If you deal with picky eaters, young and old, at your house, French Kids Eat Everything may be for you. It was written by Karen Le Billon, wife, mom of two daughters, Professor at the University of British Columbia, and a Rhodes Scholar with a PhD from Oxford. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Guardian, Sunday Times, Observer, and Huffington Post, as well as being featured on Good Morning America.
Karen tells the story of how her family moved to France to spend a year in her husband’s hometown. What she didn’t expect was that her family, including two picky daughters, would completely change the way they ate.
Although her memoir is very entertaining, the 305-page book is broken down into ten chapters that cover Karen’s 10 French Food Rules in depth. I’ll list them here and give my quick thoughts, but you must get the book to unpack them. You will want to explore these rules further!
10 French Food Rules
1. Parents: You are in charge of your children’s food education.
It is no shock to hear that other countries believe that Americans load their schedules up so much that we leave little time to teach our children about eating a whole, nutrious foods. I have to agree. My husband and I make a conscious effort to eat as clean of a diet as possible, eating home cooked meals every day, but still find ourselves rushed and slaves to the calendar.
2. Avoid emotional eating. Food is not a pacifier, a distraction, a toy, a bribe, a reward, or a substitute for discipline.
This is another point that I definitely agree on. How many times do we whip out that favorite food because we are bored, tired or stressed?
3. Parents schedule meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat: no substitutes and no short order cooking.
I will say we do this well. We do not cook separate meals for each family member. We have four children and I can’t imagine trying to please everyone at every meal.
4. Food is social. Eat family meals together at the table, with no distractions.
We eat every meal possible together. I have shifted our dinner mealtime down by 30 minutes to accommodate my husband’s work commute. It makes the evening a little harder, but we find value in our family maintaining closeness around the table.
5. Eat vegetables of all colors of the rainbow. Don’t eat the same main dish more than once per week.
We do not do this. I try and double up a meal when cooking dinner so that we have an abundance of leftovers. We eat every meal at home (or packed as a lunch), so I cannot imagine preparing 21 different meals a week. We do utilize a Salad Box, however, and have a wide variety of fresh vegetable on the table at each meal.
6. For picky eaters: You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it. For fussy eaters: You don’t have to like it, but you do have to eat it.
I give my picky eaters the Rule of Three… they must take three bites of every food. (1.To try it, 2. To taste it, 3. To decide if they like it.) I have found that if I keep reintroducing new foods, and use my Rule of Three, they usually begin to accept the new foods.
7. Limit snacks, ideally one per day (two maximum), and not within one hour of meals.
Somehow I thought we didn’t really follow this, but I have been tracking our snacking habits this month and we tend to have an AM snack and an afternoon snack. Our dinner is later than the average family (see rule #4) so I have no problem with that.
8. Take your time, for both cooking and eating. Slow food is happy food.
This rule seems to go well with rule #1 above. As a whole, I think we need to slow down. Our meals are rushed and our lives are rushed. What are we missing out that is right in front of us? Are we missing out on teachable moments with our children as we prepare food, and are we creating unnecessary stress on our bodies as we rush to eat our meals?
9. Eat mostly real, homemade food, and save treats for special occasions. (Hint: Anything processed is not “real” food.)
I think we do this well at our house. As I mentioned before, I cook almost every meal that our family eats. I do cook in bulk so that we have quality leftovers to draw from, but for the most part I repurpose them into something different. We enjoy a “treat” every now and then, but found that the more “treat” we had, the more they would creep in without us even realizing. We have learned to make fun, whole food sweet treats and rarely miss those processed foods.
10. (The Golden Rule) Eating is joyful, not stressful. Treat the food rules as habits or routines rather than strict regulations; it’s fine to relax them once in a while.
I definitely agree with this rule. With the exception of some food intolerances our family has to navigate, we strive for a balance between eating healthy at home, but will relax a bit when grandparents come around. Food does not control us, so there is no need to stress over it. We strive to do our best, eat for our health and enjoy life by living it to the fullest.
My Personal Thoughts
I found this book very inspiring. Whether you are a seasoned real food family or on trying to navigate mealtime with picky eaters, I think everyone can gain some confidence that kids do not have to be so limited at the dinner table. I do appreciate that the author chose to have a broad collection of recipes in the back of the book that are healthy, whole food choices.
Being a mom of four kids, I have learned a few things over the years… one being that converting a picky eater requires a gentle, yet consistent approach… and a lot of patience. Changing a picky eater into one that will eat everything will not happen overnight, but if you really make it a priority you will start to see progress!
For fans of real food, whole food, balanced living…
Informative, gentle, and yet humorous
The book provides recipes in the back of the book to get you started on a whole food journey.
Several chapters seemed to apply more to a younger child.
The author makes it seem as though no French child is picky.
There are definite differences between the French and American food systems, so sometimes it felt as if she was comparing “apples to oranges”.
The Bottom Line:
French Kids Eat Everything was very enjoyable for my husband and I to read together. It brought us to some great conversations. I highly recommend it to anyone who has picky eaters in their home, no matter what their age. It’s never too late to start eating healthier and Karen gives you some great suggestions for the journey!