112 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2012
Our daughter is four, and not a bad eater, but I've noticed that dinner time was increasingly becoming tense time where we cajoled her to eat a certain number of bites, sit properly, all with the bribery of dessert. Since reading Le Billon's book a few weeks ago, we've instituted a strict no snacks rule (which has eliminated pre-dinner carbs), and despite some initial resistance (a temper tantrum about matzah), she's now on board. To reduce whining about snacking, we started role playing.
F: "Can I have a snack?"
F: "Why not?"
me: "Because we're saving our appetite for dinner."
She liked it so much she wanted to repeat it five times. Then we switched parts and she got to be the mommy and say "No!" This makes it a game for her, and also helps her know what to expect.
It's striking to me how much I had imbibed the American snack attitude - that to be a good parent, I must have snacks at all time so my kid doesn't go hungry. It's been empowering, both for myself and as a parent to accept that it's okay to be hungry between meals.
Since we were already eating "French" in that we cook from scratch and eat dinner together every night, the other big change has been the rule that we try everything, and it's been amazing to see what F. will try now that she's really hungry at meal times. I'm no longer making mainly foods that F. will like, but thinking about expanding her palate and knowing that she'll try whatever we make. It's a sea change! We recently had our second child, and I'm looking forward to starting him a la francaise on vegetable purees.
A huge message of your book is if we raise our expectations for what our kids can handle, in eating and social behavior, they will surprise us by meeting the challenge. I wish everyone with young kids could read this book.
218 of 244 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2012
I just finished reading this book and I loved it. I bought this after finishing 'Bringing Up Bebe', and I wanted more tips on how to get my child to enjoy more foods. I also wanted to change my own food habits, so this was perfect for me. I hate how I eat and I hate how the way my family eats has affected their health negatively. I am still young and in good health and I want it to stay that way. I don't enjoy eating and food much, because I like to eat and just move on to the next thing as fast as possible. I now realize that by taking my time to eat and to cook healthy meals, I can de-stress and enjoy my life more. Slowing down to enjoy food and family is just what I needed.
I am sure that a lot of people (especially Americans) will probably not give this book as good a review as it deserves, because there are a couple of parts in the book that pretty much say that everything about the way Americans eat (as well as some other Europeans and Canada) is so very wrong. I am inclined to agree 100%, because if nothing was wrong with how Americans eat then our childhood obesity rate wouldn't be what it is. But I can see how some people might be ready to get all upset about somebody telling them that their eating habits are wrong. So unless you want to and are willing to make a big change in your eating habits for the sake of your child, don't bother reading this book. It is the slap in the face that I needed and what I think America needs, but is too lazy and complacent to accept.
So far my family and I have begun changing our lifestyles, little by little, to follow the 'rules' in the book. It has been amazing. We have had several meals 'the French way' and we have enjoyed them immensely. My daughter is very young (just started solids) so this is the perfect time for me to have read this book. She will never know how bad me and her dad used to eat, and how bad our habits were. I think its great that I will never have to go through a time with her where she will refuse to eat things. Her dad and I are not picky eaters at all and I can't stand to have meals with picky eaters, so we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep her from being like that. The changes we have made so far are small, but we are working slowly towards our goal of eating the way we should at every single meal.
This is a great book if you are looking for a lifestyle change that will help you and your kids eat healthier and lead more enjoyable lives. If you are willing to put forth some minor effort to change and you really try at it, its not that hard. I lead an incredibly busy life and this has actually simplified it a lot! The recipes included are great and the anecdotes are funny. It is a fun book to read. I highlighted and underlined a lot of passages to read again. The rules are simple (not rigid) and easy to apply to everyday life, even if you don't live in France. Any family and any person can follow them super easily.
------ UPDATE ------
I just wanted to update my review now that its been several months since I closed the cover. My daughter is now a a busy toddler and is eating more 'big girl' foods. I wanted to revist this review just to say that this book has definitely made a lasting impression on me, my parenting, and my life. This has helped me so much. Currently my family is very busy and we barely have time to do anything, much less take the time to cook nice dinners, but somehow we have been able to carve out time here and there to use dinner as a time to connect, even if we aren't always able to do that with every single meal. We are still working on a lot of the main principles outlined in the book, since its hard to undo 20 something years of 'bad' eating in a few months or weeks. We are just doing what we can, when we can, and its working for us.
