Have you ever wondered how other people’s kids seem to eat a more varied diet than yours?
And at dinnertime, is it a constant struggle to get your kids to try anything new? You are not alone. I’ve gone through periods where I became a short-order cook and felt a pang of jealousy toward people like Karen Le Billion because her kids will try everything. In my house, I battle with my kids to try new foods.
Good thing Karen has a new book out called 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. Long title, I know, but the book is short and is well worth the read.
One of the things I noticed immediately is that the French have rules about food. They might not be written down on a board for their children to see, but there are things that they teach their children from the time they are young, and they grow up understanding what’s expected of them.
Here are some of the rules that resonated with me most:
- You are in charge! If you visit my house at dinnertime, it’s pretty obvious who runs the show; I do. This is even a source of minimal debate between my husband and I because he says I am too bossy. Well, guess what: It’s okay to be on top of your children, teaching them things such as how to sit correctly, how to behave, how to hold their silverware, and educating them on proper table manners. I was happy to see this as rule #1 in the book.
When my kids don’t like something—usually a vegetable—my husband will say “they are just like me; I didn’t like vegetables when I was a kid.” The French approach: nonsense. They have just not tried them enough times!
- Parents schedule meals and menus. This one I loved because in my attempt to be more organized with our lunch and dinner menus, I have a weekly plan for our family. This has helped tremendously in cutting down grocery costs, wasted food, and minimized options. Karen points out that kids should eat what adults eat: no substitutes and no short-order cooking. Well, I’m still working on the short-order cooking thing at least once a week. But the meal planning I have down, thanks to our menus.
- Limit snacks, ideally one per day. Implementing this rule is not much of an issue for us. My kids (like the French kids) get an afternoon snack after school. Now, why would you want to limit snacking? Because if the children don’t anticipate a meal (read: aren’t hungry), they are not likely to try new foods. Most people think that kids should never be hungry; quite the opposite, it’s okay to feel hunger so food is more exciting.
I simply loved Karen’s book. I secretly wished our family could be shipped off to France (or anywhere else with diverse food, really) to be immersed in their food culture. If you need a little culinary help, Karen even includes recipes to help you get started.
If you have picky eaters, I highly recommend reading this book. If nothing else, you will find yourself relating to Karen, wishing you had a husband like hers who completely supported the new food approach (versus having one like mine who excuses everything with when I was a kid…) and planning a way to simply get started.