Nutrition and Prevention

10 great takeaways (the “French Food Rules”) from the book French Kids Eat Everything:

I love this book review and the 10 tips for teaching kids to eat healthy food.  You can read the original post at: On Hundred Days of Real Food 

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10 great takeaways (the “French Food Rules”) from the book French Kids Eat Everything:

  1. Parents: You are in charge of your children’s food education.

    Apparently the French think us Americans cram our schedules so full with activities (like sports, art, music, dance, etc.) that it leaves little time to teach our children “some of the most basic, important things they need to know, like the proper way to prepare, cook, and eat healthy food.” You have to admit it’s hard to argue with that criticism. And I just love the analogy the author uses when she says, “French parents think about healthy eating habits the way we think about toilet training, or reading.” If your child had trouble learning to read or using the potty would you just give up? Same should go for eating a variety of healthy foods…I know, they are right and it stings.
  2. Avoid emotional eating. Food is not a pacifier, a distraction, a toy, a bribe, a reward, or a substitute for discipline.

    I feel like we are so far down this rabbit hole it might be hard to get out, but let’s face it they have a good point here! Food is for nourishment, hunger, and nutrition…not for being a good listener.
  3. Parents schedule meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat: no substitutes and no short-order cooking.

    If this were a reality for everyone it would certainly make life a lot easier!
  4. Food is social. Eat family meals together at the table, with no distractions.

    How
     you eat can be as important as what you eat.
  5. Eat vegetables of all colors of the rainbow. Don’t eat the same main dish more than once per week.

    I agree that variety is extremely important, but I am personally a little stumped when it comes to the second half of this rule. We love leftovers at our house and feel they are such a time saver…but that certainly means eating the same main dish more than once, or in some cases, more than twice per week!
  6. For picky eaters: You don’t have to like it, but you do have totaste it.
    For fussy eaters: You don’t have to like it, but you do have to eatit.

    When considering these statements it’s also VERY important to remember that “you’re not going to convince the kids to love food by being too strict with them. It has to be enjoyable. Not necessarily loads of fun, but simply pleasurable.” This takes us back to that “gentle persistence” I mentioned above.
  7. Limit snacks, ideally one per day (two maximum), and not within one hour of meals.

    Now, I know out of all the rules on this list that “no more constant snacking” will likely cause the most uproar. But according to the author it’s okay to feel hungry in-between meals and guess what…your kids might eat a better dinner if they are actually hungry!
  8. Take your time, for both cooking and eating. Slow food is happy food.

    “North Americans associate food most with health and least with pleasure. The French are at the opposite extreme: they are the most pleasure-oriented and the least health-oriented about food.” And ironically enough “20 percent of kids in the United States are obese, but only 3 percent in France.” Now if that doesn’t send a message, I don’t know what does.
  9. Eat mostly real, homemade food, and save treats for special occasions. (Hint: Anything processed is not “real” food.)

    See…I am not the only one preaching this statement! :) But “so much of what French people eat is, by default, ‘real food‘” so I’d have to say they don’t exactly face the same challenges we do when it comes to encountering junk food on almost every corner. The French do have an admirable approach though when it comes to the processed, junk food their kids may want to eat on occasion. They do not police their children’s food intake (or ban all junk food), but instead attempt to “train their children to eat a balanced diet and to realize how much healthier they feel if they eat mostly ‘real food.’” I’ve always said that if my daughters only avoid processed food “because mommy said so” then it’s not going to get us very far.
  10. (The Golden Rule) Eating is joyful, not stressful. Treat the food rules as habits or routines rather than strict regulations; it’s fine to relax them once in a while.

    I couldn’t agree more with the importance of this rule, but striking the perfect balance between “good nutrition” and “relaxing the rules” is no easy task. And maybe that’s because most American children are faced with processed, junk food on a regular basis (at birthday parties, friend’s houses, church events, soccer practice, school celebrations, etc.). As I mentioned above, our society is (unfortunately) not exactly working together on these issues like they are in France. Regardless though, I agree it is not “healthy” to constantly be stressed out about the food you eat.

In addition to this list of rules there were so many other startling facts and insightful statements that I took away from this book. I wish I could share them all here, but since that’s not a very practical idea I will instead just highly recommend that everyone go out and read the book yourselves! I promise you won’t regret it…not to mention there are a handful of kid-friendly recipes in the back.

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About Kim Martindale

Mother of two, wife of one, home manager, gardener, student of health and wellness, world traveler, nature lover, researcher, Jesus follower, community builder. I'm seeking to become resilient and to live sustainably. I desire to give back and share what I'm learning with others.

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