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French Kids Eat Everything

french kids eat everything

When we were on our trip to Europe this summer, I read French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. It was eye opening for me because, although we encouraged Gigi to eat and try "our food" we were missing the main point! "Our food" is also her food! I felt that we were asking something extraordinary of her to eat exactly what we were eating and we'd often follow up an offer of "our food" with something more "kid friendly". She's always been low in weight so we were concerned that she wasn't eating enough and would always whip up something (after dinner) in order to ensure she got enough.

Before reading this book Gigi's typical day was filled with scrambled eggs, quite a few snacks, milk, a tiny lunch, some of our dinner food (most of which ended up on the floor) or a customized toddler dinner (most of which ended up on the floor). We didn't often eat together. Most of the time we gave Gigi dinner earlier in the evening and then we ate after she was in bed.

After reading French Kids Eat Everything I was a total convert to the idea that kids eat what adults eat. Period. I read, re-read, took notes and came home from our trip with a plan to change our ways. We've now been eating the "French" way for five months so I feel confident in sharing our experience with you. The rules are simple and following them has made a huge difference in the way we all eat.

The French Kids Eat Everything Rules
...and my thoughts on applying them at home...

1. Parents are in charge of children’s food education.
I simply talk to Gigi a lot more about food, she cooks with me more. We bought her these veggies, fruits and fish sets from Ikea and she cooks in her little kitchen. We ask her to make us dishes using specific toy food. She's only two but as she gets older these conversations and games will change. We've started to talk about color, texture, and flavor as well.

2. Avoid emotional eating. Food is not a toy, a distraction, a bribe, a pacifier, a reward, or a substitute for discipline.
This rule brought on a wave of mom-guilt. Before reading this book I constantly used food as a toy, distraction and pacifier. Fussing in the car? Here's some crackers in a snack catcher. Bored on a walk? Here's a squeezy pack of baby food. When I realized that I was teaching Gigi that "food is the answer" to boredom, crankiness, etc. I felt really guilty. What kind of food habits was I setting her up with? We ditched the squeezy packs which are now in the emergency bin in the car for emergency only or reserved for long trips, and the snack catcher is now a bath toy.

3. Parents schedule meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat: no substitutes and no short-order cooking.
This took surprisingly little adjustment on Gigi's part! Since she wasn't snacking she was really hungry when it came to be dinner time. The first day on the program she refused dinner and went to bed hungry. It sounds harsh but it was actually fairly smooth. She didn't complain, she just didn't want what was offered so we ate, read her a book and put her in bed. (She ate an enormous breakfast the following morning). Now things run smoothly. She's used to being served what we are eating. She gets to make some choices at breakfast between a couple options we offer her... daily requests for waffles and cereal are not honored.

4. Food is social. Eat family meals together at the table, with no distractions.
We set the table every night for dinner, sit down together, say what we are grateful for, and then we eat. We have Gigi help us set the table. She picks out her place mat, plate, fork/knife/spoon, and cup and puts them on the table. Some evenings she's more excited about helping than others but she usually eagerly participates. We always ask her to use the appropriate utensils while eating. She struggles with successfully using the utensils with every dish and usually uses them and her hands, but she's learning. We never answer our phones (in fact they're not allowed near the table), we try to include Gigi in our conversations and engage her by asking her questions. We ask her to eat like an adult! Family dinners are truly the best part of my day.

5. Eat a variety of food. Eat vegetables of all colors of the rainbow, don’t eat the same dish more than once per week.
We try to introduce lots of different foods to Gigi. We often eat the same dish more than once per week because we have leftovers. Cooking something new every night isn't financially feasible for us. I am working on adding more veggies to the roundup.

6. You don’t have to like it but you have to taste it / eat it.
Using the word "taste" instead of "try" seems to work really well with Gigi. I feel like when I encourage her to "taste" something, I'm asking her to be adventurous and curious. The word "try" feels like I'm asking her to judge it, to decide if she likes it or not. We always put a bit of everything on her plate. If she refuses a food or tastes it and says, "I don't want that!" We remind her that the polite thing to say is "no thank you" then we say, "That's okay. We'll taste it again another time". Then we take it away or encourage her to leave it on her plate and assure her that she doesn't have to eat it.

7. Limit snacks to one per day and not within one hour of meals. In between meals, it’s okay to feel hungry. At meals, eat until you’re satisfied, rather than full.
This was challenging when i was in the first trimester of pregnancy and we often shared a bagel and cream cheese on the couch (off schedule) but we're back on track now. I actually have grown to love snack time. Since the idea is to give something high carbohydrate to give a boost of energy and tide kids over until dinner, I feel like I don't have to be totally "responsible" at snack time. We often have things like cinnamon sugar toast, cookies and milk, a little trail-mix spiked with M&M's, along with other snacks like apples and cheese, ants on a log, etc. It's fun to get to throw something together for her or surprise her with a mid-day cookie. A typical French snack for kids is a bit of baguette with butter and melted chocolate! I was finding at times the Gigi didn't seem totally hungry at dinner time so we cut back the quantity at snack time, we try to keep to about six bites. She'll have half a piece of buttered toast, a few bites of yogurt and a couple slices of apple. I try to avoid protein at snack time.

