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Children following a healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, while limiting intake of refined sugars and fat, may have better self-esteem and fewer emotional and strong peer relationships, according to a study.

The findings showed that better well-being was associated with consumption of fruit and vegetables, sugar and fat in accordance with dietary guidelines. 

Moreover, fish intake 2-3 times per week was also associated with better self-esteem and no emotional and peer problems. Intake of whole meal products was also associated with no peer problems.

"We found that in young children 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," said Louise Arvidsson, from The Sahlgrenska Academy, at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

"Our findings suggest that a healthy diet can improve well-being in children," Arvidsson added.

For the study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, the team examined 7,675 children two to nine years of age from eight European countries -- Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Spain and Sweden.

The children were given a healthy dietary adherence score (HDAS) based on how closely they followed five guidelines: limiting sugar, limiting fat, preferencing whole meal over refined grains, eating 400-500gm of fruits and vegetables a day, and fish 2-3 times a week.

A higher Healthy Dietary Adherence Score (HDAS) was 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, two years later.