“French Kids Eat Everything” Book Review

“French Kids Eat Everything” Book Review Image

A while back I mentioned that I had ordered a copy of Karen Le Billon‘s book, “French Kids Eat Everything: How our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising happy, healthy eaters.” And how could I not have with a title bi-line like that!?

The cover page is pretty promising in itself- Cure picky eating? No more nutrient poor snacks? And with only 10 rules…. who wouldn’t want that for their children?

The big question is though, “Did it deliver???” Ehhhhhhhh- Yes and no. The book is very thoughtful and entertaining, but does not truly lay out a roadmap for success. With the 10 French Food Rules it gives you some GREAT principles to raise your children with, but… to transition them successfully- there lacks much guidance. Without the information about the transition, how do you expect to be able to apply those rules?

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In the book she talks about how she started introducing her children (4 years and 1 year) to vegetable soups (basically simple purées) to get them used to the flavors. She even set about creating scheduled menus and serving herself and her Husband these purées at dinner too (since everybody should always be served the same thing). But as her Mother-in-Law points out in the book- that is an awful lot of work to get them to eat food they should already be eating. Kids should eat what you eat, she says pointedly. And she is right. The only reason they don’t in our culture is because we place a lot of value of the convenience of cheap processed, packaged foods. It’s just easier than listening to your child have a melt-down. But, if we stuck to feeding our children REAL food from the start (like the French do), they wouldn’t have any problem accepting these flavors. Unfortunately, that is not the case. So how do we get them to eat the food we eat as adults without having to pacify them into it first??

She doesn’t really say in the book. After she is done feeding them purées she goes on to give them adult food and things that they pick out of cookbooks by themselves. It seems that eventually they just kind of got used to those foods, but not without the expected amount of tantrums and refusals. Of course. I guess when it comes down to it, it is all just about consistency with the French Food Rules and eventually they will give in and accept the way things are now to be the norm.

One thing’s for sure- there is no way I will ever get my child to eat as well as the French kids too. I mean, look at their school lunch menu!

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That is a far cry from the frozen, processed fried chicken and frozen french fries that our children receive for lunch. I don’t know how we will ever be able to teach our children to enjoy healthy food when the school systems are working against us.

There is too much to say on that topic. That is a speal for another time.

The only way to really circumvent the terrible nutrient-devoid lunches they serve at school is to provide your children with a nutritional sound one from home. Which they actually don’t allow in France! They are really big into eating what you are served, rather than being given a list of options. I suppose that helps rid children of pickiness too. There is no opportunity to be picky- you eat it or go hungry.

How I applied the French Food Rules in my home:

  • I threw out all my junk, processed foods and loaded my house with healthy, natural foods. “You want Goldfish with lunch?? Sorry. How about an apple instead“. It was extreme and it took some screaming, but she eventually realized they weren’t an option any more. They simply weren’t in the house to eat.
  • We started to eat THE SAME THING! This one was huge for us. I used to make a different meal for each of us, I swear. Now I make just one. Even for Hunter now that he can eat textured food rather than just purées. Most of the time Scarlett doesn’t eat it, but every once in a while she will try it and that is a step in the right direction.
  • I try to slow down our meal time and talk with Scarlett more. For the most part I don’t engage her- we usually eat silently and every once in a while I talk to Dave. Haha, we are pretty terrible with that. We just don’t have that fun family dynamic. SO boring. And forget about Dave taking his time eating! The Army has trained him to inhale as soon as the plate hits the table, usually still scalding hot. 
  • Getting rid of snacks was easy- “Sorry, you have to wait until dinner to eat if you’re hungry.
  • Instead of eating dinner on the couch in front of a TV show (which we don’t do too often married, but I did ALL the time growing up), we eat at the dinner table with NO distractions other than background music, which I find helps entertain Scarlett.
  • I try very hard not to bribe Scarlett with food, but sometimes it just slips out… I really need to work on that one.

Overall, I think it’s just a matter of time and perseverance! Can you keep the consistency of good meals and structure up longer than they can keep up the tantrums and refusals?? THAT is the question when it comes to getting rid of pickiness.

 

6 Responses to ““French Kids Eat Everything” Book Review”

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6 Responses… add one

  • Amber January 22, 2014, 4:16 pm

    Laura, I really enjoy your blog. I’d like to give a huge thank you for the blog setup help. It was very thorough and concise.

    While our family is by no means living a vegan lifestyle, we are making a conscious effort to switch from processed junk to healthy organic choices. If you were to begin the conversation about how school systems are sabotaging our children’s diets, I would gladly join in! My daughter’s preschool does not allow parents to send in any food for the children, and forces them to either eat the school food (processed cardboard JUNK!) or not eat. This makes it difficult for me, as a mother who is trying to get my babies healthier! I haven’t found a solution yet, but I’m determined to try.

  • lmachell January 23, 2014, 10:49 am

    UGH! That is SOOOOOO upsetting! I can’t believe they won’t even let you bring in food- that is terrible… if they are going to do that, you’d think they’d provide healthy meal choices for the poor kids. Oh gosh, that is so terrible. I am sorry to hear that :( And thank you! I am glad you found my blog setup post informative!

  • Mélissa February 11, 2014, 10:50 am

    I’m a french woman who is 26 years old. What american kids eat for lunch is not a meal for french people. We don’t drink milk or juice during the meal but water.
    My mother raised us with good food. But now i work in a school and there is a lot of french kids who drink and eat coca, oily, salty, surgarly food and they’re not used to eat vegetables or healthy food anymore.
    So it’s also a danger for french people. We have to keep those rules.
    I hope my english is not to bad to understand.
    I like your blog !

  • lmachell February 11, 2014, 8:03 pm

    Oh no! I hope our poor eating habits don’t come your way… I admire the way your culture eats!! If I could pick anywhere in the world to live it would 100% be France. I loved it.

  • Andrea January 21, 2016, 9:12 am

    I live in France and work in school.
    I’d like to add two things:
    Lot of kids go home to eat lunch, especially in countryside schools.
    The second is : some schools provide good food some schools order pre cooked frozen food and warm it up.
    Our local school has so awful lunch that none of the teachers would eat it….

  • Elizabeth January 27, 2016, 3:53 am

    I’ve never read the book but thought the title was interesting. It’s great that you actually tried out some of the steps. I’m Mexican-American and my husband is French, we have a 5 year old son. We have never had a problem with him eating anything except when we decided to come back to the USA and introduce a hotdog. He hated it. lol We actually follow the steps but mostly because of the French and Mexican background. We’ve live in France and the USA and introducing new food to our little one is very important. We have been making his food for school for so long because as an American mom I know what they serve at school. It’s to the point that my son never drinks sodas nor juice unless it is watered down and it’s mostly water. He’s learn to drink it this way and doesn’t mind it. BTW I love your blog!