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The Eating Journey

The window of opportunity: What is it?

Like talking and walking, acquiring a love healthy food is something baby learns. How can you get your child to choose peppers over pizza?  

There’s a unique Window of Opportunity during baby’s first 1,000 days of life that is the ideal time to establish a healthy relationship with food and influence lifelong health. Here’s what you need to know about this important time of a child’s life.

What is the ‘Window of Opportunity’?

The first 1,000 days of life, from conception until age 2, are when the foundations for good health are built. Optimal nutrition during this Window of Opportunity is key for future good health. Good nutrition in these first 1,000 days lowers baby’s risk of developing diet-related illnesses later in life, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Moms play a crucial role during this time. Baby is first exposed to flavors through amniotic fluid and their sense of smell develops during the first trimester. When mom eats lots of nutrient-dense food, essential nutrients and new flavors are transferred to baby.

Baby is usually more accepting and willing to try new foods before the age of 1, so flavors and textures introduced early help develop a confident eater.

Evidence also suggests food fussiness and overeating increases and acceptance of new foods and flavors decreases, if baby isn’t introduced to lumpy foods before 8 months old.

Benefits of the Window of Opportunity

Supporting a healthy relationship with food during the first 1,000 days improves overall health. Here’s how:

Encourages proper brain growth and development

From conception until their 2nd birthday, baby’s brain grows faster than at any other time, reaching 80% of its adult size by age 3.

Baby’s emotional, cognitive, and motor skills also start to develop in the first 1,000 days and are supported through good nutrition.

Aids physical development

A diet packed with macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and micronutrients, including essential vitamins and minerals, provides baby with the nutrition they need for physical growth.

Good nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life supports good weight gain and helps baby reach their developmental milestones.

Supports the growing immune system

Good nutrition early in life helps to program the immune system to develop and perform its job properly.

Baby’s gut health also influences their developing immune system as most immune cells are found inside the gut. A nutrient-dense diet supports a healthy gut and lowers baby’s risk of asthma, eczema, and other allergies.

Establishes healthy eating habits

Healthy eating habits developed in the first 1,000 days are usually carried into adulthood. Children who learn what’s healthy, how to enjoy food in moderation, and to stop eating when full are on a great path to lifelong good health.

How to take advantage of the Window of Opportunity

Use the first 1,000 days to give baby the best start in life.

Start with pregnancy

Pregnancy is an ideal time to focus on eating well to influence early food preferences.

If it works for mom and bub, breastfeeding is best. Breast milk contains all the nutrients baby needs for about the first 4­-6 months and flavors from mom’s diet are transferred through breast milk and help with early flavor training.

But we know breastfeeding doesn’t go smoothly for everyone, so don’t worry, there’s still lots of time to optimize baby’s health. When baby is aged 4-6months introduce tiny amounts of single vegetables to kick-start early flavor training.

Offer a variety of flavors and textures across all food groups

As we now know, the more flavors and textures baby is introduced to, the more they will prefer healthy foods. 

Offer baby a variety of age-appropriate vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, and lean meats. Try different flavor combinations and add herbs and spices but be mindful of added salt.

Offer foods again and again. Chances are baby won’t like every new food the first time they try it but keep offering it. It may take baby 10-15 times to accept a new food.

And remember, the first few months of solids isn’t about nutrition, it’s about taste experiences to help develop healthy food preferences.

Avoid rewarding good behavior with sweet food

Make healthy eating the norm and not something rewarded with a sweet treat afterwards. And follow baby’s lead in the early days—you can offer healthy foods but it’s up to baby to control their own intake. 

Understanding the impact nutrition has during the Window of Opportunity is empowering, and parents can positively influence baby’s long-term health with simple, healthy food choices.

Disclaimer: The information provided is the opinion of Good Feeding, it has not been evaluated by healthcare professionals, and is for educational purposes only.  Before starting any new foods or feeding practices, please consult your baby's healthcare professional.

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