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10 Ways To Teach Your Child to Eat Like a French Kid

By Kelsey Banfield |

Asparagus Frittata

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):

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10 Ways To Teach Your Child to Eat Like a French Kid

Rule #1: Parents are in charge of food education

From 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

Photo: Julie VR

Some more interesting posts:

8 Fun & Effective Ways to Introduce New Foods to Picky Eaters

10 Easy French Recipes Everyone Should Know


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About Kelsey Banfield

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Kelsey Banfield

Kelsey Banfield is the food writer and the founder of The Naptime Chef. She writes a daily food column for Babble Food and her food writing has also appeared in the places like Parents magazine, and Martha Stewart Living. Kelsey lives in southern Connecticut with her husband and daughter. Read bio and latest posts → Read Kelsey's latest posts →

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9 thoughts on “10 Ways To Teach Your Child to Eat Like a French Kid

  1. Rosana says:

    Just cook and serve the food. They will eat if they are hungry. My son started crying last week when I served him vegetable soup. I made a quesadilla and split it for him and my daughter because I did not have time to make biscuits. I guess he thought that it was going to be Mexican food for dinner until he saw his bowl of soup. He said he wanted another quesadilla and I told him that I will gladly make him one after he ate his soup. He finished all his soup and got another small quesadilla. We are not French but I am not a short order cook either.

  2. Yeya says:

    I guess my Mom is MExican-French because for all that I know we have been living by these rules all of my life (for what I can remember). I’m following my mom’s example … we are from Mexico :) Eating with your family, making time for them and setting a good example.

  3. Janet says:

    I have a picky eater. And while I would love to follow all these “rules”, I know it will be a struggle. She is only 3, so I’m figuring it’s a stage she’s going through because she used to eat alot more variety. I try to introduce new things but I also keep to things I know she will eat. I don’t have much time during the week to prepare dinner since I have a long commute, so I look for meals that can be made ahead, frozen and heated quickly for dinner. It’s just an added challenge. I’m hoping as she gets older she will get better about eating more food.

  4. Nadia says:

    These all seem like common sense to me… I try to avoid snacks but sometimes they just won’t eat breakfast OR lunch. In which case a fruit/veggie hits the table. Mind you I do bribe with freezies or a candy more often than I’d like.
    But as far as our meals go we don’t really eat anything that comes out of cans or is prefabricated, we get some pizza or happy meals as a treat now and then because who doesn’t love a treat?
    Our day to day meals contain whole, real foods it really doesn’t have to take a long time to make real/healthy food and it really doesn’t. I do a lot of “would you like this or that for dinner” with my 4 year old. She gets a choice in what she’d like to eat but the choices she’s given are along the lines of “chicken or fish” or “rice or potatoes”. Sometimes she surprises us with things like “no, I’d just like some pasta” which I’m happy to make.
    We also do everything we can to encourage our kids to help prepare our meals as well. All that being said, though, I’m totally not above making the occasional bologna sandwich when she’s feeling particularly picky about “no I don’t want dinner” The younger one eats everything. LOL.

  5. Amanda says:

    My kids eat a good variety. When I make something new, sometimes they drag their feet but they know that that’s dinner. The biggest thing is don’t cope out and say that they only eat such and such (like chicken nuggets! blech!) Kids will eat what you, the adult, feeds them!

    The snacking thing I am still working on with the kids! I do try to have small healthy snacks at least, like an apple.

  6. Cynthia says:

    And then you get kids like mine who simply would refuse to eat anything and when their Dr starts asking you why they are losing weight and implying that DUR may need to get involved if they don’t start gaining weight soon. So Mmm, yea you go ahead and try that. Good luck!

  7. WildernessBarbie says:

    I doubt there is any child who willingly starved themselves to death because they couldn’t have junk food if there was healthy, quality food available to them. My daughter deciding that she only wants to eat certain foods, especially unhealthy ones, is simply not an option. My stubbornness is stronger than hers, always.

  8. Kristen Yarker, RD says:

    I’ve been supporting parents to transform their picky eaters into food-confident kids for years. I’m not French but a number of Karen’s rules are exactly what I teach parents. Namely: eating is joyful – relax; parents schedule meals and snacks; eat family meals together;and, avoid emotional eating. I also agree that constant feeding contributes to picky eating because feeling hungry helps motivate picky eaters to try new foods. However, I teach feeding kids, particularly toddlers and preschoolers, 5 to 6 times a day – not the 4 times that Karen speaks about.
    Kristen Yarker, RD
    http://www.vitaminkconsulting.com

  9. Kelli says:

    @WildernessBarbie when my sister was around 4 years old, she began refusing to eat. She wouldn’t eat anything. It got to a point where she was consuming a total of half an ounce daily…including drinks. My mom took her to the doctor many times because she could not get her to eat. The doctor had her trying different things to get her to eat and none of them worked. She had one try left before my sister would be admitted to the hospital and a feeding tube inserted into her stomach because she was losing so much weight. My mom had to hold my sister down and force food and water down her throat. Eventually she got to where she would eat a little bit without having to be forced and now she eats fine. Don’t just automatically assume that a child will not starve themselves to death because it can happen. My sister almost willingly starved to death at just 4 years old. She may be stubborn, but I guarantee you, if you were put in that situation, you would not know what to do and you would feel helpless and possibly give in to the childs demands.

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