STAVANGER, Norway, April 18 (UPI) -- A Norwegian researcher warns parents against strict rules on what children may eat because such rules can result in less healthy eating.
Nutritionist Elisabeth Lind Melbye at the University of Stavanger in Norway studied what worked and what didn't when parents sought to teach their offspring about healthy eating practices.
The proportion of child obesity in the United States and Britain and southern Europe was almost twice as high as in northern Europe. Roughly 1-in-5 Norwegian 8-year-olds is overweight or obese.
The study involved 800 Norwegian children ages 10-12 and their parents.
Melbye found the most important thing parents can do to promote healthy eating is have healthy food on hand and allow children to help themselves to it whenever they want.
"In addition to exposing children to healthy food, they ought also to participate in its preparation and in planning meals. Let them cut up vegetables and help in the kitchen," Melbye said in a statement. "And take them with you to the shops. If they're old enough, you can also discuss healthy eating with them and explain why it's good for the body."
If parents are unreasonably strict and restrictive about diet, their offspring might develop a yearning for unhealthy food and eat less of the healthy options, Melbye said.