I and my wife had a problem with our kids’ eating habits. We did not know how to make them eat certain vegetables. My son Safwan, who is generally very cooperative, has started hating some vegetables. We thought that it was natural and that he would get over it. We did not want to force him. However, the number of vegetables on his aversion-list was growing and the aversion was also growing stronger. On the days when my wife cooked items that my children liked, they ate quickly and happily. On most other days, the eating sessions were taking too much time and we were starting to lose patience and sometimes had to force them to eat. We were concerned that our kids start to prefer only junk foods – french fries, ketchup, etc. That is when I came across this book – French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon and it solved all the problems that we had with our kids’ eating habits and it also ended up changing our entire outlook on food.
The book presents the principles of French way of eating in a novel-like style. The author describes her move to France and the problems they had in settling down and adapting to the new culture. The author also talks about the embarrassments she had to face due to her kids’ eating habits in front of her mother-in-law. Then, she goes on to document her attempts to adopt to the French way of eating. The format of the book makes it quite easy to read. Rather than listing a set of rules, the author has weaved the entire set of principles into a nice story format which makes it quite nice to read.
I appreciated many of the ideas listed in the book. After I finished the book, I discussed some of the key ideas with my wife and we started implementing the ideas gradually. In about 2-3 weeks, we were able to get into an ideal state. The kids do not fuss about food any more, eating sessions are a lot more fun and we all eat deserts in every meal.
Before I read this book, whenever I see people taking desserts at lunch time, especially my French colleagues, I used to think that they don’t have much control and that they are indulging. Only when I read the book, I appreciated why my French colleagues take desserts for lunch. Also, I have noticed that my French colleagues never take snacks and they politely decline to take anything when we go for coffee breaks during the day. After I read the book, I understood why.
After reading the book, my entire outlook on deserts has changed. I realize that having a little of desserts/ice-creams on a daily basis takes away the temptation towards these foods. So, you don’t end up eating a lot of them when you visit a dinner party. My mood is also much better – I am not sure whether it has to do with eating desserts or not eating snacks.
It has been 6 weeks since we implemented the strategies in the book. I eat deserts in every meal, but to my surprise, I have lost weight. I used to feel addicted to coffee. I have tried many times in the past to control the number of coffees to 2. After a few days of success, I revert back to 4 or 5 coffees per day on a particularly stressful day at work. After I started on this program, somehow, I don’t have the same desire for coffees any more. I do drink 2 or 3 coffees now – but I am not addicted to it any more.
Here are the key ideas on the French approach to eating
- Eat only at mealtimes – that means no snacks. Adults eat 3 meals a day and kids get an extra evening-snack called ‘gouter’ about 2 or 3 hours before dinner.
- Have 3 or 4 courses in your meal – apart from main course, have vegetables/salad, cheese and deserts. Minimize the portion of each but do have the variety in every meal.
- It is OK to feel hungry between meals. In fact, the French sees this hunger as a positive thing. For me, this was a very different perspective. Whenever my kids felt hungry, I felt that I had to immediately satisfy their hunger. So, whenever we travel, we always carried snacks and at home, we had a lot of snacks. No, we abolished the snacks completely and we travel light as we don’t have to carry snacks anymore.
- Never allow your kids to eat just before a meal time. This means that the kids come to the dinner table hungry and they actually end up eating without much fuss.
- If the kids do not like some food, remove the food without making too much fuss. But don’t give them any alternatives – they have to wait till the next meal time to get their food. The first time we did it on one of our children, it was very difficult on us, but it really worked – the fussing immediately came down.
- Allow the kids to get involved in preparing the meal. This makes them more receptive to trying new things.
- Looks are as important as taste – try to present your food in an appealing way. Try to get the kids excited about the food.
- Most importantly, have a dessert in every meal. My son and daughter get involved in baking muffins with my wife. My wife has learnt to do a lot of desserts at home. We all look forward to eating the deserts together. So, we end up having lot of fun.
Whether you have kids or not, I suggest that you pick up the book and read it. It will be a quick read and it might end up changing your entire lifestyle.
On a lighter note, not all French children eat everything. In fact, one of my French colleagues does not eat any seafood – so, don’t take the title too literally :).
- The blog of this book’s author
- Why French Parents Are Superior (in One Way) (parenting.blogs.nytimes.com)
Tagged: Book Review