I really appreciate the many anecdotes in the book and the funny stories now that my daughter is a toddler and has learned to say, 'no', and 'I don't want any'. Often when I offer her new foods she shakes her head and dumps it in the floor. And yes, sometimes it is frustrating but eventually she will try a bit after offering her the food several times in different ways. My daughter doesn't like certain textures so we have to work with her on that, and this book has given me the knowledge that she won't always hate sticky foods, its just a phase and eventually with work she'll get over it. I now know that sometimes you have to try something 100 different ways before you like it.
My husband and I have applied this to our own eating habits. He hates squash so I have tried to get him to try it in various dishes in order to test the theories in this book and I do think they work. I have prepared squash for him in almost every possible way, and while he does not like every single dish he does enjoy some of them. Also we have cut out or cut down on a lot of bad eating habits like eating fast food and take away, foods with high fructose corn syrup instead of real sugar, and foods with other nasty chemicals. Now we try to eat as much organic food as possible and as clean as possible.
We also prepare almost everything ourselves so we control how much sodium and sugar is in everything. I make almost all of my daughter's baby food, and we are lucky enough for her to attend a daycare that is very much like a creche in some ways. All the kids eat the same food (unless they are allergic) and the teachers encourage them to try new foods and to take time and enjoy eating. They also encourage table manners and healthy eating. They sing songs and read books about eating healthy foods every day, they have play kitchens where they pretend to make healthy foods. They also give the parents a menu of everything the kids eat so we can keep track of their nutrition too.
My daughter has eaten a ton of things that most toddlers I know would NEVER eat. She does enjoy a bite of pizza or a muffin here and there. And in the future I have no intention of telling her that she can't have a burger or chicken fingers from McDonald's if she wants it. I just don't want her to think that high calorie food the only yummy food. She needs to know that an apple can be just as yummy as a slice of cheesecake and that a refreshing glass of cucumber water can be as delicious as an ice cold Coca-Cola. I was not raised to appreciate that in moderation EVERYTHING can be enjoyable equally. I was raised to think that indulgence was the best way to enjoy food. Now I realize that a small brownie tastes better than a big one because its a special treat instead of an everyday thing.
Obesity can lead to so many health problems like some forms of cancer and heart disease. I don't want that for my daughter. I have seen what these things can do to individuals and families because many of my own family members suffer from these medical issues. It is hard enough when a person is afflicted with a medical problem that they have no control over whatsoever, but to have a medical problem that could have been avoided if you practiced healthy habits its so much worse because it leaves you with regret. Many people don't know that there are alternative ways of living and doing things because they simply do not make the effort to find out. This book and this lifestyle is one of those alternatives for those who are willing to do the work to change.
I'm not judging people who have medical problems due to weight because I love dearly some people who do, and I myself am still struggling to get my pre-pregnancy figure back. I know that being a healthy weight isn't just about eating right and exercising, there is a deep psychological aspect that has to do with how we are raised and how we feel about ourselves. I know that and I want to be sure that I do everything within my power to make sure that my daughter is not affected by some of the negative things that impacted me and my eating habits, most of which were definitely psychological.
I'm not saying this is the only way or the best way to eat or live your life, but it has worked for me and I think it could work for a lot of other people if they were willing to try it.
------ UPDATE ------
For those who are interested, I've started a blog about how I've been using these rules to help my family and myself eat better. Since I read this book I've lost 100% of my pregnancy weight, and I am now 10 pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant, and still losing. My daughter is now 18 months old and eats very, very well.
[...]<- in case this URL doesn't work, its duncanfamilyeats dot blogspot dot com.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2013
This book is a must-have for an American parent. We started out feeding our child homecooked, good meals, eating as a family, and limiting treats and snacks. Somewhere by age 4, she was eating mostly crackers of various types, cheese sticks, and other junk. Worse of all, the family dinner table had become a battleground. She would refuse just about anything except what was familiar and usually processed. It didn't help matters when our own family members, meaning well I'm sure, began filling our pantry with "good" food for her...microwaved processed meals. So long as it said "organic" or was somehow marketed as healthy, it was okay. It really wasn't.