8. Take your time, both for cooking and eating. Slow food is happy food.
This rule is easy for us. If you've been following this blog, you know that I love to cook. I rarely ever buy processed/pre-made food, and we rarely eat out. This means that all of our meals are made from scratch at home. Gigi is getting to the age where she loves to cook with me. She helps, asks questions, sometimes very much gets in the way... and I love it all.

9. Eat mostly real, homemade food, and save treats for special occasions. Avoid processed foods.
As I mentioned above, I make everything at home. And (again with the exception of the first trimester of pregnancy) I rarely buy any processed foods.

10. Eating is joyful, not stressful. Relax and enjoy the process of planning, preparing and feeding yourself and your family.
This rule is important to remember. Sometimes the planning and grocery shopping aspect can be a bit stressful and feels like it takes an entire day but, I love taking Gigi to the grocery store. I love interacting with the people there. I love planning our meals. Feeding my family is such a huge part of our days, weeks, months... why not embrace and enjoy it?

A few other things...
I don't try to "hide" foods from Gigi. I don't mix spinach in her brownies or add purées to things without telling her. I always tell her exactly what's in her food. I don't personally understand the point or idea of getting her to eat more vegetables if she isn't going to eat them or learn to love them in their natural form. I don't think there's anything wrong with adding veggies to her food but I always tell her. On the same note we talk about what's for dinner every night. We'll show her that there's mushrooms, spinach, ricotta, onion, etc. in her lasagna. I trust that she will learn to like them and I want her to recognize what she's eating/tasting/liking. On the same note, we also let her eat anything and everything we eat. If we're having chocolate we give her some. Sweets and candy are part of the food world too. If we eat it in moderation, I believe she will too. But I don't think it's fair to tell her she can't have ice cream when we have it. If she has had too many sweets we'll put her to bed and then have ice cream but we always share with her if she's participating in a family event or meal.

In the book French Kids Eat Everything the author, Karen, talks a lot about how important it is for kids to learn to wait patiently. That's part of the reason we all wait until we are seated and have said what we are grateful for. Last night we were all starving (dinner was a bit late) and I said to her, "Wait, what are you grateful for.", and she looked right at me and said, "No Mama. I can't.", and started eating! Actually I was right there with her! But most of the time it's a great opportunity to ask a small bit of patience from her... occasionally she even stops us from taking the first bite by saying, "WAIT! I grateful....." These little "grateful" moments have become some of my favorite Gigi quotes. The other night she said, "I grateful.... maybe.... PENIS!!!" Ha. She's learning about anatomy. The point is, I find that she's been getting more and more patient as a result of these little moments. I find that I can say, "You can have this when we get home.", or "We can do/have/read/see that in a little bit." I think it's a lot about building trust. She knows that I will follow through with it

We don't battle over food. She rarely asks for snacks now that she's used to the schedule. If she does I just say, "We'll have a snack at snack time!" I avoid using the word "no" but I make it clear that it's not snack time/we can't have cookies for breakfast, etc. If she doesn't want to eat something, that's fine. There's no use in battling. I would rather that we talk about it than have her hiding her peas in her napkin, and I will never tell her she can't leave the table until she's finished her cauliflower. That's not fun for anyone! I won't force her to eat a certain food. I want her to enjoy the process of learning about and exploring different foods. I feel that the power is in what I put on the table, rather than what I make her eat. After years of nannying I've learned that finding creative ways of avoiding a power struggle with a toddler is a major skill. At the table it's particularly important.

Incorporating variety is challenging. We eat a lot of vegetables and fruits, but it's not always easy to introduce new foods. Sometimes it's downright defeating! But it does come around and work eventually. For example, some foods that Gigi refused and now loves: potatoes, onions, roasted garlic... it takes time but is really rewarding when she finally embraces something new. It seems that once she's accepted something, potatoes for example, she'll eat in all forms when we tell her what it is.

We try to eat all our meals together. At first, I was planning and making breakfast and lunches but we weren't really eating them together regularly. But, over time we saw that Gigi was acting out a bit at those meals. Dropping food on the floor. Spilling her water on purpose. So we determined that having someone sit with her and eat with her would be a good thing, for all of us! Kyle and I both usually skip breakfast, or I would find that I wanted carbohydrates around 10am because I didn't eat something healthier in the morning (I'm blaming pregnancy for part of this). Now we usually sit down together and have a big bowl of fruit and yogurt or eggs and whole grain toast. The social eating aspect of the French approach really does make a big difference. Now she eats at all meals and is getting better at telling us when she's all done (as opposed to "showing" us by smearing food on the table).

