If French Kids Can Eat Everything, So Can Yours – How to Teach Your Kids to Eat Everything

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eat_everything

I’m thrilled that I found this book thanks to this post at Nourished Kitchen.

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French Kids Eat Everything trails the lives of a Canadian woman and her family moving from North America to her husband’s small picturesque town in France.  Enamored with romance and visions of rustic European life, this author soon found out that there’s more to living in France than baguettes and chocolat.

What she didn’t realize was that she was going to have to discipline herself and her very picky daughters to eat in an entirely new way. It’s a funny memoir where she lays out 10 rules that she learned from the French to raise healthy eaters that will try and enjoy everything.

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What resonated so much with me in reading this book is that being from a Spanish family, we have many similar rules in Spain.

In my travels to Spain over the years, I remember having family members be disappointed with my sisters and I if we fussed or if we expressed that we didn’t want to try a certain food.  Often times, they would be surprised if we didn’t like certain vegetables and even confused if we didn’t finish our plates.

Like the French, Spanish kids eat everything.  From the time they can lift a spoon, they eat exactly what adults eat.  There are no “kid” foods.

This really had me thinking.  I don’t cater to my children with what they eat for supper – they eat exactly what I make and serve them.  We have a strict rule that in the toddler years, although they may fuss, they must try at least two bites.  It’s our “two-bite” rule.

Now that my boys are 4 and 6, I’m really proud that they eat everything I make for supper.  Vegetables, legumes, rice, meats, salads, etc…

However, this book got me thinking, “why do I cater to them for lunch?” I usually ask them if they want a pb&j, organic mac & cheese, a ham sandwich, a quesadilla, a cheese and fruit plate, or a burrito. This was our usual lineup.  Have your pick.  With every lunch I would give them a fruit and milk.

After reading this book, I thought to myself, “This isn’t the way my family eats in Spain and it’s definitely not helping them develop their palates.”

Being that I homeschool my kids, I decided to start a new lunch mentality at home.

Ridiculously Good Lunches for Kids

Or supper for lunch as my youngest boy calls it.

I decided to take some of the strategies described in this book and start feeding my children real food for lunch.  I don’t fuss or menu plan for this, I just use what I have on hand to make my kids nourishing meals that keep them satiated much longer than their lunches of before.  I do try to include as many seasonal vegetables into the dishes as I can.

I share each meal every lunch hour on instagram and I plan on sharing them on my website every Saturday as well.  The following meals are the ridiculously good lunches for kids that my children ate last week.

Monday: Sauteed Tilapia, Garlic Broccoli, White Rice

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Tuesday: Garbanzo Salad with Carrots, Apples, Raisins, and a Kale/Swiss Chard/Spinach Mix in a apple cider vinaigrette.  Plain Yogurt and Honey.

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Wednesday: Buckwheat with a Orange Beet Salad (orange beets, dried un-sulphured apricots, cilantro in an apple cider vinaigrette with a smidge of honey).  Cheddar Cheese.

wednesday

Thursday: We celebrated my nephew’s birthday out.  pb&j with fruit.

thursday

Friday: Roasted chicken, apples, and butternut squash in a balsamic glaze. Kale/Swiss Chard/Spinach Mix in a yogurt dressing.

Friday

 

I have to admit, I was a bit nervous to implement this at first.  I had no idea how the kids were going to react.  Praise God, it’s gone amazingly well.  I feel that the years of hard work in establishing our supper routines has made this transition easier.

My kids are not always thrilled.   Often times they’ll say, “what is this?!”  Or exclaim, “I want a pb&j!”

However, I stand firm and together we have our own rules on eating ridiculously good lunches for kids.

The Rules of Eating Real Food

  1. We sit at the table, sitting properly in our chairs
  2. We do not get up without asking to be excused
  3. We never EVER fuss that we don’t like what’s on our plate.  We need to appreciate all food especially in the people that take their time to make it for us.
  4. We try and eat everything.
  5. We enjoy food and have pleasure in eating.  This means eating slowly.

I am more surprised in myself that I would think that my children would not like certain vegetables or foods.  That I would think that this isn’t “child” appropriate.

