Kids Who Eat Fruits & Veggies No Less Likely To Eat Junk Food, Says Study
A new study from US researchers challenges the idea that good food choices in a child’s diet, such as fruits & veggies and milk, automatically replace poorer choices such as junk food.
Researchers at Ohio State University found that children who regularly ate fruit, vegetables and dairy products several times a day were no less likely to eat foods high in sugar, salt and fat than kids eating healthy foods less frequently.
The researchers asked parents of 357 children aged between two and five (around 60% were black and from underprivileged neighbourhoods) how often their children ate certain foods in the past week.
The list of foods was then split into a category of healthy choices – such as fruit, vegetables and milk – and a category of junk food items, such as sweetened drinks, fast food, sweets and salty snacks.
The results, published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, came as a surprise to the team. The study showed that feeding a good-quality diet to children did not automatically make them less likely to consume unhealthy, nutrient-poor foods. Only a third of the children did not drink sugary drinks such as soda, and 29% had not eaten fast food. Around 50% of children ate at least two pieces of fruit per day.
According to the researchers, the discovery that “good” food does not automatically replace “bad” food in children’s diets, suggests that solutions for tackling childhood obesity and ideas surrounding children’s diets could need rethinking.
The study’s co-author Phyllis Pirie, professor of health behaviour and health promotion at Ohio State University, clarified that parents and policy makers should continue encouraging children to eat more nutritious food.
However, she also said that the study “suggests that we have to have two conversations”, as combatting childhood obesity often focuses on teaching children about adding “good” foods to their diets rather than avoiding “bad” foods.