The Ohio State University researchers sampled a group of 357 parents with children between the ages of two and five to determine how often their children ate certain foods in a week.

According to the study, led by Sarah Anderson, associate professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University, children who ate fruit and vegetables and consumed dairy products daily, were just as likely to eat foods high in sugar, salt and fat as those who didn’t have a healthy diet.

“We assumed that children who ate a lot of healthy foods would also be children who did not eat a lot of unhealthy foods. I just thought that was the way the world was and it turned out not to be the case,” Anderson said.

The results published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal proved that feeding a nutritious meal to children does not necessarily cancel out a desire for unhealthy, ‘nutrient-poor’ foods. Only one third of the children did not drink sugary drinks, and 29% had not eaten fast food. About 50% of the children ate at least two pieces of fruit a day.

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Co-author of the study, Phyllis Pirie, professor of health behaviour and health promotion at the university, encourages parents and policy makers to continue to encouraging children to eat more nutritious food rather than just urging them to avoid ‘bad foods’.