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Is your child's diet making you fructose intolerant?

Dear Debbie,

I fear there is no piece of advice on the planet that will get my four- year-old son to eat vegetables. In fact, I can barely get him to eat anything that does not have fructose corn syrup as the prime ingredient. This is the result of preferring that he eat junk rather than nothing at all. Can his eating habits be re-trained?

Sweet Tooth's mom

(a.k.a., Fructose In-tolerant)

Dear Sweetie,

This is really a tough problem because we as parents have a great desire to see our children eat. This desire is so great that unfortunately we forgo what we know to be right for what feels right for the moment. When I am stumped with a hard problem like this one I often times go to the sages, so this time I turned to my mom. She reminded me that when I was young I barely ate anything (you would not know it now but let's not go there!). She, as worried moms do, called the doctor and explained the situation. The wise doctor replied "Don't worry, she will eat when she is hungry." My mom took the advice and lo and behold I did start to eat. Matter of fact I would say I am quite an expert at it now.

Now that we know that children will eat when they are hungry enough we can begin to help put your son on a path to healthier eating. Let's break down this plan into a couple of steps: Firstly, look at the food that he does eat. Perhaps there is something there that you can modify toward a better choice. For instance, if he likes a sweetened cereal, try mixing a small amount of the sweetened cereal with some Cheerios or Chex mix, lessening the amount of sweet cereal over time.

You might also look for fun packaging that surrounds a healthy product. Take your son and go on a grocery store hunt for healthy organic products. There are many organic yogurt products, granola bars, mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, even fruit rollups that can be a healthier choice. Look in the organic areas of the grocery store and steer clear of the cookie/candy isle. Don't forget the produce area where you will find some great choices. Better yet, find a farmer's market and go on a field trip to admire all the colors and shapes of the produce. Watermelon is a great choice as it is sweet and very kid-friendly. What child (adult too) would miss out on a seed spitting contest?

Make choosing the food and preparing the foods all part of the eating process. I know this is hard to believe but children will taste a food that they have had an opportunity to pick out and prepare. I can not promise you that they will fall in love with it, but it is a start.

You know your child best so understand your child's likes and dislikes. If your child enjoys pudding, try yogurt. If your child enjoys bread, try whole grains instead of enriched white bread. There are even some wonderful whole grain cookies that you both will enjoy. And of course you have to be ready to try new foods too. If you turn up you nose, your child will too.

One last thought: "junk" food has its place. Birthdays and special occasions are a time for some indulgence. If we make "junk" food forbidden we run the risk of making them far too appealing. Just remember, everything in moderation.

See you at the local Farmers' market!

Be well, Deb

Do you have a question for Debbie? Email your inquiries to or send your inquiry to: Debbie Cohen, Springfield JCC, 1160 Dickinson Street, Springfield, MA 01108.