There have been quite a few books out recently that speak to the French lifestyle. French Women Don’t get Fat, Bringing up Bébé, and French Kids Eat Everything just to name a few. Honestly, although I’m interested, I haven’t read any of them, but I have lived abroad on and off for the last 7 years and have seen and learned quite a few things from the French. Last time I was here I shared 5 things American can learn from the French because although I am proud to be American, I think there is always room for growth. Today I wanted to share a few things the French do in getting their kids to eat healthy.
Now I am not French, so I can only speak to what I’ve noticed while I’ve been living there. If you’re French or know more than I do about French culture, please weigh in! It’s always fun to hear other people’s opinions & experiences.
The French families I’ve met and had relationships with all make a solid effort to have meals together as a family as often as possible. So much so that they get their kids from school and have lunch as a family as well. Obviously in America this isn’t possible as not everyone gets a 2 hour lunch break, but the idea behind the family meal is huge. I personally love it. Even though we don’t get to do it as often as I’d like, we still do our best to make it a priority.
The French mom is no short-order cook. She makes dinner and the kids/family eat it. There are no negotiations, no special orders, no “I’d rather go hungry!” tantrums. It’s like it’s ingrained in their culture or something: if the food is given to you, you eat it. I’m sure there are exceptions in French families, but across the board in my experience the family eats the same thing all together.
French meals are amazing! They cook a variety of fish, beef, soups, chicken, duck, and so much more. I don’t know if there are certain recipes passed on for generations, but I love it. Some of them are a little odd and I have a hard time trying them (i.e. you can find snails in the freezer section at the grocery store) but mostly a variety of food is presented to the kids. It’s also done at an early age – often before the first birthday so the kids are already used to expanding their horizons.
Schools back parents up
Remember all those foods up there I just mentioned? They are also served in schools. Yep, you read that right, my sons have been served a fish ratatouille for lunch. And eaten it. Things you will never find at lunch in a French school: chicken nuggets, pizza, or burgers which are pretty much on rotation in American schools. It makes so much more of a difference knowing that you’re not alone. The school the parent’s choices. It’s great.
It’s funny, because originally after reading the menu from my sons’ school my thoughts were “well, good luck getting my kid to eat that.” Then he would come home from school and tell me he ate his whole lunch. And that he liked it. Incredible! I caught onto this and at home I’ve started offering my kids a different variety of vegetables like it was no big deal. I put it on their plate and they are expected to eat it. And they do. Without complaining. It’s really incredible. I think we naturally assume that kids aren’t going to like a particular food, but if it’s presented in a way where they are expected to eat it and it’s actually something we like and tastes good, they’ll eat it.
I am very aware this does not go across the board for all kids as some are pickier than others, and if they are older it will probably be more of a challenge. The French start out this way which is probably what makes their kids better eaters.
Grass-fed beef? Ya, that’s not a ‘thing’ in France. You know why? Because all their beef is grass-fed! Amazing! I can drive 10 minutes outside of my town and see the beef I buy at the grocery store. They also have a plethora of open-air markets or farmer’s markets where you can buy the best from right around your area. It’s so refreshing.
Well, there you have it. Six things the French are doing right with their food. Let me know if you have any other suggestions – we’d love to hear them.