Caught a programme this morning that featured a piece about how French kids eat everything and how it's done. I am always interested in reading/seeing new ways with nutrition and food in general but as I have a small child who is not fussy per se but treats food with suspicion and has to pick it up, grimace, put the tip of her tongue on the new food then decide whether she will actually try it or not. Her tried and tested favourites always go straight down the hatch but I really want her to expand her tastes more.
So when I saw the book French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon which documents how she "moved to France and cured picky eating and banned snacking and discovered 10 simple rules to raising happy, healthy children", I was intrigued to hear more.
From the overview I understand where she is coming from. The French don't start their babies off with bland rice cereal (which can bung a baby up nicely!) but soups and pureed vegetables. An Italian friend of mine did just this with her 2 children, starting them both off with minestrone soup and I have to say I started TC on a similar path so she is well used to some vegetables. But where this book differs is that she advocates vegetables that I would never have thought of for a baby like chicory. It's all about educating their palates so that when they get to that picky eating phase (where we are now) they won't stay as picky for as long, basically because you've introduced such a great variety for them to taste, the pickiness won't become a habit e.g. refusing everything new and untested!
The French apparently reduce the pressure on their children so there is no anxiety over eating - they tell their children that they will need to taste things 7 or 8 times to teach their palate to like them.
There is an emphasis on soups in general, which we love to make here at MLM towers, and combining certain combinations e.g. spinach and courgette to make them more palatable to the child. Also, quick and easy to put together recipes with 4 ingredients (the simpler cooking is the better for me) combining the right tastes in the right ways.
French babies also do not snack, we don't have a morning snack but do have a small afternoon one (mainly to help the boredom factor if we are at the checkout, etc). I see friends children constantly asking for crisps and sweets - so far TC hasn't shown any interest I think because its not available at our house, she'd probably do her taste test on a crisp and aim it across the room just like the other stuff she won't eat! The non-snacking means they will be more hungry at the dinner table (we all knew that one). I am a snacker and can be an emotional eater too so I'll be trying to follow the French way too of no rewards (for when I've had a trying day!), no bribes, food should never be a distraction (done that too!). The French also like their children to taste everything on the plate, whether they eat it all or not, this I believe in too, my palate certainly expanded in my early adulthood, better still if achieved in childhood.
She spoke about the French school restaurants, the children don't bring in packed lunches but dine on 3 to 4 hot lunch courses with gourmet foods like mussels, fish, vegetables, etc. I think I may go back to school in France from the sound of this. About 10 years ago the French Government, schools & parents realised they had to do something about child nutrition, banning fast food and vending machines in schools, they tightened up regulations on school lunches and introduced taste training into the school cirriculum! Jaime Oliver would be ecstatic if our schools here were doing the same, maybe some are, it has been a while since I got to sample school dinners.
Karen Le Billon doesn't seem to be saying that we should all eat exactly like the French. But some aspects of their approach to children's food might be useful for us to adapt into our way of eating. It seems it's all about helping the child to be a more adventurous eater. Food for thought....
I have ordered the book from The Book Depository where they also have an extra 10% off until 14th May (plus free p&p) with the code APMA12. We will definitely be trying it out with TC, the recipes sound very interesting, I think she can only benefit from it, time will tell and I will be charting our course.