Teachable moments in the promotion of healthy eating habits, during pregnancy and early childhood

Pearce, Jo (2022) Teachable moments in the promotion of healthy eating habits, during pregnancy and early childhood. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Nutritional exposures during pregnancy, infancy and early childhood can impact on both the short-term and long-term health outcomes of children. Pregnancy has often been described as a ‘teachable moment’, where women may have increased motivation to change their dietary and other health behaviours. Other teachable moments exist whenever families make choices around nutrition, such as breast or formula feeding, the introduction of solid foods and what to eat at home or at school. This thesis considers whether the promotion of healthy eating habits and adherence to dietary guidelines during these teachable moments, have the potential to improve the health outcomes of women and children.

The eight papers included in the thesis represent an original contribution to knowledge. The two papers which explored women’s feelings about their weight, diet, nutrition, and physical activity (PA) during pregnancy, found that weight and lifestyle factors were often problematised without offering constructive solutions. Offering personalised advice, re-framed positively to focus on nutrients for maternal and foetal health, may help to address this. A service evaluation of a pregnancy weight management intervention found that where interventions are tailored and delivered by trusted health professionals, success can be achieved.

Two systematic reviews found some limited evidence that very early introduction of solid foods (≤ 4 months) and high intakes of protein in infancy may contribute to overweight and obesity risk later in childhood. This suggests there is a need for continued promotion and support for families to meet recommendations to breastfeed and introduce solids from 6 months of age. Two further papers explored baby-led weaning (BLW) and found understanding of and adherence to the characteristics of BLW varied considerably amongst parents reporting using the method. Younger (6-8 months) infants following BLW had lower intakes of key nutrients, but differences disappeared by 9-12 months. Milk feeding may play a role in observed differences. A final paper explored why some families choose not to take universal infant free school meals. This appeared to be because the child rejected the food or due to concerns over what/how much the child ate and the quality of the meals provided.

Health promotion activity should focus on the long-term healthy eating habits of women as the gatekeepers of the family diet, whilst recognising the challenges that women face during and following pregnancy.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Langley-Evans, Simon
Keywords: Nutrition, Food habits, Children, Nutrition, Psychological aspects
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA 421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Biosciences
Item ID: 69592
Depositing User: Airey, Ms Valerie
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2022 04:40
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2022 04:40
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/69592

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