There is enormous freedom in a schedule and routine. Because we are on a set schedule and the habits have now become engrained, I feel a huge sense of freedom with our meals. We can have a picnic on the floor, be lazy and give her a big plate of pasta, eat popcorn on the couch in the middle of the day... occasionally. Then we can get right back to our better eating habits the next day. In the same way that we put so much energy and effort into creating good sleep habits, then we could keep her up until 10pm on the 4th of July without risking total overhaul of sleep patterns, we can ignore the food rules from time to time because we know that the foundation is there to return to. By no means are we perfect "method" followers... some days are an absolute mess and Gigi has snacks all day and cereal for dinner! Some days are just like that, but we always have good intentions and get back on track as soon as we can.

I'm so glad we've started early with Gigi. I wish we'd started even earlier but I'm happy that we're eating this way now. I do think we got off on the wrong foot with baby food. We will be following the French method this next time around: introducing a different menu of foods early on, skipping rice cereal all together. Karen has a great write up about feeding babies the French way here. For those of you who mentioned getting your babies with few teeth to start eating solid foods, I would recommend reading Baby Led Weaning. I haven't read it myself but it's been recommended by a few friends and my sister has had great success with it. Her nine month old eats everything (seriously, everything). The concept is essentially no purées. I'm ordering a copy to read before our daughter is born!

The Main Differences in Our Eating Habits

The Schedule:
The eating schedule proposed and followed in French Kids Eat Everything is:
Breakfast in the morning
Lunch around 12:30pm
Snack around 4:30pm
Dinner between 7:00pm and 8:00pm

It took a while for us to get on this schedule as we transitioned Gigi from one to two naps (she used to nap through lunchtime). Now our daily schedule looks like this:
7:30 breakfast
12:00 lunch
3:30 small snack and 1/2 cup milk
6:00 dinner (bedtime is at 7:30pm)

Our schedule is a tiny bit earlier than the French one provided in the book. It works perfectly for us.

Gigi still eats a rather small lunch. I do feel that I could do better making her bigger/better lunches with more variety. This has been a hard habit for both of us to change. In France, lunch is the biggest meal of the day. Here, dinner is. So while I'm working on adding variety, I'm not totally concerned about the size of her mid-day meals. I'm not trying to make lunch the biggest meal because that's not realistic given my husband's work schedule and our calorie needs at the end of the day. Also since children aren't fed big wonderful lunches at school I have a feeling our kids will come home from school needing a big dinner!

Dinner Menus:
One big difference between the French eating habits and ours is the dinner menu plans. The typical French dinner includes a vegetable entrée (starter), plat principal (main dish), salade/fromage (cheese), and dessert. If our dinner is veggie heavy (like veggie lasagna) than we don't normally have another veggie before dinner. But If I'm introducing a new vegetable, or if the vegetable is likely to get ignored in favor of pasta, than I will serve it first. I also am sure not to give her too much pasta. We are trying to follow the rule that she has to at least try/taste everything on her plate before she can have more pasta. We ask that she eats three bites of everything before she can have more of something she's finished (usually pasta or bread which almost always gets eaten first)! And then it's only a few bites worth of the pasta. For example, I love making Penne with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto for dinner but when I serve it up for her I make sure to only give her a little pasta along with everything else. That way she's "forced" to eat other things before she can have more pasta. In other words, we try to keep everything in balance. If she has a few bites of everything she can have a few more bites of pasts. Sometimes we don't giver her any more pasta until her plate is (mostly) clean. I do this when I know it's a dinner she loves. With the Butternut Squash pasta dish, I know that she has learned to love the squash, the goat cheese, the prosciutto, and she's working on the basil and red onion. So, I know that there is plenty of food on her plate that she enjoys.

We don't have dessert every night. But if Gigi has had a particularly great meal and tried everything on her plate, I'll often cut up an apple for us all to share, or we will each get five or six chocolate chips. I don't think of it as a reward and I don't tell her that it's because she ate everything. It's simply because I think she earned it. She doesn't get to the end of each meal and ask for a treat but when she does it's a good opportunity to say: "Yes. We all tried everything and I think it would be fun to have _____." or "No. We aren't going to have dessert tonight because we didn't try everything on our plate." She seems to understand both answers. One thing to keep in mind too is that she has no idea or expectation about what dessert entails. The other night Gigi asked me, "We have a treat?" and I told her, "I got nothin'!", and she got so excited and squealed, "OH BOY!" It was so sweet, I got up and found a little something. But it taught me that, she doesn't know of care what's for dessert... it's just the idea of having earned something.

