Book Review: French Kids Eat Everything

French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy EatersFrench 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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I’m into French Parenting books. As a reformed picky eater, I’m fascinated by the topic of food and kids. Frances still has two months before she tries her first bite, and I still can’t help but read all about it!

In French Kids Eat Everything, Le Billon and her French husband decide to leave Vancouver, B.C. and take their two young daughters to spend a year in the village where he grew up. They found that it was impossible to fit in to their new home without adopting French eating habits, so that’s how the story begins.

Once again, I was drooling over the menus fed to even the youngest children at the state run daycare. The emphasis of each meal is to socialize, try new foods, savor each flavor and learn proper table etiquette. Since the French eat so slowly, and all the food is delicious and nutritious, obesity rates are 3% in children (versus 20% in the US).

One thing I liked about French Kids Eat Everything is that the lessons are good for adults too. When Le Billon talks about the pervasiveness of snacking in North America, I had to take a hard look at my own habits. I never used to be such a snacker, but I fell into a routine of “6 small meals a day” and too many of those “meals” are sweet and not savory. I think the biggest problem with the small meals is that I never feel satiated, which leads to more snacking. If I go out for breakfast or lunch I’ve noticed that I don’t snack as much later in the day, probably because I eat more than I would for that meal at home. I think it’s time for me to start eating more food, less frequently.

At the end of the book, Le Billon and her family move back to Vancouver and realize how French she and her daughters became. The saddest part of the book was when her older daughter came home from elementary school crying because she couldn’t possibly savor her lunch in the 10 minutes allowed at school.

Like Le Billon, I realize that I’m ultimately American in my cooking habits. I might use fresh ingredients and French recipes, but I also have a freezer full of frozen meals. I often cook a double batch so I can freeze half, which seems to be the opposite of what the French do. I also won’t turn up my nose at food offered to me, just because it’s not “meal time”. To my American sensibilities, that’s just rude.

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  1. This is a great book review! I wish I could just up and move to France for a couple of years. Until then I guess I’ll live vicariously through reading books like French Kids Eat Everything.

  2. I liked French Kids Eat Everything so much that I bought myself a copy after I read the one I borrowed from the library. This author had a lot of good useful and doable tips about feeding children well. Teaching children to expect variety in their food has done wonders at our house, as well as little to no snacking has led to better eating of the meals I serve. Trying just a taste with absolutely no pressure or “encouragement” to eat more than that has turned our 3.5 year old into a sampling machine. I found it to be a very good read and quite usable in real life.

  3. Gina, I feel the same way. I guess I’ll just have to bring a little French living into my American home for now!

    Joy, I’m going to buy my own copy too. I was about to start photocopying the tips and recipes at the end, but there are just too many pages I want to have on hand. I hope I’m able to stick a no pressure approach at my table, and avoid using food as a reward/punishment. It’s just so tempting!

  4. I’ve always questioned that advice to eat six small meals a day. That means each meal (for my caloric needs) would be under 300 calories. You’re right–that’s not enough to feel satisfied! I have also found that I eat a lot better if I eat bigger meals, less frequently.

  5. Rebecca, I’m having a lot more fun eating more at each meal than I ever did with the small ones. Plus, the bigger meals are more well-rounded, I’m not spending so much time preparing food and I’m eating less processed food.

  6. Years ago we visited my husband’s cousin in France and were included in several meals that were part of their family’s routine. I noticed several things that have stuck with me: the family (with several children) sat down at the table together for their meals, uncomplicated tasty fresh dishes were served, portions were surprisingly small to our American eyes, and second helpings were neither expected or offered. Merci la France!

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