Eat Like a French Kid

by Anne Bennett on February 26, 2012

Illustration from the book, "French Children Eat Everything", by Karen Le Billon

According to a soon-to-be-released book, French children not only eat their vegetables, they actually like them. Written by Karen Le Billon, “French Kids Eat Everything,” will be released on April 3, 2012. I’ve already pre-ordered a copy for my iPad.

Le Billon, a Canadian married to a Frenchman, got the idea to write the book after she moved with her husband and their two young children to her husband’s home town in Northern France. In Canada she considered her picky-eating daughters to be like most children, but in France they were anything but typical. The French teach their children early on to enjoy all kinds of foods, including vegetables and cheese.

Strict rules, culturally ingrained for generations, are enforced by French parents. One rule is sacrosanct: no snacking. The French feel that if you allow a child to eat throughout the day, he or she may not be hungry enough to eat a healthful dinner, and certainly not hungry enough to taste something they haven’t eaten before.

Another rule, aimed at those unfamiliar foods, is this:  you don’t have to eat it all, but you do have to taste it.

The French are religious about all things culinary; gathering, cooking and eating food is an integral part of their everyday lives. Meals are not rushed. Indeed, the French are appalled at the speed with which we Americans gobble our food. (It’s called “fast” for more than one reason.)

French scientists have concluded that it takes up to seven exposures to a new food before a child will actually like it. Thus, French parents consistently serve these foods at the family dinner table, knowing that their patience will pay off in the long run.

School lunches in France? First of all, snack and soda vending machines are banned in all French schools. Kids from pre-school through high school get four-course lunches which start with a salad or vegetables, followed by  a main course, a different cheese every day and then dessert. We should all eat so well.

When the book comes out I’ll write more about it, but until then, consider how you feed yourself and your family. Do you eat real food? (If you don’t know what it is, Google it, or read my last post about the Mediterranean diet. )

I hate to admit it, but I think the French are on to something.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy Kamm February 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm

As someone who had children in France I can confirm that for the most part French kids do eat most everything. Raffa was 3 when she was served sardines as one of the courses in her pre school lunch. Having said that the French over cook their veggies and smother them in butter (not that there’s anything wrong with the butter!!!). When my girls were infants the pediatrician recommended I feed them calves brains…..that’s where I drew the line!

frenchtwistedwoman March 1, 2012 at 11:00 am

I am not French but wish I were. But I follow their food beliefs as best as I can as far as limited snacking, fresh food, serving good cheese (not American!) and getting kids to try everything. I just posted this bit on the way I get my kids to eat vegetables at dinnertime. Enjoy!

Karen Le Billon March 2, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Thanks so much for this insightful summary, and great comments! I can’t wait for your thoughts on the book. There are lots of insights we could gain from many traditional food cultures, but I think the French approach has figured out some great strategies to cope with many of the issues that North American parents often struggle with. It certainly transformed how our family ate (myself as well my children)!

Looking forward to your responses to the book!

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