As I hinted in my previous post, I started reading a great book called French Kids Eat Everything and Yours Can Too. It is the story of a Canadian woman, Karen Le Billon who moved her young family to her husband’s hometown in northern France for a year. I am predisposed to like this book as it is about so many things that I love- children, travel, food and parenting. If you have young kids, it’s really about children and nutrition and I think you will enjoy it too.
Apparently it is true, I checked with my French friends – French kids do eat everything. French kids are expected to eat everything, sit at the table, be extremely well behaved for long periods of time and not complain. To some, this sounds like a passage from a fantasy book. It’s not! Karen chronicles how her life with two young daughters transformed from food fights, fishy crackers and fries to happy meal-times with the girls enjoying beets, mussels and even spinach.
Since France has one of the lowest rates of childhood obesity in the developed world, this lends them credibility in their approach to children and nutrition. How do the French do it? Here’s a brief summary of the rules that French parents use to teach their kids to be healthy eaters.
Rule # 1
Rule #1 is about food education and how it is our job as parents to educate our children. French parents think that North American parents cram schedules too full and spend too little time teaching our kids how to shop, prepare, cook and eat healthy food.
Rule #2 warns about emotional eating. I’m not just referring to eating a tub of ice cream on a bad day, but using food as a pacifier, bribe, past-time, distraction, toy, reward or a substitute for discipline.
Rule #3 puts an end to short order cooking. Kids eat what parents eat. Research tells us that kids sometimes have to experience a food seven or more times before they are willing to try it. This means that you can prepare foods your kids don’t like and eventually, they will try it and eventually, they may like it. If they don’t like it, you calmly take it away with no reaction and try again on another day. Try having a ‘sniff, lick, nibble’ rule.
Rule #4 is to eat meals together without distractions from the phone, TV, computer, ipad etc. Use mealtimes as a time to catch up with everyone about their day. Try to have family conversations that everyone can participate in.
Rule #5 is one we hear often, eat your vegetables. To encourage your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, you can let them choose them in the grocery store, get them to help prepare them, grow them in the garden and most importantly, enjoy them yourselves.
Rule #6, the no snacking rule is a hard one to follow in our society. Do your best to be aware of how many snacks your kids have and be conscious of snacking right before and after meals.
I love rule #9 – eat mostly real food. Enough said really. Don’t buy into fake processed foods…most of the time.
And finally, Rule #10 – eating is joyful. Karen learns the hard way how to make healthy changes. Through trial and error, she is able to teach her kids how to be healthy and happy eaters while avoiding meal-time battles, power struggles and without forcing them to eat.
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