Unborn babies and developing infants can have their eating habits programmed by their mothers' food choices, according to the research from the Royal Veterinary College in London.
Children exposed to "maternal junk food" in the womb or early in life may find it harder to resist an unhealthy diet as they grow older.
Controlling appetite involves hormones that act on the brain to regulate energy balance, hunger and satiety -- the sensation of "feeling full."
Junk foods rich in fat and sugar inhibit satiety while promoting hunger.
Doctors recommend eating lots of fruit and vegetables, exercising regularly, avoiding standing still for long periods and drinking plenty of fluids to avoid complications during pregnancy.
Babies born to obese and overweight mothers have twice the risk of congenital heart defects and multiple birth defects.
They are also 15 times more likely to be obese later in life.
Pregnant women need additional nutrients to keep themselves and their baby healthy, but that does not mean they need to eat twice as much.
An increase of only 300 calories per day is recommended.
Food cravings and aversions during pregnancy are due in part to a baby's nutritional demands and to physiological changes in the body of a pregnant woman that affect the absorption and metabolism of certain nutrients.
From the August 27, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash