Healthy eating is associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems, such as having fewer friends or being picked on or bullied, in children regardless of body weight, according to a new study from Sweden.
Inversely, better self-esteem is associated with better adherence to healthy eating guidelines.
The researchers found that in 7,675 children aged two to nine there’s a link 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. The findings suggest that a healthy diet can improve well-being in children.
Adherence to healthy dietary guidelines include limiting intake of refined sugars, reducing fat intake and eating fruit and vegetables.
The researchers found that better self-esteem at the beginning of the study was associated with a higher healthy diet scores two years later and that the associations between healthy eating score and wellbeing were similar for children who had normal weight and children who were overweight.
Fish, whole grains, fruits and vegetables tied to better wellbeing, self-esteem
The study is the first to analyze the individual diet components their associations with children's wellbeing.
- Fish intake according to guidelines (2-3 times per week) was associated with better self-esteem and no emotional and peer problems.
- Intake of whole grains products were associated with no peer problems.
- Better wellbeing was associated with consumption of fruit and vegetables and eating less sugar and fat in accordance with dietary guidelines.
- Better self-esteem was associated with sugar intake according to guidelines.
- Good parent relations were associated with fruit and vegetable consumption according to guidelines.
- Fewer emotional problems were associated with fat intake according to guidelines
- Fewer peer problems were associated with consumption of fruit and vegetables according to guidelines.
Since the study is observational and relies on self-reported data from parents, conclusions about cause and effect are not possible.
Source: BMC Public Health, December 14, 2017.
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