Social Aspects:
Since, in France, these rules of no snacking, of eating what adults eat, of scheduled eating are part of the social construct, it is easy to follow. Trying to follow them here isn't always easy. Gigi is often offered candy or crackers at the store/at play-dates/just before dinner. I try to be selective about when I say no. Within an hour of a meal time? No. A graham cracker while we are at the store? Ok. I don't offer her these items but when they are shared by/with a friend outside of our home, I try to just go with the flow unless it could truly spoil a meal. On another note, after converting to this method, I'm actually shocked by some of the snacking I see. Every day at the grocery store I see parents searching in their bags for snack catchers, breaking open boxes of crackers, milk boxes, string cheeses, etc. Everywhere we go Gigi is offered snack food: from the cookie counter at the grocery store to the local coffee shop, to the park. Snacking is such an accepted part of our culture. It can be challenging to go against the "snacking culture" but I know I am doing the right thing for Gigi's short and long term eating habits.

Another tricky thing about the social aspect is when we are eating out with friends. It's difficult to make Gigi stay at the table while other kids are running around before, during, and after dinner, to make her wait patiently for the food to arrive when other kids are drinking juice/snacking on crackers, to serve her bits of what we're eating instead of ordering mac and cheese or chicken fingers... But, this is a place that we have made the choice to ask a lot of her. We require her to behave politely, eat healthfully, wait patiently, etc. It's not always easy but I believe it's very important for our family. To be clear, I'm not judging what other families do with their kids... I know what's right for our family and I do my very best to stick to that even when it's hard. On a side note, if we are at a friends house we generally follow that family's rules. If the kids are allowed to get down and play while the adults finish eating then Gigi is allowed to get down and play as well. I will add that when we're heading into a sure to be challenging situation we discuss it ahead of time. For example, as we headed to the in-laws for four nights for Christmas this year, we decided as a family to put the rules on hold. We knew everyone would be snacking and it wasn't fair to ask Gigi not to particpate. When we arrived we told Kyle's parents, "Ok, we decided you can just spoil her and give her treats and cookies and snacks this time." They seemed to enjoy the break in rules as much as Gigi did. They are such wonderful listeners we weren't too worried about things getting out of hand. They know that McDonald's is on my "absolutely never, no way in hell" list but if my mother-in-law wants to spoil her granddaughter with home baked cookies... I'm willing to set my rules aside. Food is social, and it's important for me to remember that there are memories and experiences Gigi should get to have with her friends/grandparents/other kids.

This has been and continues to be a process with ups and downs. We try to enjoy every little success and not get caught up with "failures". I feel really proud that G has learned to eat and love squashes, cucumber, potatoes, zucchini, kale, carrots, radishes (and those are just the vegetables) and willingly tries everything from broccoli to eggplant. Sometimes they go in, get chewed a bit and come back out but we don't say anything or make a big deal out of it... I think it's a success that she's trying it and I'm confident that things will make it to her stomach. She seems to be outgrowing her "sensitivity" to texture. I find it really helpful to talk about new foods, at the store, while being prepared, while being served. For example: At the store: "These radishes are pretty! What color are they?" While preparing: "This radish is white on the inside! Can you help me put it on our salad?" While eating: "What does it taste like? Is it crunchy like an apple? Maybe it's a little spicy?" The more she's in an exploratory state of mind the more she seems to eat! I still cannot get her to enjoy green peas on their own (it's fine if they're mixed into a dish)... tasting these usually means licking one... but I am confident we'll get there eventually. But I don't worry too much about it. I also feel comfortable that if she decides she really does not like green peas, then that's her choice. She's eating enough variety of vegetables that I don't worry about it. She does have her own individual tastes, as we all do. We will all measure our little successes differently since our kids are all different. For me every time she tries, eats, enjoys, says "that's tasty!" to a new food, I feel proud and I count that as a success. Sometimes I'm completely surprised by her willingness to eat things: kale salad, pine nuts, gorgonzola, salsa, salad with micro-greens, hot sauce! It's really a fun process to watch.

So, there you have it! Our "American" experience with French Kids Eat Everything. In the coming weeks I'll share how I plan our weekly/monthly menus. How I budget our menus. I'll provide a blank printable PDF of our menu format and our grocery shopping template. I'll be introducing a new features called My Sous Chef which will be all about cooking with Gigi! I'm considering bringing back the Monthly Menus feature, did you find this helpful when I did it before?

Have you read the book? What's your experience been? I'm curious to hear and would love to incorporate advice and ideas into our day to day eating habits. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend this wonderful book!

Finally, here's a printable the list of French Kids eating habits we have printed on our refrigerator!