Americans snack constantly. Most of their calories are from junk, "fake" food. Most restaurants are some variant of Fast Food (especially Chili's and Olive Garden types, that cook prepackaged meals passed off as real dishes), and they eat out a LOT! Kids are constantly walking around with some bag of something in their hands. Corporations have caught on and pacify parents with things like "Organic Fruit Rollups". And we have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. Schools especially, even Pre-K, where the kids are fed Animal Crackers as a morning snack and corporate marketing tools are drilled into them.
We tried several books that typically resulted in bribery, punishment, reward, or becoming a line-cook and making separate meals for the kids. It seemed ridiculous because we were eating so much better than our own child. Other parents were of little help, because they all had the same problem with no solutions.
By instituting some of the rules outlined in this book, we've changed our household dramatically. We stopped the fighting. We cooked good meals and started eating together, more slowly, enjoying conversation. We eliminated snacks from our house. We encouraged her to try everything, but didn't force her to eat it (a "taste" was acceptable, it would reappear on her plate some other night). One snack a day, between lunch and dinner, and only fruit/yogurt/cheese/applesauce/etc. Desserts were for special meals and occasions (where it had previously been a reward for choking down a sliver of carrot). If she didn't eat, fine, the plate was taken away when the meal was over and she could wait until her next meal. No snacks! (Very quickly, she finally stormed into the kitchen, took back her plate and happily ate everything she had 20 minutes ago declared "yucky!") We started formal dinners once a week to have fun dressing up the table. She was encouraged to help with the cooking more. Eating is supposed to be FUN and enjoyable!
Finally, we changed ourselves. We took the time in the morning to make meals and eat together, as well as the evening dinner. We stopped letting ourselves get frustrated, because we knew that we weren't starving her (plenty of yummy food was being served), and eventually she would eat when she got hungry and realized that no, a cookie or box of crackers would never be coming.
I recommend this book to every parent.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2014
My wife and I are big foodie type people. For the first year of our sons life, he ate whatever we put in front of him, which included things like: duck risotto, rattlesnake sausage, any veggie, etc. But after about 13 months, he became difficult. It was like a switch that turned off.
About the time he was turning two, we decided that we had enough with his fussiness. He was at the point that he would only eat processed garbage, and only then if it was covered in pesto. Not only that, it got worse in that he would often just lick the pesto off of something and then throw the remaining actual food on the floor! We could not tolerate this behavior and as such, we turned to this book.
I would generalize the central message of this book to the following:
-there needs to be rules regarding meal times, but they are never enforced in anger
-kids are allowed to be hungry...they'll quickly learn that starving themselves is not an option!
-everyone eats the same thing
-try to make meal time an enjoyable experience
-rules are flexible to your family lifestyle
So, we started giving these things a twirl in that we would only serve him what we were eating. Note that it took some consideration on our part as we couldn't just eat anything we wanted anymore. For example, we couldn't have crazy spicy food, or something he wasn't capable of consuming easily (i.e., soup because he wasn't particularly good with the spoon.) Anyway, the first week, he went to be hungry every night. That was hard. Also, we would always end dinner with fruit, which he loved, but we would never give him enough to fill up on. That was hard too, but starting the next week, he got the message, which is "you are no longer in control, and you will only get what we put on your plate." Also, he could no longer bank on snacking.
So, during the second week, he would start tasting stuff. Admittedly, he didn't always eat it, but the point was that he tried it, whereas beforehand, that was impossible. Now, we've realized some extra things that help in our particular situation, and as such, we made some minor adjustments. And while he is not eating perfectly yet (we've only been doing this for almost 4 weeks,) he usually will at least try something before deciding he doesn't like it. And that's also huge!
End result is that our lives are much less stressed. Dinner time was always a battle. That is mostly not the case anymore. First off, we don't need to think "what should we prepare him so that he'll eat?" We just give him what we're eating. That may seem like a small thing to some, but it's actually HUGE! One less thing to worry about!!!! Second, we don't fight with him...and as such, he's become easier going about meal time. Less stress for him, less stress for us. Third, he now sits at the table (we got rid of his high-chair) and he'll actually come to the table on his own when we announce that it's dinner time! Something that warms my heart.
So, while we are still a work in progress (and I reserve the right to update this post later on) he has progressed magnificently. Our only regret is that we didn't read this book earlier.
Best of luck!
