French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

While MP was in France last week, she had the pleasure of reading French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. The book’s sub-title, How our family moved to France, cured picking eating, banned snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising, happy healthy eaters, piqued MP’s interest. CP#1 and #2 are good eaters, but they can be picky, and like their mother, they also enjoy a delicious snack—let’s call it a petit dessert—twice a day. With these facts in mind, MP thought a little guidance couldn’t hurt.

French Kids Eat Everything begins by showing the cultural differences between North American parents and the French when it comes to food. Prior to their move, Le Billon’s girls, ages 2 and 5, were accustomed to several snacks throughout the day: mid-morning, afternoon, and another before bed, while the French maintain an unwritten one snack a day rule (the after school goûter). For meals, the author’s oldest daughter, Sophie, preferred foods like French fries, Cheerios, pasta, and buttered toast. Claire, the youngest, began to follow suit.

While in Brittany, the family quickly learned that the French enjoy various foods at every meal throughout the week with no repetition in the lunch or dinner menu. According to Le Billon, if a child doesn’t care for something, French parents never offer substitutes. Instead children are encouraged to try everything. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it, is now one of Le Billon’s top food rules.

When the author learns that French schools serve 4-course meals at lunch, with foods like endive salad, Alaskan hake, blue cheese, and organic pear compote, she panics. How will the girls adapt? She quickly realizes that in order for her family to fit in, she needs to change their approach to food: namely, three square meals a day, a willingness to try new things, and no snacking (even if it means enduring major meltdowns).

The family struggles with these new food rules, often with humorous results, but by the end of their year in France, Sophie and Claire are eating foods Le Billon never dreamed they’d try, including beets, leeks, mussels, olives, and creamed spinach. Still, maintaining these rules is difficult when they return home to Vancouver. The girls have less time to eat lunch and are reintroduced to a bevy of unhealthy snacks by their peers. However, with the same admirable perseverance she exemplified in France, Le Billon manages to find a balance that works for her family.

PS: Want to learn more about Karen Le Billon? Visit her wonderful blog.

Comments 0

  1. My son will try anything and loves to eat “adult taste bud” type foods. His favorite food is Vietnamese Pho soup. But my daughter refuses to try anything new. Her favorite food is white bread (which we don’t keep in the house) and she freaks out when I try to get her to take a bite of something new.

  2. My son is 20 months. Since he began eatIng solids, he has been served the same meals as we have without an offer of substitutes. However often time this means that he doesn’t eat much or that his meal consists of the one thing on the plate that he hates the least. I have a hard time getting him to eat veggies and have to hide them often times. Allmofmthis is made even more complex by the fact that he has several allergies including dairy, peanuts and treenuts. I would love the opportunity to win this book and get some tips as to how to raise my son to eat all sorts of different foods without hesitation.

  3. My kids eat pretty well.. veggies are a challenge, but recently, we’ve discovered the beauty of roasted cauliflower and kale chips. 🙂

  4. I have one who eats everything (favorites are sushi and seafood) and three others with varying degrees of pickiness. I would love to read this book because I think my 10 year old should like more than pizza and French fries!

  5. I cannot tell you how intrigued I am with this book! Well, actually, I can. I too, have a picky eater. He’s almost 8 years old now, and boy, am I ready to be done with mealtime battles. He was curious and eager to try anything as a toddler and a preschooler. Beyond that, it has been challenging, much more than I thought it would be. The healthiest things that my son eats now are white rice with soy sauce, mild salsa with tortilla chips, avocado with a bit of lemon and salt. We’ve recently had to up his intake of high fiber foods, to help the plumbing work better, and have added in more raw carrots, triscuits, and high fiber pasta. Hubby was a picky eater as a child, also, and I think he wants to be very protective of our son’s feelings and experiences as a result, which is wonderful, but I think his offering of other options at mealtimes has reinforced the pickiness. I would love to be able to show him this book to emphasize that consistency with eating rules isn’t a punishment, and pays off in many ways. It would be much easier than moving to France. Thank you!

  6. While some days I feel we are doing okay teaching my girls to eat a variety of foods and try new foods (last week my 7 year old took a bite of Tikka Masala and said, “I love Indian food!”), we also struggle. Finding a protein for my daughter’s lunch is always a challenge, as is that terrible 4-5 PM hour after school when all they want to do is snack. I always love to hear new ideas. FYI- there is another book out there called “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” and I have heard that snacking is a topic in that book as well.