*There is a difference between picky eaters and an oral-motor/sensory defensive eater. The latter is a child who needs intervention from an Occupations Therapist and Speech Language Pathologist.

french kids eat everything
  1. I can’t wait to see how you plan your weekly monthly menus and budget for them. I need a massive overhall for our family.

    Kyla only has 2 little bottom teeth at 13 months. So I find myself still somewhat limited but try and give her all the foods we eat at dinner time. Breakfast and lunch are still baby specific. How much milk does G get and how much did she take at 1 year?

    Mazzy · Tuesday January 15, 2013 · #

  2. What an informative post! I only wish I had started these habits with my daughter earlier. It’s a much slower process when you have a picky 8 year old. Pinning now…

    Liz @ The Blue Eyed Owl · Tuesday January 15, 2013 · #

  3. wow, what a great and informative post!!

    <a href=“http://www.sandyalamode.com/”>Sandy a la Mode</a>

    Sandy a la Mode · Tuesday January 15, 2013 · #

  4. Thanks for this post, great advice! I’m still wondering how to make the transistion from blended food to “real” meals, but i guess this will come automatically, together with the teeth (I hope).
    Thanks for quoting me (btw, I moved my blog, you can now find it under http://37quadrat.com, it’s not on wordpress any more). Greetings from Paris!

    Lisette · Tuesday January 15, 2013 · #

  5. Great post! I am just finishing Bringing up Bebe (do I remember you saying you’ve read that one, too?), and the author talks a lot about the same eating principles. We’ve been very guilty of feeding Charlotte her own dinner earlier in the evening, too, plus giving her a lot of snacks. Over the past week, we’ve been eating dinner together and putting a little of everything we make on her plate (rather than assuming she won’t like something). I, too, feel like these are positive changes for our family! I’ll look forward to reading your weekly menus!

    Katy · Tuesday January 15, 2013 · #

  6. Thanks Kacie, I really enjoyed reading this. Hopefully I can make use of it soon ;)

    Samantha · Tuesday January 15, 2013 · #

  7. Love this post…thanks Kacie! This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for the past year, and it is so wonderful to read the condensed version (personal Cliffs Notes ) coupled with your experience implementing the transition. We really struggle with this concept with Harrison, and I’m getting exhausted cooking at least 2 if not 3 tailored meals a night for Andy & I and les petites.
    As always, thank you for the inspiration and I plan to bug you further when we bite the bullet and make this happen.


    stephanie · Tuesday January 15, 2013 · #

  8. This is a well-written blog post, but I do think it’s worth mentioning that some kids (and their parents) struggle with sensory processing delays or disorder, and for these kids, taking a “tough-love” approach to food might be problematic or even dangerous. Our son, who was born six weeks premature, has mild to moderate delays—at two and a half, he can’t tolerate the texture of meat, fish, eggs, pasta, fruit, or vegetables (he will gag, immediately vomit, and just generally experience extreme anxiety and distress about eating). His diet currently consists of anything with a crunchy texture, breads, yogurt, and pureed foods. We are working with an occupational therapist to work through these issues, and our therapist told us that for kids with these types of delays, the distress they experience from food textures they are averse to can actually be greater than the pain of hunger—in other words, some kids who seem like extreme “picky eaters” may have underlying medical issues that cause them to basically starve themselves to the point of malnutrition. So, anyway, whenever I read articles or blogs about toddlers and eating, I always like to caution parents to please have your picky eater evaluated by a doctor and/or occupational therapist before you start a new eating program to make sure that there isn’t anything else going on.

    Kelly · Tuesday January 15, 2013 · #

  9. Great post & advices! It’s funny but my husband is obsessed with daily eating schedule :) Greeting from snowy Brussels

    Anna Barbara · Wednesday January 16, 2013 · #

  10. My daughter eats what we eat. I read French Kids Eat Everything about a year and half ago and have adopted it. Our food rule “You don’t have to like it, but you do have try it.” It is awesome to hear my daughter tell others who are guests at house about the rule. I am thrilled to say my 4 year old loves salmon, pork bbq, thai food and will eat brussel sprouts. We don’t eat fast food and try to avoid processed food. Great post!

    gmb · Wednesday January 16, 2013 · #

  11. Mazzy, I can’t remember! She was still breastfeeding but we added bottles of whole milk at naps. As for the transition to solid food, we really like Tyler Florence’s Fresh Start book. It had some great ideas.

    Liz, have you read her book? She started when her oldest daughter was in elementary school age!

    Kacie · Wednesday January 16, 2013 · #

  12. Katy, Yes! I read that too. It had some great additional info and I loved her ideas about parenting in general. I’m excited to hear about how the process goes for you. It didn’t take Gwynnie very long to transition.

