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How your diet is affecting what your child eats

Healthy Eating By Esther Muchene
A child’s diet can be influenced even before birth (Shutterstock)

For a long time, there has been debates on where a child’s diet preferences come from. While many people support that it’s all about what parents cook at home, other studies have shown that genetics has a role to play.

ALSO READ: Four health benefits of reducing your sugar intake

Quite a wide subject with varying opinions, we will try and demystify whether or not what you consume could be the reason why Junior can’t stand his broccoli.

A study shows significant results in the link between food and genetics when it came to classes of foods like fruits, proteins and vegetables. To get the best results, researchers focused on studying twins, both fraternal and identical for this experiment. Turns out that a big percentage of their liking towards these foods is genetically influenced. Still, there was a lot of evidence to show that the environment affected their response to these foods.

When it came to snacks and carbs, however, most of the results leaned towards environmental influences as compared to genetic factors. That proves that many children are exposed to health issues like obesity, heart problems and diabetes based on what they’re allowed to eat at home.

So, how exactly can a child’s preferences link to genetics? There is still a lot of research to be done but some suggest that it has a lot to do with the mother’s diet while pregnant.

During pregnancy, the baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid. The study found that after around 12 weeks, they’re able to taste some of the amniotic fluid. That means, they can taste whatever mom eats or drinks. They also found that babies who were exposed to a lot of salty snacks while still in the womb responded well to salty solutions once they were born. The researchers speculated that babies responded well because of evolutionary instincts in babies where they feel safer consuming what their mothers ate or drank.

Kids can be conditioned to like other types of foods (Shutterstock)

They tested the same theory with alcohol on rats and the results showed that the kittens were more drawn to alcohol infused rats as compared to those that weren’t exposed to alcohol. These studies shed light on the dangers of consuming alcohol or taking drugs while pregnant. There are so many babies who are affected by this and end up developing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders because the alcohol passes through the placenta as well. This predisposes the child to birth defects and other developmental issues like poor memory, short attention spans, speech problems and other issues as a result.

Breastfeeding also has an impact on a child’s diet preferences. The results of the research showed that a child can taste many flavors in their mother’s breastmilk, depending on what they ate or drank. There were significant signs that it’s possible, although not all flavors are transferred through the milk.

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A child’s diet can be influenced even before birth but this doesn’t mean that they can’t be conditioned to like other types of foods outside those preferences. And the studies also acknowledge that kids generally prefer candy and salty snacks as compared to vegetables and other healthy foods.

But if you encourage healthy foods at home, your kids will embrace them more even when they’re initially fussy. Similarly, if you encourage unhealthy foods and high calorie options, they’re bound to resist when vegetables are served. And either way as children grow older, they’re exposed to a variety of foods so a lot of the weight still relies on environmental factors.

The bottom line is that children should be encouraged to eat healthier most of the time. Obesity in children is a real problem and parents need to serve healthy meals and replace unhealthy snacks with healthy ones.

In fact, you can start embracing healthy living even before they’re born. If you’re expectant, you should focus more on a healthy diet as a way of introducing your child to the same lifestyle.

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