Sunday, December 2, 2012

Do French Children Eat Everything?

Source: via Kate on Pinterest

I recently downloaded the book French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon.  I was curious because I had read mixed reviews about it and wanted to see for myself if it aligned with food ideas that I've found to be true.  And since we have Nora, who is such a voracious eater, I was curious as to whether it was simply her, or if the book would offer insight into what we've done to accomplish this.  People often ask us how she has become such a good eater, and I was hoping it might help me come up with a better answer.  It has, and this week I'll be sharing how we have a one year old who eats pretty much anything.

A quick background, for those who are newer, I attended a French magnet school from kindergarten through 2nd grade.  Those 3 formative years instilled subconsciously some ideas about food, and life in general, that came out more the older I got.  After reading this book, including substantial bits to G, I laughed because those 3 years were very different from others I know.  For instance, we spent a lot of time in the kitchen at school.  We cooked, and one year made hard candy to give as gifts.  Food is a huge part of the French (and perhaps Belgian, my kindergarten teacher is Belgian) education system.

And that is what this book focuses so much on.  A mother who moves her family to her husband's small French town, and realizes that food will be a battle.  The school offers up a menu, and one that there are no choices or negotiations.  Which leads to her stressing because her children are picky eaters (and that's putting it nicely), and eventually figuring out new food "rules" to teach them (and herself) in order to eat better.  She discovers the culture there that feels incredibly strongly about parents educating their children about food and slowly adapts to the benefit of her family.

I enjoyed the book.  It's true about what some reviewers said about her switching back to snacking more once they moved back to her native Canada.  However, I saw it less as a personal issue and more about a cultural issue.  Whereas in France the children were given a minimum of 30 minutes to eat, in Canada her daughter had 10 minutes to unpack her lunch, gobble it down, and clean up.  Snacks became a bit of a survival skill for a child who now ate slowly and deliberately.

Her food rules are simple and I'm sharing them because they're even on Amazon (they're the back cover of the book).

1. Parents: You are in charge of food education.
2. Avoid emotional eating.  Food is not a bribe, a reward, a punishment, etc.
3. Parents schedule meals and menus.  Kids eat what parents eat. NO short order cooking.
4. Eat family meals together, without distractions.
5. Eat your veggies.
6. You don't have to like it but you do have to taste it.
7. No snacking.  It's okay to feel hungry between meals.
8. Slow food is happy food.
9. Eat mostly real food.
10. Remember, eating is joyful.  Relax!

Reading through those, I assume you're nodding your head.  It makes sense.  Those rules are simple. However, I can tell you having taught in a preschool and kindergarten classes, and having plenty of children around me to observe...most parents are obviously NOT following most, if any, of those simple rules.

The story line of the book I found made it an easy read.  The fact that for most of it she is admitting to being a stubborn fool whose children were ruling the roost I found admirable for it's honesty.  Because if you take in anything this week through these posts, I want it to be the harsh truth.  Nearly all children get their bad food habits and choices from their parents.  If your child is picky, doesn't eat their veggies and snacks often, more likely than not you're to blame.

Harsh, yes.  Honest, yes.  And best of all?  Because parenting and lack of taking charge of their food education in a healthy manner is the cause, it means you CAN fix it.  I hope this week is both interesting as well as educational.  And don't worry, I'm not perfect and will completely own up to things I do wrong as well!


  1. Hi Kate, I'm Dinah from India, I've been following your blog for a while now. I have an almost 8 month old boy and I wanted to ask you what you were feeding Nora at his age. He is on breast milk and solids- breakfast and dinner being cerelac, a fruit in the evening, and rice with lentils and veggies (pureed) for lunch. Do you have any suggestions? I'd love to hear what you think. Email me at

  2. Hi Kate, Great post. Baby Gusto is now 2 years and 5 months and he also eats pretty much everything (although we do have some allergies to content with which I work around). Firstly I think he takes after me, and I am a little obsessed with food! But also, we are lucky enough to both work from home for most of the week (I am out 2 days, husband out for 2 also) so the entire family eats together at 6 to suit his schedule. So we all eat the same, just if we are on a soup night he will eat something else, and if we have curried food, then I separate his out while cooking and make a milder version by adding cream or coconut milk. So far we have been really lucky and he is not fussy (although- also like me he dislikes eating the same meal two days in a row, so leftovers have to be frozen!). Baby-Gusto will happily wolf down things like salmon en croute, which seems to amaze other people, but he has always just been served what we eat without fuss. (Although when i work late on Friday nights, the special Friday night dinner enjoyed by both my boys is a yummy fish finger sandwich with lots of ketchup and peas... treats are good!). I hear that they can have fussy phases from 2, so fingers crossed we have missed that.....