    Kacie · Wednesday January 16, 2013 · #

  13. Kelly, ABSOLUTELY! Thank you for adding this. We have a family member who’s on the autism spectrum and his diet is limited by this. Since eating is so linked to our mental process it’s important to know your child and meet their needs. I don’t recommend forcing food on anyone. If Gwyneth refused to eat for more than a day we would probably try a different approach! Again, knowing your kid and not forcing them is definitely important.

    Kacie · Wednesday January 16, 2013 · #

  14. I’m inspired Kacie! I really identify with what Kelly said and I’m much more on the side of finding what works best for your family. But…..we can always improve! Our breakfasts are individualized, but ironically it is the meal that we all linger over, even on school days. And after I thought about it, it is the meal that has staying power. I get very few requests for snacks most mornings. My kids have tailored their lunches to the awful eating schedule at school. They have to eat in 10-15 minutes and the size and variety in their lunches matches the time they have to eat it. So….they come home STARVING. We have a big healthy snack. I am very inspired to change our dinner routine. Put more effort into it, linger and no snacking afterwards. By 7:00 (after a 5:00 dinner) they are always gorging on cereal. I also short order cook frequently for the picky eater at dinner. Last night I explained the new routine to the 8 and 12 year old and all was good until BAM! @ 7:00….. What?! No snacking after dinner?! YOU CAN’T STARVE ME! You would have loved to have been a fly on the wall. This morning I told them the evening menu and we talked about taking our time like breakfast. I actually think this is the worst place we fail in our culture besides the dependence on processed foods. I’ll let you know how this goes : )

    Clare · Wednesday January 16, 2013 · #

  15. Clare, That’s fantastic… well, not the tantrum part but the rest of it. ;) Have you read the book? She had great tips and stories about the changes. Her kids were a bit older when she started so she had some major habits to break too. You should definitely get it… it’s also a fun read. The American lunch system at schools is absolutely absurd! Is it crazy that I’m thinking of homeschooling?! Please keep me updated on how it goes!

    Kacie · Wednesday January 16, 2013 · #

  16. Kacie- great post. I have made so many changes after reading the book as well! I’m so there with you on the challenges socially- it’s hard going against the norm, and especially when people think you are being too strict and too uptight. I get it the worst from family! And grandparents are terrible at stuffing them full of snacks and treats.

    Jodi · Wednesday January 16, 2013 · #

  17. Kacie-I think most parents think about homeschooling at one time or another. We have great schools here and with the CA budget cuts I pick up the slack with the best parenting/after school enrichment/travel I can. I am grateful to have the freedom to be at home. That has made a huge difference for my kids and I value the rewards and challenges of school. Day 2 went pretty well. One of the new ideas I got from your post was the vegetable/salad course first. With older kids, this went really well and we got rather stuffed on artichokes before the rest of the meal was served. I allow a small dessert per day but we rarely have it together as a family. Usually they have it with their after school snack which can contribute to a sugar low and crankiness to get dinner on the table NOW. Omitting that I think will be a good change. I also put out cut veggies as dinner was going to be later than usual. I figured if they dove in, it was like starting their veggie course early. That was really done to make me feel comfortable, and they generally ignored them, but hungry Daddy coming home from work did not. As soon as my oldest found out we were eating like the French, he was on board. The picky eater curled up in a cocoon for awhile after ‘tasting’ artichokes, but bragged about being a ‘super-taster’ this morning : )

    Clare · Thursday January 17, 2013 · #

  18. Kacie, nice post. Here in France, we’ve been applying this way of eating for our first daughter (and now our second) since she was born. If my memory is right, Camille has been eating the same thing as us since her 9 months old. First we mixed our food then we squished it and after gave her small pieces … For Chloe, we gave her some pieces before she got her teeth… no matter, her gums were strong enough (if you doubt, put your finger inside your baby’s mouth and you’ll see!)
    Otherwise, eating with our kids has always been a pleasure even if it’s a lot of care and time.
    I just want to add that when we are eating with friends and that for sure the meal is going to last, we give the same meal as us to the kids before we eat ourselves. Then they can play and we can eat peacefully!
    I’ll try to make a list of our meals for one week in order to post it for you guys!

    Aurélie &amp;amp; Tom · Thursday January 17, 2013 · #

  19. Aurelie, Thanks for your input! I was going to email you. We miss you all so much. Did you feed your girls single baby foods, like just potatoes or squash, or did you always give them exactly what was on the dinner table? I would love your week’s menu! Maybe we should just come visit for a week? That would be even better. I’ll be emailing you too. Love to you and Tom and the girls.

    Kacie · Thursday January 17, 2013 · #

  20. Jodi,
    Yes grandparents can be bad at that. Luckily ours are great listeners. But we also pick our battles… NO McDonalds! But if you want to stuff her full of home-baked cookies… fine. ;) We give in a bit and let them spoil her… again, unless it’s right before a meal.