They have proven me wrong and really shown me that yes, children need to be taught to enjoy all foods.  It’s my job, my discipline, to continuously feed them everything.

Which in turn, means that I also have to be eating everything.

I know too many adults that say they don’t like this or that. Be aware, that children will learn what they like and dislike from our own eating habits.

My encouragement to you is this, if children can be taught to eat everything, adults can also be taught to eat everything.  If you don’t like something, say beets, make them again. Then make them again. Then make them again. Until you acquire the taste.

Just like a fine wine or a deep un-filtered beer, you need to acquire the taste for food which includes all vegetables.

Strategies for Eating Everything

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  • Talk about the food with your children.  Ask them what it looks like, what the texture is like, or if they can point out certain ingredients within the food.
  • Ask them what they would do differently next time.  It’s great to get them thinking about flavors and cooking techniques.
  • Talk about how these vegetables are grown in our gardens and if they would like to grow them.
  • Tell them how these foods benefit our bodies.  This can be simple.  On the day we ate carrots, I asked them, “how do carrots help our bodies grow?”  Then I explained, in a funny voice, “they make us seeeeee farrrrrr!!!!”  Then we took turns talking about all of the different vegetables and how they make us grow strong.
  • Don’t ever, ever, make them feel as if they have to eat gross food because we had to when we were young.  Make them enjoy and appreciate good food.  (Also, if you’re vegetables don’t honestly taste great… it may have to do with how you’re cooking them. Here’s my post at Keeper of the Home on how to cook phenomenal vegetables.)

I do know that many of you have children at school and can’t make all of these meals at home, however, these same rules and strategies can be implemented for supper.  If you’re on the go, check out Laura from Momables for healthy lunches on the go.

I do plan on sharing these recipes and tips for my new Traditional Menu Plan on a Budget.  I’m still working out the kinks, but it’s almost ready to launch!  So, stay tuned!!

Do your kids eat everything?  Please share your rules and strategies for eating everything.

Get the Book: French Kids Eat Everything

39 Responses to "If French Kids Can Eat Everything, So Can Yours – How to Teach Your Kids to Eat Everything"
  1. Beautiful post Diana! Even though I prepare extra healthy foods on the side for my task toddler it is SO true that she should be eating what her parents eat. She does ask to eat what is on our plates but we show her that we ARE eating the same. Veggies have been a task but I am noticing that my child does not like anything separated in separate spaces on a plate. I mix it all up and she is super happy and eats well. We’ll see how long that lasts. I read this concept you described in Bring up Bebe: and American mother in France..

    • Diana Bauman says:

      It takes time, Noelle. One thing I learned is that I was hard on myself for my first child. I wanted him to eat everything from day 1. That’s really what helped me establish our two bite rule. I didn’t make it a big deal. As long as he had two bites I was okay. I kept making the same foods and I’m so happy that now at 6, he’s a great eater!

  2. Foy Update says:

    These are good thoughts. I am just learning the patience that goes with a baby learning to eat. So far she does try anything put in front of her including the bowl and bib. We are still trying the baby led weening one part of that is not commenting on her food or how she eats in any way. Allowing her to figure it out on her own. I am finding it hard to trust my child. However, just like with your kids I find I am the one with expectations that she shouldn’t be able to do things or like certain foods. It’s funny to see a baby with barely two teeth munching on a piece of raw spinach or eating a cooked carrots like corn on the cob.

    Right now she eats breakfast with her dad (while I get dressed and ready for the day), lunch with me and dinner with the two of us. We’ve been doing breakfast and lunch in the kitchen. After reading this I’m thinking we should eat at the table for every meal.

    • Diana Bauman says:

      That’s great Foy! I still haven’t started Little Mama on solids. She’s still not interested. I think in another month or so, I’ll start with some puree’s. This time, however, I’m going to start with vegetables like spinach.

