Thursday, November 20, 2014

French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon

This read was inspired by my 6-year old son, Eddie. He is slightly picky. And when I say 'slightly,' I mean 'quite.' And when I say 'quite,' I mean 'ridiculously.' I happened upon this book while shelving at the library and decided it wouldn't hurt to read it. I'll take any help I can get at this point.

French Kids Eat Everything was an interesting read for me. Not only are my kids the same ages as the author's kids at the time that the book is set, but their eating preferences seem to mirror my kids' quite well. Le Billon's eldest daughter would eat mostly pasta with parmesan. My son will eat pasta, bread, and not much else. I always just assumed that he is picky and that it is a personality trait -- nature, not nurture. Then my daughter came along (much like Le Billon's second) and would eat pretty much everything... to a certain point. Now she is 3 and her eating is starting to be influenced by her brother. Clearly, this is not entirely nature at work here.

Since I found the correlations between Le Billon's children and my own to be strangely aligned, I was sucked into this book. Le Billon writes about moving her family to France for a year (which is not feasible for most of us, but since she could telecommute and her husband is French, it was for them). Once there, they work to get settled into French society, which includes eating "the French way." According to Le Billon, the French do not snack, they engrain good eating habits into their children from birth, and they value the time spent preparing and eating delicious and nutritious food.

Le Billon writes about her daughters' struggles to integrate themselves into French society, particularly the food culture. After wasting some energy trying to "protect" her older daughter -- protect her from being hungry all day at school since she wasn't allowed to snack and was required to eat the same lunch as everyone else -- she realized that she was trying to protect her daughter from the wrong things. So she and her husband decided to alter the way their family ate at home to better reflect what their children were being taught in school. This includes things like scheduled meals at specific times of the day, no snacking between meals, introducing new foods as often as possible, and taking the negativity out of eating.

I found many of Le Billon's "food rules" to be insightful and intriguing, even if they are things we've all heard before. I would like to try some of these things in my own home once my work schedule doesn't take me away during dinner time 4 nights each week. I love the idea that kids should eat what the adults eat, with no modifications or substitutions.

So, from my perspective as "frazzled parents to an extremely picky eater," I found this book inspiring and a little guilt-inducing. I realize that I'm to blame (at least partially) for my son's poor eating habits. But Le Billon doesn't just leave the reader with guilt, she empowers parents to make what positive changes they can.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone struggling with a picky eater, or anyone looking for ideas to take the negativity and conflict out of eating with children.

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