Eating Healthy Foods Doesn’t Reduce Kids Consumption of Unhealthy Foods

By Mike Pomranz |

© Larry Lilac / Alamy

Just because you eat something healthy now doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not going to eat something unhealthy later. It can be true for adults, and recent research says it holds especially true for children.

A recent study from Ohio State University found that children, specifically preschoolers from low-income neighborhoods in Columbus, who consumed healthy foods like fruits, vegetables and milk were just as likely to also eat unhealthy foods high in sugar, salt and fat as kids who rarely consumed healthy foods. Researchers were surprised by the findings as they upend the previous logic that kids that who eat more health foods subsequently eat less unhealthy foods. “I just thought that was the way the world was and it turned out not to be the case,” said Sarah Anderson, an associate professor of epidemiology who led the research.

These findings could suggest a need for policy changes in how we look to combat childhood obesity, though the researcher suggests it’s too soon for a definitive discussion of altering course. A larger national study is currently underway. However, the researcher team is already thinking about possible ramifications.

“This suggests that we have to have two conversations,” said co-author Phyllis Pirie, a professor of health behavior and health promotion, implying that kids need to be spoken to not only about eating healthy food but also about limiting unhealthy ones. “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.”

Interestingly, during their research, the authors found that the so-called conventional wisdom had actually never been well tested – thus, once again proving the conventional wisdom that conventional wisdom should be well tested.

Related: Can a Campaign for Healthy Food Porn Make Us Eat Better? 
This Device Can Tell You What to Eat and When to Eat It 
Too Many Brands to Choose from May Lead to Overeating