Do you have any picky eaters in your family? I have to admit something that might make all of you mad at me. I have always believed that kids are taught to be picky. That’s right, it might be driving you crazy that your kids won’t eat anything green or that looks like a vegetable, but you have trained them to be that way. Every time I have shared this theory over years and years, people just look at me like I’m crazy. They are feeding their kids the same way that everyone else in this country feeds their kids, for goodness sake, and they are doing their best! Of course they wouldn’t teach their kids to be picky, that’s absurd!
I am so, so very glad I found this book! The book is 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 by Karen Le Billon. She takes the theories I have been talking about for years, wraps them up in entertaining stories and expertly describes exactly why and how we turn our kids into picky eaters, and how to turn them into happy eaters instead. Brilliant!
She has 10 “French Food Rules” that are listed on the back of the book. She goes into more detail about each one, of course, but so that I don’t make this post too gigantic, I’m just going to touch on each one briefly.
- Parents are in charge of food education. We teach our kids to use the potty, to ride a bike, and a gigantic list of other things as they grow up. So why do we just give up when it comes to food? Kids are more likely to grow up into healthy adults when they are started on healthy habits young. Pickiness is a phase every kid goes through, we don’t have to give in and it will pass.
- Avoid emotional eating. This means no using food as bribes, rewards, or punishments. This is probably one of the hardest ones for us, bribing is just so easy!
- Parents schedule meals and menus, kids eat what adults eat, no short order cooking! Yesss!!!!!! I love this rule, it has been hard and fast in our house for years. I’ve heard of families who say that if you don’t like what is being served, you can make yourself a sandwich or have a bowl of cereal. Of course your kid is going to be picky! As a general rule, kids start out not very adventurous about trying new foods and would gladly have cereal every meal if you let them. So why are you letting them? Why not teach them the correct way to eat instead? For the scheduling meals and menus, my kids know we will eat at breakfast at 7:30 am, lunch right at noon, snack at 3:00 pm and dinner at 6:00. We do let our kids give their ideas when we are planning the menu, and they always are so happy (and much more likely to eat!) when it’s the day to eat their meal.
- Eat family meals together, no distractions: This is a hard and fast rule here, too. Everyone sits at the table at the same time, all screens off, and we connect as we talk about our day. This is probably my favorite time of the entire day!
- Eat your veggies: Serve lots of different kinds of veggies, and the adults should be eating them, too! My kids are very used to seeing a salad on the table with most meals, and they are very used to seeing other green things and different veggies on their plates. They may not always eat them, but I like that they are used to seeing them.
- You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it: Taste buds change over time. Marquis thought he hated mustard for years and years. One day I finally talked him into trying a fancy, high quality mustard. Guess who now adores mustard?
- No snacking. It’s ok to to feel hungry between meals! This is another rule that makes me want to stand up and cheer. How is it that people can be so baffled when their kids won’t eat dinner, when they have been feeding them goldfish crackers all day? As a kid, if you are presented with food you aren’t sure about, and you know you’ll get more food in an hour if you ask for a snack, why in the world would you try something new? I love the second part of this, that it’s ok to feel hungry between meals. Some people have been astounded when I tell them that if my girls won’t eat their food, they just get to be hungry until the next scheduled food time. I am nearly treated like I’m being abusive by not providing them with their preferred meal. On the contrary, my job is not to be a waitress or short order cook, it is to feed them. I will always provide them with nourishing food, and if they chose not to eat it then they will learn a lesson about being hungry. They won’t starve to death after missing one meal or snack, or even two! If they get hungry enough, they will eat. I did mention above that we have one snack at 3:00 each afternoon. She talks about this in the book, too, just go read it to see why this is ok.
- Slow food is happy food: In other words, eat slowly. I have talked about this in great detail here, and I think we should teach our kids the same concepts.
- Eat mostly real food: I think I already say enough about this all over this whole blog. If it is healthy for us, it’s healthy for the kids, and vice versa. The end, amen.
- Remember eating is joyful: I think this rule goes right along with rule #8, so I’m not going to add anything here.
I can’t express how much I just adore this book. I initially jumped on the Real Food train because I wanted to lose weight, but I’m still riding because of the incredible benefits I see not just in me, but also in my husband and kids. This book is just another fabulous tool to help your whole family make the switch over to Real Food, and most importantly, to enjoy that process.
(One quick little disclaimer. There will always be the exception to the rule, the child with disabilities or other special medical or other food challenges. As the parent, again, this is your job. Feel free to tell me and Ms. Le Billon to stuff it and keep doing what you know is best for your child. Disclaimer over.)