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2012
I am undescribably grateful to this woman who shared her horrid inexperience, her blatant errors (which are all mine as well - the crumbs in the car, the nonstop-snacking (even if with us it's mainly fruit and veggies) and the upsetting dinner times.
Being a doctor and nutritionalist gave me extra pain all these years, seeing what I'd love to prevent and feeling helpless against it. And being encouraged to be a picky eater myself throughout my entire childhood (Madame Le Billon, you have no idea how much I recognized my own agony in your fancy dinner/restaurant/first visit at french boyfriends parents home with a fish dish nightmares) I started learning to eat "unusual" stuff myself - and we're only a week into this book. I cannot thank her enough.
My children are coming eagerly to the dinner table or their "gouter" now. They help decorating the table ("habiller la table" - love this) or the plates. They enjoy different textures, smells, tastes, even noises. We have fun popping cherry tomatoes in our mouth and gently biting them until there's a "pop". Or we come close to each others ears and first bite into a grape and then for contrast into a wafer. And do they savor their treats now. In former days we would have gobbled up an entire package of wafers for dessert. Now we fill the plate with seasonal fruit and have one piece per person. They have yet to ask me if they can have some more.
"Jamais entre les repas" is ingenious in its simplicity. Did I mention that I lost weight, although I'm cooking with butter now instead of some yuck fat-spray? Even our children adapted after two days of nagging for some in-between snacking. I kept telling them that they'll look forward their next meal even more.
For "gouter" I even bought that epitome of deliciousness, the perfect baguette, cut it into halves after quartering it lengthwise, put it briefly into the toaster, and then REALLY QUICKLY a dab of butter and two pieces of dark chocolate, press it shut again - and it's true, that chocolate IS molten and heavenly slides down your throat after that crunchy bursting bite into the baguette. My children are having this with a glass of milk, I stick to coffee (which I stopped drinking in-between as well).
Thank you sooooo much. I am deeply grateful!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 27, 2013
I'm a mom of a 2 year old and a foodie and I was crushed when my son began asserting his independence by refusing everything we ate at home. We tried everything we could think of to get him to eat the whole foods and veggies that were already the standard in our household -- reward systems, threats, punishments, bribes, giving him options, you name it. But dinner had turned into something I dreaded. My son would do anything to get down from the table, knock over his drink, feign needing to go to the bathroom, and generally made what used to be my favorite time of day, the worst time of day. Then, I read this book and tried out just a few of the techniques, mainly forcing his daycare to ban all snacks and sending every meal from home. The result was incredible. Last week, he would only eat toast, applesauce, yogurt, and fruit. This week alone, he has tried and finished the following meals: buffalo chicken chili, corn souffle, Moroccan meatballs, scrambled eggs with spinach, pecan artichoke chicken sausage, spaghetti, and broccoli slaw. It's like some kind of miracle. Tonight, he sat down to chili -- which he wouldn't have touched 7 days ago -- put his tiny toddler spoon in the air, and said, "I LOVE TO EAT!" I can't believe it's the same sobbing child who was dragged to the table just a few days ago. I'm not sure this book would work that quickly for everybody, but it sure worked for us. Now we set the table and he uses a linen napkin (which he reminds us nightly "goes in our lap"), listens to music, helps cook, helps grocery shop, and stays through the whole meal without trying to leave once. Thanks to the author for this book, which has changed our household for the better (and, hopefully, for good).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2013
I bought this book when my daughter was an infant, and I'm grateful I read it when I did, because it really made me reconsider my own eating/snacking/cooking habits and I think we got off on the right foot when we started feeding our daughter.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2012
Karen Le Billon, a Canadian, tells an unusually honest story about the problem (she and) her kids had with eating. She doesn't go gaga about her husband's native country when they move there. Acuses his friends of being bourgeois and elitist. Fights with daughter's teacher about her having to eat what the school provides at lunch. But finally realizes the French have it right when it comes to food. Kids eat what grownups eat, no snacking, whole family sits down at table for family bonding, sharing and simple pleasures, and the food is meant to nourish - not to play all sorts of games with. It's a journey in becoming part of another culture and she takes you with her - all the ups and downs, the good and the bad. Well written, intelligent. And we learn it's we adults who have the problem - and the kids learn from us. Great book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2013
Both my husband and I have devoured this book (pardon the pun).
