Healthy eating in children is associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems, such as having fewer friends or being picked on or bullied, regardless of body weight, according to a new study.
Results of a research in The Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, show that better self-esteem is associated with better adherence to healthy eating guidelines.
“We found that in young children aged two to nine years there is an association between adherence to healthy dietary guidelines and better psychological well-being, which includes fewer emotional problems, better relationships with other children and higher self-esteem, two years later. Our findings suggest that a healthy diet can improve well-being in children,” Dr. Louise Arvidsson, the corresponding author, explained.
Examining 7,675 children two to nine years of age from eight European countries, the researchers found that a higher Healthy Dietary Adherence Score (HDAS) at the beginning of the study period was associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems two years later.
The HDAS aims to capture adherence to healthy dietary guidelines, which include limiting intake of refined sugars, reducing fat intake and eating fruit and vegetables. A higher HDAS indicates better adherence to the guidelines.
The study is the first to analyze the individual components included in the HDAS and their associations with children’s wellbeing, according to materials provided by BioMed Central.
The authors caution that children with poor diet and poor wellbeing were more likely to drop out of the study and were therefore underrepresented at the two-year follow-up, which complicates conclusions about the true rates of poor diet and poor wellbeing.