    Kacie · Thursday January 17, 2013 · #

  21. i’m inspired to read this book! we already use this philosophy in our home, but there is always room for improvement. I’ll admit, we do tend to “snack” too often. But when it comes to dinner time, we eat what Jon and I make. As with any family, we adapt to our dietary needs (no dairy for me, little dairy for Josh) so you can certainly still use this method without breaking the dietary requirements.

    great post! off to locate this book at the library ;)

    liz · Friday January 18, 2013 · #

  22. Liz, I think you’ll love it. It’s a fun read and has some great ideas and really instills the “science” behind the method. I loved it.

    Kacie · Friday January 18, 2013 · #

  23. I read this book a few month ago also.
    I found their ideas about food and mealtimes really interesting and wish I had read it when my children were all younger.

    It really did make me rethink our eating. Although I have not totally changed our schedule to match It did give me a really good chance to rethink our approach to food.

    Alisa Muir · Saturday January 19, 2013 · #

  24. I loved this post. I work in a bookstore so I will be getting book this ASAP. My first baby is due in May and we have all these ideas about what we will and will not do when it comes to parenting, especially meal times. My niece is five and while she will happily eat sushi and thai food and lobster (which is her favorite. She lives in a coastal town), she definitely eats a lot of frozen burritos & pasta & frozen waffles. At Thanksgiving this year she ate blueberries and a hot dog! No turkey, no mashed potatoes. I do not want to do that with my child. In fact, our mother never did it with us, so I am surprised my sister let’s her daughter get away with it.

    Luckily we are pretty set in our ways with healthy eating habits (my fella is gluten free so we take out and processed foods aren’t really an option) but we definitely need to get better at meal planning and budgeting, so I will keep my eyes peeled for your future posts.

    Bonnie · Wednesday January 23, 2013 · #

  25. Week 1 was a success! Interesting side effects: 1. I am doing a lot more dishes and the food gets a bit cold doing veggies first, but the benefits far outweigh these issues. I don’t have the ‘finish your vegetables’ talk anymore and rarely do I have any at all leftover. 2. Dinner is lasting a lot longer with lots of conversation. 3. After 2 days, no begging for snacks before dinner knowing they’re going to get vegetables. If it was carbs, I think they would still be whining. They ARE learning to wait. 4. The picky eater hasn’t added any foods onto his list but he is tasting and eating with more gusto as we work on his texture issues. 5. Our restaurant visit this evening was peaceful even though they were starving. They’d been there, done that, and knew they would survive. 6. My cooking just got way more adventurous, not feeling confined by everyone’s tastes. If they taste it I’m happy. I am offering variety so I know there will be food they definitely like as well as new flavors. I am so pleased!

    Clare · Wednesday January 23, 2013 · #

  26. Alisa, I think that’s what’s so great about the book. It opens up our thoughts on food/eating with kids.

    Bonnie, Thank you! It is so easy to fall into bad habits because a lot of times they seem easier but it’s definitely short term. Let me know your thoughts on the book!

    Clare, THAT is awesome. I’m so glad to hear they’re adjusting, AND so quickly! I’m so excited to talk to you about it more.

    Kacie · Tuesday January 29, 2013 · #

  27. Kacie,
    Thank you a MILLION for sharing this. I “stumbled” across your website accidentally a couple days ago and this fussy-eater-rememdy was just what our family needed!! THANK YOU! We have one son – 2.25 yeard old. We sat him down last night and told him that he is a big boy now and that he gets to eat our food now. I am shocked by the results already! I love the tip about having a “veggie course” first. I think I am going to start following it up with a fruit course after the main meal. He seems so proud of himself that he gets to eat adult food and has already tried new foods I never dreamed he would try (his diet has basically been pasta and pizza for the last year). I am so relieved! We have seriously cut back his milk and snack intake (it was out of control!) And we are sticking with this!! Any helpful hints about how to encourage them to try a bite of EVERYTHING on their plate??? He tried bites of about half of the things on his plate tonight (but believe me…that is an improvement in itself). I think he has figured out already that there is no “back up” dinner if he doesn’t like this one. Amazing what two year olds can understand!
    Also, do you let Gwyneth has dessert if she hasn’t tried everything on her plate?
    And — how important is it to read the book??— i feel like I have a pretty good game plan just from our blog post….is there loads more in there? (besides the recipes?)
    I love your blog!!