  3. Great post! My kids eat pretty much everything on their plates, whether or not they like it, but we have slacked off lately, and two of my youngers are getting into some bad habits. Thanks for this reminder. It sounds like a great book. I might have to look into it. :)

  4. Steph says:

    Lunchtime around here can be a hodge-podge…on an “ideal day” (in my mind!) We have enough leftovers from the night before for lunch. Otherwise, it can be anything from fruit, veggies & cheese, beans, sandwiches etc. etc. I try and keep lunch pretty simple. They both do a pretty good job of eating what I give to them-my oldest (4) has her moments, but she was at daycare for 3 years prior to being home with me and even though I packed her lunch each day, she saw other kids being picky, so we have been working on that over the past year and have seen some great improvement. She has a very soft heart, so we often talk about how there are kids in some places her age that don’t have anything to eat and that God has blessed our family with food, so we need to be thankful and eat whatever He has given us that meal. That seems to have helped with her eating what is on her plate! :) My 2 year old is like a little garbage can-she eats anything & everything we put in front of her!

  5. Great post! My kids eat lots of fruits and veggies and just about anything we give them, but I am not very gourmet. Haha! I give them mainly a fruit, a veggie and some kind of protein for lunches. I have friends who are so shocked and say all their kids will eat is goldfish or chicken nuggets, etc. Our girls eat what we give them–and this is what we give them!

  6. I love how you said if kids can learn to eat anything, so can their parents!

    Since becoming a mom, I have learned to like olives, cabbage, plain yogurt, and grapefruit without sugar on top, mainly because I realized that if my kids love them, I can learn to! (And because I want to model good eating, of course.)

    Thankfully, my children do eat almost everything. They each have one or two things that they have a hard time enjoying, but that’s okay with me. They eat what we eat and usually eat it with joy.

  7. Jamie says:

    The only real food rule I had when I was a child we had to try everything. If we complained before trying it my grandma would say we would have to have an extra scoop of it. It was just known that you have to try something before you can say if you like it or not. I believe this helped me to not be a picky eater whatsoever. My husband was incredibly picky. I sort of implemented the “you must try it first” rule when we got married. His mom can’t believe all the foods that he loves now.

    When I first became a mom I wanted to raise healthy children and I wanted them to try everything I made. I introduced vegetables as first foods and limited sugars, candies, and desserts. They were expected to try what ever I cooked them. I made my own baby food, which was very similar to whatever dinner I had prepared for my husband and me. I prepare my food in a home kitchen, not a restaurant, only one meal is prepared. Some thought I was being too strict. Now at ages 6 & 5 they love asparagus, roasted Brussels sprouts, blue cheese, fish, and they often ask for salad. They don’t finish an entire piece of birthday cake because they think it is too sweet.

    People say I’m so lucky to have such good eaters. I don’t think having “good eaters” has anything to do with luck. It has to do with being taught. I have taught my husband, and my daughters to be good eaters. My 17 month old son is my new challenge, but he is learning he can’t only eat crackers. :)

    • Kristen says:

      Jamie, I had the same experience growing up and I’m also not a picky eater. My hubby was the pickiest person I had ever met! After trying to be a “good wife” and cater to him, I learned I couldn’t live that way and needed lots of variety! I’m happy to report, after 17 years of marriage, he has adapted to my style of eating. He loves lots of different types of fruits and veggies. We working on teaching our children, 3 and 6, about trying new foods. I’ve found that having them help me prepare gets them more interested in trying new things.

  8. Diana says:

    So, after the two bite rule is met, is that all the kids eat for the meal? Do they just go hungry until the next meal? Having trouble envisioning how this goes in the transition from short order meals (or offered bedtime snack of yogurt and peanut butter to make up for the lack of calories eaten at dinner) to eating what is provided. My 3 young children like some things, but are naturally slow to take to new foods ( we just keep introducing), but struggle with the idea of my thin children “going hungry”. Ideas? What am I missing?

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Diana, usually they’ll eat more of one thing, however, yes. If all they “decide” to eat is 2 bites, then that’s all they will have until their next meal. They learn very quickly that if they don’t eat enough they will be hungry later. By morning they’ll usually eat a large breakfast. If they know they’re getting snacks later, they’ll definitely know they really don’t have to eat supper. This is what works for us.

      • Diana says:

        Thank you, that helps me. It’s the breaking of the bad habits that we (I) need to work on. I am inspired by your blog and recommitting to healthy habits!

