In the 1 000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, a healthy, balanced diet is essential for the optimal development of her baby. And at the heart of this diet is the humble egg.
Research in the fields of early childhood development, neuroscience and biology have provided great insight into just how critical this period – dubbed the ‘first 1000 days’ – is as a window of opportunity for the healthy growth and development of a child.
During pregnancy and early childhood, the body’s cells and tissues grow rapidly, both in size and number. This is also when the child’s brain grows faster than any other time in life, developing critical motor functions like balance, coordination, and posture. In the toddler years, a child’s brain and body continue to grow and develop at a rapid pace.3, 4
Eggs are an optimal source of nutrition during this period. One large egg contains 13 nutrients, including iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and biotin, and 7g of protein. Protein is essential to healthy brain development, and provides the building blocks for muscle, growth, and a healthy immune system.
9 in 10 pregnant women consume too little choline
Eggs are also one of the best food sources of choline, an underappreciated yet vital nutrient for cell function, brain development, and the prevention of birth defects.
For pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, just two large eggs contain half the amount of choline needed per day. Eating eggs early in childhood, thanks to the choline, could contribute to healthy brain development and function, according to research.7 Just one egg contains all the choline that a 6-12-month-old child needs. Yet despite these great benefits, 9 in 10 pregnant women consume too little choline.8
The importance of good nutrition during the first 1 000 days cannot be understated. Carbohydrates, fats, and protein, coupled with vitamins and minerals support the child’s cognitive abilities, motor skills, and even social development.3, 4
Good nutrition, in turn, may impact a child’s future success in school, leading to better economic opportunities later in life.
What mom eats during pregnancy can influence a child’s lifelong eating patterns
A pregnant mother’s diet that is lacking in any vital nutrient could significantly impact the health of her child, presently and long-term. Also, studies have even shown that what is eaten during pregnancy by the mother, and in the early eating years of the child, can influence a child’s food preference and lifelong eating patterns.5
If a child’s rapidly developing brain is defenceless to the poor and inadequate nutrition that comes with hunger and food insecurity, this damage may affect the child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive, profoundly and irreversibly. Damage to a child’s growing brain could affect the child’s ability to do well and concentrate at school, and ultimately, the chance to earn a good living one day.
In vulnerable areas, this makes it an even bigger challenge for a young adult to rise out of poverty. Added to this, we also know how poor nutrition (both overnutrition and undernutrition) can set the stage for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases, leading to a lifetime of health problems.6
Through pregnancy to toddlerhood in the first 1 000 days, a foundation of good nutrition is clearly fundamental. As part of this foundation, be sure to include eggs as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
- 1000 Days. Available from: https://thousanddays.org/. Accessed on 10 February 2022.
- Iannotti, L. L., Lutter, C. K., Stewart, C. P., Gallegos Riofrıo, C. A., Malo, C., Reinhart, G., Waters, W. F. (2017). Eggs in early complementary feeding and child growth: A randomized controlled trial. Paediatrics, 140(1).
- Ogata B, Deucht SA, Lucas BL. Nutrition in Childhood In: Mahan LK, Raymond JL, editors. Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. 14th ed. St Louis, Missouri: Saunders Elsevier; 2016;314 – 330.
- Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition Guidance for Healthy Children Ages 2 to 11 Years. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114:1257-1276.
- Ventura AK, Phelan S, Garcia KS. Maternal diet during pregnancy and lactation and child food preferences, dietary patterns, and weight outcomes: a review of recent research. Current Nutrition Reports. 2021;10:413-426.
- Neuhouser ML. The importance of healthy dietary patterns in chronic disease prevention. Nutrition Research. 2019;70:3-6.
- Iannotti, L. L., Lutter, C. K., Waters, W. F., Gallegos Riofrıo, C. A., Malo, C., Reinhart, G., Stewart, C. P. (2017). Eggs early in complementary feeding increase choline pathway biomarkers and DHA: A randomized controlled trial in Ecuador. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 106, 1482–1489. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.117.160515
- Wallace TC, Fulgoni VL. Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients, 2017; 9, 839. doi:10.3390/nu9080839.