found that mothers who consume junk food during pregnancy may be unintentionally programming their babies to be addicted to fatty, sugary foods.
Affecting the brain
During the course of the study, the researchers discovered that women who ate a diet comprised mostly of junk food while they were pregnant and while breastfeeding gave birth to babies who may be predisposed to craving unhealthy foods.
The researchers explained that when people consume foods that are high in fat and sugar their bodies produce opioids as a reward response. These chemicals lead to the production of dopamine, which is the "feel good" hormone. When examining babies of women who consumed junk food during pregnancy, the researchers discovered that the reward pathway in their brains were less sensitive than those whose mothers consumed healthy foods. This means that these children would need to eat more fat and sugar to get the same good feeling that other kids get when they eat smaller portions of junk food.
"In the same way that someone addicted to opioid drugs has to consume more of the drug over time to achieve the same 'high', continually producing excess opioids by eating too much junk food results in the need to consume more foods full of fat and sugar to get the same pleasurable sensation," said researcher Bev Muhlhausler, Ph.D. "Mothers eating a lot of junk food while pregnant are setting up their children to be addicted."
The scientists went on to say that their research also indicated that if these babies follow a healthy diet their whole lives, they may be able to avoid many of the long-term health problems associated with their mothers eating junk food. However, they will always be predisposed to eating more unhealthy foods.
These findings should encourage you to maintain a healthy diet during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding, no matter how tempting your cravings for ice cream and potato chips may be.
What to eat while breastfeeding
While you've probably gotten a lot of advice from your doctor about what to eat during your pregnancy, you may be unsure of whether that applies to breastfeeding as well.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that, while breastfeeding, you try to consume an extra 400 to 500 calories than you normally would, but make sure they come from healthy sources. For instance, peanut butter, fruit and fat-free yogurt are all good options.
Furthermore, you should try to eat a healthy variety of foods while breastfeeding. The Mayo Clinic explains that consuming different foods will change the taste of your breast milk and expose your child to different tastes. This may make it easier for him or her to eat new foods later on in life.
Finally, it's very important that you stay hydrated while breastfeeding, so be sure to have a glass of water nearby, and aim to drink at least eight glasses a day.
What types of foods did you eat while pregnant? What about while you were breastfeeding? Leave some of your favorite recipes here!