        • Diana Bauman says:

          Another thing, Diana. baby steps. If they eat two bites of one thing give them lots of praise and offer up more of something they like. Plus… I’ve been known to sneak in a banana at night (shh… don’t tell dad).. hey, we’re mama’s and we love our little ones ;)

  9. lindsey says:

    i’ve just recently discovered your blog and i really enjoy it! i must say that even though we do all the right things in the house…we eat together, we eat the same meals, i prepare yummy, healthy food, i insist on a “no, thank you” bite, i explain the importance of healthy foods, they help prepare the meals sometimes, too… i still have some picky eaters. i have one who won’t eat fruit, i have one who eats little vegetables and meat, and luckily, one who eats most foods. i cook real foods and made all their baby food. so sometimes a mom can do all the right things and still raise picky eaters! :) i just want to offer t a little encouragement to other moms who feel that they’ve done it the “right” way and still end up with picky eaters.

  10. Great post amiga! We do almost all the same things. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner are pretty much always a home cooked meal because I am feeding not just the kids, but Jon and myself… I don’t like quick meals like mac & cheese, pb&j and stuff… I always feel unsatisfied and I’m sure my kids do too!

    So, you are not feeding your kids snacks anymore? Hmmm, would LOVE to do that. Drives me crazy to have to make snacks for the kids… I hate it. I know they will eat more for the 3 main meals if i don’t give them snacks. Thankfully, my kids aren’t too picky. We have a rule that if they don’t finish their meal… they can’t have anything until the next meal. Have had to enforce that often when they were younger, but now… they know better :)

    I would like to check out that book too!

  11. This is a great post, Diana. I have big strides to make at lunch time. I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to get a better lunch plan together. Hopefully this will give me the kick I need to make it happen. :-)

  12. Stacy says:

    Love this post. We have been trying to implement these strategies for a long time as our oldest is a very picky eater. It has always been a battle. We are finding out he has some sensory processing issues along with some other things which has made this all the more difficult but it has made us be all the more patient with the process. It is a slow process for us but one we are committed to doing.

  13. Liz H says:

    I have read and LOVE this book and the ideas presented. As a kid I tried a lot of foods because my relatives were eating them. Somethings, like deviled or hard boiled eggs I never liked and still don’t. (that may actually be the only food I won’t eat for fear of severe gagging… it’s a texture thing). My dad couldn’t even pay me to try it, lol. But my brother was a royal you-know-what and my mom catered to all of his weirdness about food. I swore I would never do that. And then I had kids. Kids who would live on mac and cheese for weeks at a time. One who would order chicken tenders no matter where we went and who I am sure is at least 25% chicken tender at the age of 15-she still won’t eat a lot of great food I make but I don’t make anything different for her. She’s old enough to cook. In fact, my son learned to cook for himself because I wouldn’t make extra stuff after a while.
    Now, I have twin 3 year olds and we started off just feeding them mashed up whatever we were eating and very little jarred food. They love all kinds of stuff, even food I wouldn’t have touched with a 10 foot pole before the age of 30, so I am really pleased. However, twins feed off each other. The minute one says they don’t like something, the other won’t put it in her mouth. She will have an all out melt down and then she won’t eat another bite if we try to force her to try just one bite. My DH is more adamant about this and I say leave her alone and let her try it on her own. This is just one area where adhering to all of these rules makes our dinner time a nightmare each night. They seem to have eating days and non-eating days and it has nothing to do with what is served. In fact, things you would expect kids to devour they won’t touch. They don’t touch chicken tenders. Rarely eat much pizza. They don’t eat fast food when Grandma and Grandpa buy it for them. They DO eat stuff like olives, sunny side up eggs, buffalo steak, sushi and veggies. They’ll eat pretty much any kind of meat without breading and french fries made at home are (almost) always a hit. So in some ways they eat much better than my older kids did at this age but on the other hand, meal time is still a battle ground although I don’t want it to be.
    I read this book and starting implementing the ideas as I finished each chapter and our repertoire is significantly expanded and I don’t make anything special for anyone. other than that I cook gluten free because I have celiac disease.
    How exactly do you get a 3 year old to put something in her mouth when you can’t even think because of the siren coming from her mouth? We have tried EVERYTHING we can think of…

    • Vanessa says:

      I have a 4-year old who has always been a challenge when it comes to food. I have felt very fortunate that he does like many fruits and veggies. Most days I make really simple meals and I always make sure there is at least one thing that he really likes.

