Kids who eat more carrots and apples are as likely to eat a lot of candy and fries, a new study has found, suggesting that emphasising on avoiding ‘bad’ food is as important as adding ‘good’ food in children’s diet.
Researchers found that preschoolers from low-income neighbourhoods in Columbus in US who ate fruits and vegetables and drank milk many times every day were just as likely to eat foods high in sugar, salt and fat as those who rarely ate healthy foods.
“We assumed that children who ate a lot of healthy foods would also be children who did not eat a lot of unhealthy foods,” said Sara Anderson from Ohio State University in US.
Trained interviewers met with parents or guardians of 357 children 2 to 5 years old and asked them to recall how often the children ate certain foods in the past week.
The research team asked them about the children’s diets and categorised foods and drinks into healthy and unhealthy categories.
Healthy choices included fruits, vegetables and milk. Unhealthy choices included sweetened drinks, fast food, sweets and salty snacks.
Regardless of age, there was no evidence kids who frequently ate fruits and vegetables and drank milk were any less likely to partake in the unhealthy foods.
About half the children in the study ate fruit two or more times a day. Some rarely ate vegetables, but more than a third had them multiple times a day. Most of the children drank milk at least once a day.
In the week prior to the interview with a parent or guardian, only a third of the children did not drink sugar-sweetened beverages including soda pop and 29 per cent had not eaten fast food.
“There has been a kind of assumption there that if you encourage people to adopt healthy eating that it naturally leads to a decline in unhealthy eating,” said Phyllis Pirie from Ohio State University.
“Efforts to lower childhood obesity rates often focus on adding ‘good’ foods, rather than on avoiding ‘bad foods,’ she added.