Children and Food Can be a Challenge

Chef offers tips to help parents keep their children healthy and enjoying nutritious foods.

Where do I start?

Where do I start? Making healthy choices starts early.

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Washington, D.C. — One thing most parents have in common is the struggle to ensure that their children eat healthy foods. For many, it seems like an endless battle they’re not sure they’ll win. After all, while they try to teach their youngsters good eating habits, they are competing against multi-million dollar advertising campaigns from companies selling unhealthy foods and snacks. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, proper nutrition begins at the grocery store, making wise food purchases.

 “Parents often worry about their kids not getting enough nutritious foods. We’ve all been through it, at one time or another,” says Enzo Febbraro, the co-owner and executive chef of D’Acqua Ristorante, located in Washington, D.C. “To win the battle, parents have to make good nutrition a high priority in their own lives and that of their family.”

The AAP also reports that teaching children from a young age about proper nutrition will create habits that can last a lifetime. Children need a variety of foods in order to build healthy bones and stay healthy. However, many parents find it difficult to get them to eat those healthy foods.

One of the more prevalent problems is what the National Institutes of Health refers to as a “food jag,” where children get hung up on wanting to eat the same foods repeatedly and are afraid to try to new items. They report the behavior is normal, doesn’t usually last long, and is often a way of expressing independence. To remedy the situation, the NIH suggests parents not worry about a child not eating much at one meal since children usually self-regulate their eating and will fill up at the next one. If the child is still growing properly, he or she is likely still meeting their nutrition requirements. To help food-related problems, and to keep children eating healthily, the NIH suggests:

? Parents should always set a good example by following good eating habits.

? Meals should be offered that include different colors and textures and that are eye-appealing.

? Parents should start introducing new tastes from a very early age, around six months, in the form of a variety of baby foods.

? Children should never be coerced to eat foods or punished for not eating a particular food. Parents should encourage them to try at least one bite to see if they like it.

? High-sugar snacks should be avoided because they suppress the appetite, preventing the child from being hungry for meals.

? Avoid labeling the child. If a child has tried carrots one time and didn’t like them, that doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t like carrots. It often takes multiple times of trying a food for a child to acquire a taste for it.

? Always provide scheduled meals and snacks; they are important to growing bodies. Snacks should be healthy, in the form of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

? Offer small portions, especially of foods that are new to a child. When they see a plate filled with food, it can be intimidating and may make them not want to try it.

? Only offer one new food at a time, and be patient. It may take a while for them to like the new item, but parents should still keep offering it.

? Be consistent about offering healthy and nutritious foods at each meal. When children see that it is part of the family routine, they will learn to accept it and will carry their good eating habits into adulthood.

? Have older children help with food preparation, which will get them more interested in eating what they helped to make.

 “Good nutrition is essential to growing healthy bodies,” Febbraro says. “It can be a challenge to help children learn healthy eating skills. But it’s worth it in the long run. Parents just have to be creative and keep at it.”

D’Acqua Ristorante, owned by Chefs Enzo Febbraro and Francesco Ricchi, is located in Washington D.C. The restaurant, which features a coastal Italian menu with a seafood emphasis, was opened by the two highly acclaimed chefs in 2006, and has quickly earned great reviews. Enzo, a native of Naples, Italy, has traveled throughout Europe, preparing dishes at high-end restaurants and hotels. Francesco, a Florentine native, has owned a number of award-winning establishments. The restaurant is a popular political dining establishment frequented by the Washington elite, including senators, members of congress, and White House staff. To learn more about D’Acqua Ristorante, visit the website.