  7. Both my children ( 4 + 12 yrs) eat a wide variety of foods. From the day my son started solids I have only offered what I’ve offered as I read that it can take up to 10 times for a baby to like or not like a particular food. When my son was a toddler he would walk through the Whole Grocer (bought out by W. Foods) and name all the veggies. He could even tell the difference between a turnip and a rutabaga and at the ck out they would always ask him-the clerks couldn’t even tell. While he is now much picker than I ever imagined I believe it is a developmental stage (pre teen!) and he will reach and age when he is not trying to exert his independence through food choices. While my daughter eats anything and everything (olives, all fermented foods and drinks, international cuisine) she is definitely the one with the sweet tooth. Like mommy she loves a nice piece of dark chocolate. We have always had 3 meals at regular times and if they are having a growth spurt, a snack late afternoon. I read a long time ago that a diet high in (good) fat (nuts, seeds, avocado, oils) when served at every meal ties you over from one meal to the next and gives the digestive system time to do its proper work. While I think reading this book would be interesting I’m not writing in hopes to read it as I think there are others that could benefit more. I hope that I can help reinforce the French concept and say that it does work there are American (Maine) children that eat, clean, local real food 3 xs per day and don’t live from snack to snack. It takes a little more effort, but it can be done. I believe you’ll find it WILL pay off & you will have helped create a foundation of good health!

  8. My 2.5-year-old is quite picky. She doesn’t like things with multiple ingredients or textures. And, as with most toddlers, she’ll like a food one day and then won’t touch it again for a month.

  9. It seems like my girls could live on fruit and veggies! There was a major battle over nuts yesterday. Watching them eat I always wonder why parents have to fight to get their kids to eat the healthy stuff, because I am always trying to make sure they eat more than just the fruit or veggies, lol.

  10. wow… where do I start. We are a foodie family of 5, but my youngest (3 years old) is one of the pickiest eaters I have ever seen (It baffles everyone I know). we are very healthy eaters, as I insist on all organic food for my family, but I try to make food fun for my kids the best I know how. My 3 year old will only eat 3 main things (specifically)…
    Ham and “yellow” cheddar cheese sandwich on “brown” wheat bread, (MUST be grilled on a panini press and then cut in squares- or he won’t eat it), I even cut it in the shape of dinosaurs once, and he refused it.
    The second is Bell and Evans Chicken Tenders with honey drizzled on top, and the thrid is organic hot dogs. As sides, he will eat grapes, strawberries, vanilla (only) yogurt and pretzals. Every night I fix him a plate of what the rest of our family is eating, but every night, he pushes it away, says “YUCK” and then cries. We have tried denying him food until he eats what we want him to (as the pediatrician urged us to do), but he once went 2 days, and at that point, I had to let him eat. I am the “mean” mom, who says “if you don’t eat what I give you, then you don’t eat dinner,” but my husband gives in and fixes him what he wants every night. I would love to have this book, get my husband to read it, learn some great tips to getting him to eat and all be on the same page. My other two children will eat pretty much everything I put in front of them.

  11. Our 5 year old is pretty good at tasting everything, but he still isn’t a lover of most veggies. He does eat broccoli, but things like zucchini aren’t on his list of favorites. The other night I served broiled slices of zucchini topped with a dollop of chevre cheese and toasted breadcrumbs. He wasn’t crazy about the green part, but he tried it, and he actually really liked the chevre, so I consider that a success nonetheless. Our next project is fish. He loves fish sticks, but fresh fish is a little much for him.

  12. My kids eat everything… they don’t always love it, but they do eat it… they have starting harvesting their own spinach and spinach pies are a particular craze right now. If i could just get their dad to be a little less – ahem picky!!!

  13. My daughter, 22 months, eats pretty well but we repeat meals for her (and us) all too frequently. She has some texture issues with some foods (broccoli) and I have quit offering (terrible, I know). I haven’t stuck to my eating plan for her as much as I originally hoped I would and I think this book would be a great read.

  14. Food is definitely a struggle for my 15 month old! But I keep trying! So far she’s liking hummus.

  15. My girls have an ever-narrowing list of foods they’ll eat. When they were little, they ate all sorts of vegetables and proteins. Now that they are older, it’s pasta (just butter and cheese, no sauce!), mac & cheese, cereal, etc. Ugh ugh ugh.

  16. My boys are 6 and 4 … they are surprisingly adaptive, but I’m never quite certain what new food will be enticing. I’m interested to hear more about “no snacks” – we have a late-afternoon rule that they can serve themselves an apple or carrot whenever they want – but they certainly try to make a convincing case that they must have food now! It seems like everyone is headed to France these days.

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