Do French children eat everything?

Posted by Alexander on May 30th, 2017 (Good Foods, Health)

We have much to learn from the French when it comes to educating our children about healthy eating and good food, as Karen Le Billon discovered.

This week I learned of a fellow foodie who shares the same ethos of healthy eating as I do, particularly when it comes to teaching children about healthy eating and good food.  It all started with this article on the BBC Good Food Magazine’s website, Do French Children Eat Everything? which related Karen Le Billon’s experience of moving from Vancouver to France with her French husband and two young children. While she was  there, she began to realise the French attitude to food and healthy eating habits, especially when it comes to children, is very different in a positive way to how things have evolved in Canada, Australia, Britain or the USA.

Of course the French have been the renowned for their sumptuous cuisine and slow, lengthy eating habits for centuries – but it is apparent that they have much to teach us when it comes to encouraging children to eat healthy food, and be aware about it too.  Here are a few of the things Karen says the French do differently:

  • French children sit and eat at the table with everyone, and happily wait until everyone is finished before leaving
  • If kids don’t like the food, they don’t get an alternative.  If they won’t eat, they wait until breakfast or the next meal
  • Parents encourage children to try new things by being told it tastes good, not that it is good for them, or they ‘should’ eat it
  • School lunches and evening meals at home consist of three courses – a veg or salad starter, a main course, and finally a fruit platter with possibly some cheese too.  In schools a baked dessert or sweet treat is usually served once a week instead of the fruit platter
  • Children do not snack in between meals.  Children are not encouraged to bring their own food into school, and vending machines are not allowed in schools anywhere, which I found very interesting after my exploration into American school vending machines a few weeks ago
  • The French teach healthy eating in the classroom, and in the canteen.  All schools must follow the government rule that allots a full half an hour to sitting at the lunch table.  There is no eat and run.

The French Attitude

The French attitude to healthy eating in schools is particularly fascinating. You can learn more about it on Karen Le Billon’s blog –  As a taster, this is a quote from her blog, taken from the website of a school near Paris, explaining their ethos about lunchtimes. 

“Mealtime is a particularly important moment in a child’s day. Our responsibility is to provide children with healthy, balanced meals; to develop their sense of taste; to help children, complementing what they learn at home, to make good food choices without being influenced by trends, media, and marketing; and to teach them the relationship between eating habits and health. But above all else, we aim to enable children to spend joyful, convivial moments together, to learn a ‘savoir-vivre’, to make time for communication, social exchange, and learning about society’s rules–so that they can socialize and cultivate friendships.”

Healthy eating is more than simply good food It is also about relaxing in good company, and developing a sense of taste.  Now there is an attitude we could all be adopting at evening meal times at home.

On Karen Le Billon’s blog there are tips on how they, as a busy family, manage the three course evening meal. They are on a crusade to encourage their children to develop healthy eating habits and grow up with the ability to distinguish the difference between well-marketed food from real healthy food. 

And thanks to Karen, there are certainly some techniques here that I will be adopting at home with my own daughter.  I will let you know how I get on, and hope you will do the same by sharing your healthy eating tips for kids in the comment area below.   

Written by Alexander

Alexander is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian having completed a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics, and a member of the Dietitian Association Australia (APD)

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