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.