I’ve read Karen Le Billon’s French Kids Eat Everything cover to cover. While my daughter is not a picky eater, we still do not live in a country like France. In our household we have snacks here and there and we certainly repeat dinners from time to time. When Karen and her husband moved to France for a year with their two daughters they were faced with a difficult situation: how to adjust their children to French eating habits. It sounds like Karen’s children were picky eaters to begin with so forcing them to assimilate to a new culture and cuisine overnight was no easy challenge. Her book deftly chronicles their year in France and how she discovered 10 simple rules for raising healthy, happy eaters. They are not actually written rules in France, but more like the general unspoken rules of the culture.
Of course, discovering the rules was one thing, but enforcing them was another. Karen discloses all of their experiences from the difficult to the hilarious in how she taught her two children to love food and eat like the French. After all, if French kids happily eat everything on their plate and don’t believe in picky eating, why shouldn’t ours? Here are 10 simple rules gleaned by Karen Le Billon for how to teach your children to eat like a French kid. (They are in no particular order):
Rule #1: Parents are in charge of food education 1 of 11From the moment you begin introducing your baby to new foods you are in charge of food education. Start simply with easy sauces in a variety of colors and tell them about how you made it and where the food comes from. They will pick up on all the interesting flavors and it will begin a lifelong love of learning about food.
Try these 25 homemade baby food recipes
Rule #2: No Emotional Eating, Food Rewards or Bribes 2 of 11Children should learn that food is not a reward for good behavior. By keeping food separate from emotions kids can eat it without underlying tensions. For example, make these brownies because you are excited for a great dessert, NOT because you want to reward your child for cleaning his/her room. If you want to use these to bribe the teacher, however, that is up to you!
Make nutty coconut caramel brownies
Rule #3: Parents schedule meals and menus 3 of 11
Rule #3: Parents schedule meals and menus 4 of 11Parents remain the authority when it comes to food. Schedule meals and menus and hold firm. Kids should know that parents set the meals and they can adapt to them. Maintain this consistently and during holidays.
For example, here is a great menu for the 4th of July. Tell the kids that is what will be served, no questions asked!
Rule #4: Eat Family Meals Together 5 of 11Turn off all technology and eat family meals together. Kids will learn that food is a reason to come together and enjoy each other. Recent studies have also shown that children stay healthier and slimmer when they eat with their families.
Here are 6 easy tips for making family dinner work
Rule #5: Eat your Veggies 6 of 11Children should be introduced to a wide variety of veggies early and often. Have fun introducing them to vegetables by presenting them in a wide variety of dishes, like these amazing pizzas, salads, and in platters of roast vegetables. These pizzas are a particular favorite because they can be made in individual portions and kids can have fun creating their own flavors.
Make farm to table pizzas
Rule #6: You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it 7 of 11Breaking kids of picky eating habits can be tough. One of the popular refrains in France is that kids don't have love everything they eat, but they do have to taste it at least once.
Here are 8 dishes that can be effective in breaking picky eaters and perfectly fit the "just try it" rule
Rule #7: No Snacking 8 of 11French kids don't snack. It is OK to let children feel hungry between meals, this way they come to look forward to meal time and will easily eat a full plate of food when it is presented to them.
Here are ways you can enforce the no snacking rule
Rule #8: Slow food is happy food 9 of 11It is unrealistic that you'll be able to whip up healthy, easy meals in an instant. Try to make delicious, slow-food meals and get used to cooking this way. Slow food meals are made with unprocessed ingredients and are very healthy.
Here are 12 slow food meals for under $5 each
Rule #9: Eat Mostly Real Food 10 of 11Real food doesn't have to take forever to make. By cooking with mostly real foods your child will come to understand and appreciate the flavor of food as nature intended. For example, this frittata is made with unprocessed, natural foods, doesn't take long to cook, and is perfect for spring!
Make an asparagus frittata
Rule #10: Remember that food is joyful 11 of 11If you are excited to feed them kids will easily see how highly you regard food and will begin to look forward to family meals as well. Meal time should be regarded as a fun, joyful time.
I love this post that shows how excited a new mom is to introduce her baby to solids. That is the perfect attitude to embrace!
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