Dear Dr. Dana,

I’ve got two kids, ages five and three who are difficult to feed. They are fussy eaters and I am at a loss on what to feed them. How do I make my kids eat fruits and vegetables?

They usually eat a complete meal (rice and viand) during lunch only. I’m also concerned about their milk intake. They drink milk during breakfast and before going to bed but in small quantities only, which I think is not adequate for their growth and development.

They are also fond of junk food. How do I wean them from this habit? Thanks for reading my e-mail. I’ll be looking out for your answer.

Juliet

Dear Juliet,

Mothers are often at a loss when it comes to ensuring that their children get adequate nutrition, especially during these times of fast food and convenient food. It is always a challenge to try to convince children to eat fruits and vegetables. You can let your children help you pick out vegetables at the market or grocery and let them help prepare the dish. Cook vegetables in a variety of ways. You may serve them raw (be sure to prepare them properly) as a salad one day or lightly steamed or cooked the next day.

Most Filipino children rate low in calcium. In order for children to drink the required four glasses of milk per day, limit their intake of sodas, juices and sports drink. You may also add calcium rich foods in their diet such as canned salmon, tofu and broccoli. If your children get an upset stomach whenever they drink milk, let them drink milk after meals or switch to lactose-free milk. But don’t you worry, most children experience difficult periods of tantrums and food fussiness.

Try to remember that these times are normal phases of growing up and will one day pass. During mealtimes, anticipate that your children will make a mess and prepare for it. Offer fussy eaters a greater variety of food. As much as possible, distract the child or ignore temper tantrums. Also, if you want children to refrain from eating junk food, don’t eat junk food yourself. Children learn by example. Introduce healthier food, known as “bridge foods’’ that can replace junk food.

Instead of buying your kids fast food burgers, make your own burgers from lean ground beef. If they ask for candy, give them fruit slices instead. Better yet, let your kids eat the same food you take. Just avoid taking the idea of healthy eating to the extreme. If you are obsessed about food, it might frighten your young children and lead to problems down the road. Treats should not be forbidden because that will make kids want them more.

Very truly yours,

Dr. Dana R. Sesante