Without the right nutrients, health services, and care within the first 1,000 days of life, a child’s brain and body fail to develop properly.

Unlike hunger, these effects are largely invisible and essentially irreversible. Under-nutrition is the underlying cause of 45 per cent of all under five mortality – or nearly three million deaths every year. As a result, these children have lower IQs and are more likely to drop out of school. As adults, they are a third less likely to escape poverty.

As undernourished girls grow into undernourished mothers, who give birth to undernourished children. This creates a vicious cycle that holds back the growth of future generations.

Therefore, the nutrition, diet and lifestyle of a child is extremely important in ensuring healthy growth, development and cognition.

Sonal Shah, one of London’s top qualified nutritional therapists, joined me in the studio to discuss nutritional advice from pre-pregnancy to teens.

Because the growth and development of a foetus and baby depend greatly on the mother, Sonal Shah advised mothers-to-be to have a balanced and healthy diet that is rich in protein and carbohydrates as they create energy production.

She said it is important to eat well in the first and second trimester, but particularly in the third trimester, pregnant women should have foods rich in Omega 3, or take supplements. I asked if fish oil tablets are as effective as eating fish itself for those who are vegetarians, to which Sonal stated tablets work just as well as the real thing! Sonal also suggested having an intake of flaxseed oil.

The health of the mother is important because research shows that if the mother has experienced famine during pregnancy, the child can be born underweight and experience issues later in life. So it is important mothers get the diet right before and during their pregnancy.

And it is not just women who need to watch their diet before conceiving, but men do too. Sonal stated that men need to focus on including zinc in their diet to ensure the health and quality of their sperm. Zinc-rich foods include seafood, nut seeds and micronutrients which can be found in a range of vegetables.

After pregnancy, the baby still relies on the mother for nutrients much of which is received from milk. But the mother also needs to look after her own well-being. Because many of the nutrients in her system are passed on to the baby, new mothers need to include nutrient-rich foods in their diet. Fruit and vegetables are key for this as well as anti-oxidants to support energy productions such as cauliflower, broccoli, and berries.

Sometimes, new mothers may experience their hair thinning which can be down to diet during and after pregnancy. Sonal recommended ensuring you are consuming enough iron in your diet as low iron can be one of the reasons for hair loss.