      He has never been a big fan of chicken, but since it is the main meat that we eat, I would always put 2 or 3 peices of chicken on his plate with a veggie that he really likes. His favorite meal is spaghetti and most weeks I will make one spaghetti meal. He doesn’t like white potatoes, but we allow him to mix in a small amount of ketchup with his potatoes and he loves them this way.

      He just turned 4 in December and in the last few months we have started consistently asking him to try everything on his plate. It has taken awhile, but he has just started telling us that “I will try it” without having to ask him.

      I haven’t read this book, but it sounds like there is really good advice there. I think being consistent with mealtime rules is what is working for us.

  14. Liz H says:

    My apologies for the spelling errors and incorrect grammar. My above comment was typed with a screaming toddler in my lap…

  15. I think these are some good ideas, and some things that we do with our kids. For example, we don’t have “kid foods” and the kids eat what we eat. Or, they can choose not to eat if they prefer.

    But I will offer one thing…. Which is that my husband was “spoiled” by three hot meals a day. He now won’t eat a sandwich or a salad or a bowl of soup, because he doesn’t consider them “meals.” This is highly inconvenient and often not cost effective. I think it’s important to have a balance of all things. A bowl of cereal, a PB&J…. they all have their place.

  16. Kanelstrand says:

    This is such an important topic. And I would say that the problem comes from the parents. You are right, thinking that some type of food is not suitable for kids won’t do anyone good. Trying is one of the most important steps to a child eating everything. And of course, they should feel no pressure, once they do it is the beginning of a war.

    I hope more people read your post becasue it is eye opening!

  17. Laura says:

    My kids do eat everything, with the caveat that as they have gotten older they do have some individual likes/dislikes. Maybe I was French in a different life? ;) In all seriousness, in addition to already doing everything you have discussed, I made a VERY conscientious effort when they were really young to introduce them to everything. As soon as they could eat mixed dishes (i.e., not just apples or just pears) they ate what we ate and I did not change how we ate for them with the exception of making things less spicy. As a result my youngest’s first meal was an Afghani bean and beef soup; my eldest had red Thai curry (homemade) at 9 mos. Also, I think a really important key to success is to cook as many one pot meals as possible starting young–that way they never start thinking of dishes as individual components to pick around.

  18. 4HungryBunnies says:

    I just read that book last year and absolutely loved it too! Very insightful! But getting my children to eat has NEVER been an issue once they started solids, it’s more about keeping food from them! Getting them to slow down and really taste each bite is the challange and to be satisfied and not ask for more or for snacks. Like the French, we don’t do snacks, except for sometimes Le Gouter at 4pm.

  19. Melanie says:

    I realize this is an older post, but I really needed to read this! My mother is from France. She has always enjoyed her meals, eating slowly and relaxing after eating. Event though there were 9 of us (yes, 9!) she has ALWAYS taken the time to enjoy her food. Good, simple but nutritious meals. I think I am going to call her right now :-)

  20. Cassidy Stockton says:

    This is a great post. Thank you. I am in the thick of this right now with my 16 mo. He is leaning towards picky and I’m struggling with what to feed him. I think I need to embrace that he might go hungry. We eat a pretty eclectic menu and I cannot stand the idea of being a short order cook for him or raising a picky eater. This post came at just the right time for me.

  21. Cresta says:

    Well, dang it! You would have to bring up the part about BEETS, wouldn’t you? I hate beets. I always have. To me, they taste like dirt. I am also not a huge fan of brussels sprouts, but make myself eat them from time to time because I know they are good for me. I have a very varied diet, and we eat as much as we can out of our own garden, locally, and organic. I love kale, kohlrabi, chard, and heirloom tomatoes, but I just can’t bring myself to eat those cursed red THINGS called beets! But, just because you said to, I will try them again (with a garbage can handy in case I need to spit them out!). Thank you for the good you do, and God bless you!

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