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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 Hardcover – April 3, 2012
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“It takes a brave couple to move two picky–eater kids into a French small town and convert them to foodie omnivores. We have much to learn from European food traditions, and the contrast between French and North American school lunches is a striking example. A must–read for teachers and parents.” (Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of What to Eat)
“Humorous as well as instructive, this culinary adventure will change the lives of parents and children alike. . . . Karen Le Billon and her children learn that it’s okay to feel hungry between meals, turn to mindful eating, and learn the importance of enjoying one’s food.” (Patricia Wells, author of The Provence Cookbook)
“This book is not only about how to teach children (and yourself) to eat well and happily for life, it’s a book about how to help build and maintain the foundations of any civilized society. I loved it. Essential reading, whether you have children or not.” (Laura Calder, author of Dinner Chez Moi and host of French Food at Home)
“A wonderful—and important—book. One family’s topsy-turvy culinary transformation becomes an in-depth exploration of the habits that have kept French kids loving food (and eating spinach) for centuries.” (Elizabeth Bard, author of Lunch in Paris)
“A fascinating and valuable read.” (Lynne Rossetto Kasper)
“A breezy but practical volume for hurried parents looking to keep their kids well-fed. . . . [The] tone is straightforward, generous, and gentle. That Le Billon concludes with a small collection of kid-friendly recipes makes this foodie manifesto all the more accessible.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Le Billon . . . strategically identified questions she faced while living abroad: Why were French kids tidier eaters? Why did they sit quietly at restaurants? Why did her daughter’s teacher suggest she see a therapist when she wanted to pack her school lunch?” (BonAppetit.com)
“Portrays the stark contrast between French foodways— valuing communal meals, diverse foods and good taste— and Americans’ round-the-clock snacking and narrow, market-driven tastes…We now have the occasional course that lets us glimpse the soul nourishment that marks the French approach to food.” (Portland Press Herald)
From the Back Cover
Moving her young family to her husband's hometown in northern France, Karen Le Billon is prepared for some cultural adjustment but is surprised by the food education she and her family (at first unwillingly) receive. In contrast to her daughters, French children feed themselves neatly and happily—eating everything from beets to broccoli, salad to spinach, mussels to muesli. The family's food habits soon come under scrutiny, as Karen is lectured for slipping her fussing toddler a snack—"a recipe for obesity!"—and forbidden from packing her older daughter a lunch in lieu of the elaborate school meal.
The family soon begins to see the wisdom in the "food rules" that help the French foster healthy eating habits and good manners—from the rigid "no snacking" rule to commonsense food routines that we used to share but have somehow forgotten. Soon, the family cures picky eating and learns to love trying new foods. But the real challenge comes when they move back to North America—where their commitment to "eating French" is put to the test. The result is a family food revolution with surprising but happy results—which suggest we need to dramatically rethink the way we feed children, at home and at school.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!