Book review: 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

I’ve been making more time for myself again by doing some reading. I don’t know about everyone else, but in my house we have 2 picky eaters. One of them is a child, one is my husband (insert knowing look or chuckle here). Colin, my oldest is certainly a blessing with how he will eat, or at least try everything. Crab legs are a new favorite of his, and he loves hummus and carrots for snack. He is  my dream eater! Alex, on the other hand, not so much. He would survive off: chicken nuggets, yogurt, strawberries, broccoli, and goldfish. Bonus point for strawberries and broccoli yes? However, he will boycott eating whatever he does not like on the table. He does not care if he gets sent to bed without dinner, as he knows breakfast will greet him soon enough. Eli, oh lord, MAJOR picky eater. On his list of not happening: chunky tomatoes, onion (chunks), peppers (I’m Italian so this is driving me nuts!), any other vegetable, all fruits except perhaps apples and watermelon, and anything healthy (quinoa, other grains, etc). This has always been a major problem. I was raised in a house of 2 options: you eat what you got, or you get nothing. It worked out GREAT! I spent many an evening at the table, long after everyone left with my food. However, I ended up eating it and got over it. I tried multiple different foods, and my parents preferred for us not to order off of children’s menu’s when we went out. In need of some fresh perspective I came upon this book:

bookThe author: Karen Le Billon was living in Vancouver with her family. Having married a rustic frenchman, she found herself under constant scrutiny by his family. Her children were picky eaters. To top it off their manners weren’t so hot either. Since both her and her husband had the opportunity to move to her husbands village, they took the chance. Karen wanted her children to have the experience of French living, and to see how it would benefit her family.

The first thing she found out was, the villages did not have grocery markets. Here of course, I have 4 major grocery stores within a 5 miles radius. As ridiculous as it is, its also super convenient. Karen had to train herself to go to the village market (which is comparable to our farmer’s markets) and stand in line to shop for the freshest food. Unfortunately, the villagers did not take so kindly to a foreigner living in their village. Her husband of course was accepted having been from there, but her, not so much. Throughout the book, I found this to be the major problem of the author. No matter what she did, or how much she accomplished culinary wise, she was never truly accepted by the village. She was seen as too Western. By the end of the book, although Karen had made leaps and bounds with her children, the isolation of the village and people sent them back to Vancouver.  So France’s rulers work, but their people leave something to desire.

There were multiple rules that were listed in the book, and while interesting, I don’t think I would apply them all. To get the children used to a new vegetable she would give them the puree, then graduate to soup. Call me stubborn, but I still think its whatever is on your plate is what you get. The biggest rule, that stuck out to me was how French children don’t snack. American’s snack, we are told now to have 6 small meals a day. Alex gets 2 snacks at school, Colin gets a morning snack. If I get hungry, I’m bound to munch on something at home, and same goes for Eli. Well, the French don’t believe in this. They find snacks ruin your appetite, and are not necessary. I did experiment with this, and they’re absolutely 100% correct. On the weekends, I would give the kids no snacks, and they ate ALL their main meals. During the week I did not give a snack if it was a late pick up (4pm), and low and behold, they ate more of their dinner. Hungry bellies are more apt to eat their meals. I don’t see it as torture or punishment, because instead of giving some goldfish, or a cheese stick, they waited til dinner and had a fully rounded meal. Alex actually ate dinner, and didn’t complain as much. Why, because he knew he wasn’t getting anything else, and he already didn’t have snack. Did he really want to risk being THAT hungry?

The other important rule in our family was slowing down. Granted, we could slow down to French standards. According to the book, their meals would be sometimes 2 hours long. YIKES! Now if it was a dinner party, or holiday this wouldn’t be a problem, but a weekday? No way! We did however, make sure we ate all of our dinners together, at the table. We slowed down and made sure no one rushed, and discussed their day. It was wonderful to hear the jokes, stories, and woes of the day. It gave more insight to our kids lives, and they fully enjoyed the extra attention. So, yes we will definitely keep to slowing down. Even though Eli isn’t home for every meal, its important for the kids to have the normalcy.

The rest of the book is certainly a good read. There are triumphs, and moments where you really feel for the author. At the end, as I stated earlier, they move back to Vancouver. Once there, they find out how its almost impossible to keep to the French rules in North America. We are used to the hustle and bustle. Of course her kids wanted snack at school when all the other kids had them. However, she also found out there was something to be said for the freshness of the village market. I would almost call this book Under the Tuscan Sun with children. I definitely recommend it and if anyone has tips for picky eaters I’d LOVE the advice!

One thought on “Book review: 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

  1. Sasha says:

    What an interesting book!! I really need to start trying the no snacking thing. I know it is probably the biggest contributor to my kids not eating the main meals!


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