We have always found it challenging to get our 4 children to eat their evening meal and through "French Kids Eat Everything" we have realised that in our case this was to do with excessive snacking during the day.
Thanks to Karen we have changed the way that we talk about food with our children, we have taken control of the meal schedule and menu with positive results.
This book is an easy and engaging read that I could relate to in my day to day life.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Having read the book "Bringing Up Bébé" first, I went into this book with certain expectations. However, this book was quite different from what I expected it to be. While, yes, it is something of a primer on how to expose children to a variety of foods, it's also a fascinating study in the way two cultures collide. Entirely readable, I found myself captivated not just by the author's points as to how she got her children to eat better, I was also fascinated by her depiction of life as an expat living in a very small, French village. This is a truly wonderful read.
I have to start out with the culture clash the author explores in this book, because it exposes some very down-to-earth explanations of why North Americans eat as we do, and why it's often so unfathomable to us that people could eat as the French do. Le Billon exposes some major culture differences between France and North America, not least of which is the fact that, in general, the French tend to treat mealtime as a time to relax and enjoy oneself, whereas North Americans are often in a rush to shovel in whatever they can manage on their way to the next activity. I had a big eureka moment when Le Billon writes about her French friend musing that North Americans seem to treat food as an annoyance. I really think this couldn't be more true. It's a sort of puritanical approach to food: it's a necessary evil, one that should be consumed almost furtively, and that is attended by feelings of guilt, whereas, for the French, food is just food. North Americans tend to have so much emotion tied up in food and eating that it is almost impossible for us to look at food in a sensible, rational way.
This is further complicated by the fact, as Le Billon points out, that far less time is usually allotted for meals in North America. Where the French mandate that their children have a minimum of thirty minutes to eat their lunch, children in North American often have to make do with a fraction of that time. It's a bit hard to chew slowly, pay attention to portion size, and savor every bite when you're pushing a fork in your mouth with one hand while banging away at a computer with another. It's also a key reason why North Americans don't approach family meals the same way French people do. Though health and nutrition are topics of endless talk in North America, we're almost uniformly unwilling to invest the time in preparing meals from scratch and then sitting down to enjoy them with our families. As if the health benefits aren't enough, there are also plenty of studies that show the social benefits incurred when children eat at least one meal a day with their parents or guardians.
Another important point that Le Billon illustrates is that the French have set up a very comprehensive and modern food system, something we do not have in North America, where governments like that in the U.S. have the warped habit of heavily subsidizing the foods that are destroying our health while simultaneously admonishing us to eat the more expensive unsubsidized foods. The French are closer to their food, more aware of where it originates, and they demand quality over quantity, which is pretty much the polar opposite of the way North Americans view food. North Americans also tend to hold the mistaken belief that eating freshly prepared foods is difficult and time-consuming while the French have perfected the art of simple, healthful cooking, and a key part of how they do this is by setting their kids up from an early age with the expectation that food will be freshly prepared and that it will taste good. If you feed your child nothing but McDonalds, it is pretty absurd to expect them to enthusiastically attack spinach.
It's important to note, however, that Le Billon isn't idealizing French society. She's very frank about the unhappiness she sometimes felt when living in France, much of it due to her realization that she will always be viewed as a foreigner. She also doesn't buy all of the French food philosophy, and says so. Instead, what she has done, is take some of the best of both worlds, put it in a blender, and devised a puree that's suitable for North Americans.
I think anyone who is interested in food should read this book. There are many food-related movements currently gaining ground in North America that are gaining momentum, and what they all have in common is the core belief that food can and should be better than it is. Essentially, this is what Le Billon is advocating. She illustrates how it's possible to take a straightforward, down-to-earth position with regard to food. Much like Le Billon, I am also a convert who went from being allergic to the kitchen to evolving to the point of refusing to each much of the industrial food that finds its way onto North American grocery store shelves. Making this change isn't easy, but I found Le Billon's approach to be very sensible and accessible.
Another big plus of this book is that it ends with a handful of very simple, healthful recipes. I intend to give some of them a try, and to serve them to my kids as well. I've been working on my eight-year-old for a while now and, though it's sometimes an uphill battle, I'm proud to say that she has changed some of her own views on food and will now eat a variety of healthy foods--though she still likes processed snacks. Still, I believe what Le Billon believes: teaching my children the basics of good nutrition is a skill that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.