    Melissa · Tuesday January 29, 2013 · #

  28. Melissa,
    Thanks so much for the nice comment! To answer your questions…
    1) Sometimes G doesn’t try a bite of everything. I think the most important thing is to put it on their plate and not battle about it. The idea is that the table is fun and if you start a battle of wills the fun is gone. We just say, “Okay, you’ll enjoy it when you’re a bit older”… or something like that and take it away or leave it on the side of her plate.
    2)No. G doesn’t get dessert but it’s not a punishment or a bribe. We never say, you don’t get dessert BECAUSE.. or you will get dessert IF… It just makes sense. We eat our food and that comes last. If she decides she’s done (not eating her dinner or major portions of it) then she’s done. No dessert. The trick is to follow the logic through rather than the reward/punishment aspect.
    3) I really enjoyed the book but it’s probably not totally necessary, I liked reading about her experience… it was really informative!

    Kacie · Wednesday January 30, 2013 · #

  29. Thank you so much for answering my questions! Very helpful…I only wish I had read your reponse a few hours ago BEFORE the battle at dinnertime over dessert…oh well! Tomorrow’s a new day, Praise God.
    Just to share more about our AMAZING experience applying the “French Rules” to our two-year-old’s eating… In less than a week an extremely fussy two year old has transformed into a chicken curry/kidney bean/grape/strawberry eating pleasant little boy to dine with! My husband and I are so thrilled (and shocked, to be honest!). After over a year of thrice daily battles, he has turned a corner. I think that fewer snacks/milks has made a big difference, plus changing his lunchtime to before his mid-day nap to space lunch and dinner out better have been key. Up until last week he would have refused any pasta that wasn’t a certain shape (the curly ones) and last night I served penne pasta and he gobbled up loads of it without any fight! I told him he was eating “big boy” pasta like Mummy and Daddy and he was totally fine with it. And until now he only ate scrambled eggs and this morning he ate a fried egg without protesting at all! AMAZING TRANSFORMATION! I actually sense he was probably sick of his old “favourite foods” and needed the parental push to explore lovely new tastes. He’s eating more than ever (a healthy amount still, though). I think seeing our resolve that this is our new game plan and that we are sticking with it is crucial for him. But he doesn’t seem to think any of this is a punishment—he seems really proud of himself when he eats our food now! He has also taken a new interest in understanding cooking and what’s in our dishes and I am trying to develop that by explaining more and letting him help in the kitchen more. Hopefully he’ll be quite the cook by the time he’s grown!
    To sum it up- it has been brilliant and astonishing! I would highly recommend this system to other parents! Truthfully, I can’t stop telling family, friends, and co-workers about it! It makes me so happy to see him eat a healthy, varied diet that I could cry tears of joy! Thanks for sharing Kacie!
    PS: I may have more questions for you along the way..hope you won’t mind! :)

    Melissa · Friday February 1, 2013 · #

  30. That’s funny Melissa-we’ve also been having great success with our 8 year old picky eater who only ate eggs prepared one way and toast for most meals. He’s added salad and pork ribs of all things to his repertoire and this morning sniffed my easy over eggs and said they smelled good and said next time he’d like to try his eggs my way. Blown away!

    One thing I’m running into is the temptation to get them to continue eating foods they obviously don’t hate, but are just tolerating. They’re negotiating with me about how much they have to eat to get to dessert…….

    Clare · Friday February 1, 2013 · #

  31. Melissa, that is so amazing!!! I felt the same way with Gwyneth. She would just sort of pick at things, now she eats much bigger meals with way more variety. I’m so happy it’s working so well for you and your family! Ask questions whenever you want. xo

    Kacie · Monday February 4, 2013 · #

  32. Hi Kacie,
    I’m back with more questions :) Thankfully we are in SUCH a better place with our son’s diet than we were a week ago (see my previous comments on this post)! Our two-year-old has officially accepted the idea that his only option for dinner is what is set before him on his plate. Hallelujah! I’m surprised how quickly that was established (less than a week). I only wish I had read about this system a year ago!
    I do find he eats more/better when we don’t have guests over for meals (did you find that? I hope he outgrows that, because we like eating with friends!)
    Did you find G got better/braver at trying new things as you went along in this process? Did you find if you kept putting peas (for example) in front of her enough times (when you are eating them too), that eventually some day she’d pop one in her mouth? Any extra tips on how to encourage them in that? :)
    I do plan to buy/read the whole book, but something that I read on the “look inside” taster on amazon is to always have at least one thing that you know your child already likes on the plate. Do you do this with G? For my carb-loving-son, this tends to be the carb. He seems to “taste” some of the other things on his plate, but then still fills up on the carb. Will he outgrow this as his tastes develop? I hope! Still, the fact he is tasting some of the other things is still a HUGE improvement. It seems like the theory behind this is that if they taste peas (for example) enough times, that maybe by the 10th time they try it, then they will like them. Do you find this to be true of G?
    Our afternoon snack time tends to be fruit which makes me very happy, as I always struggled to get him to eat fruit. He’s eaten more fruit this week than in the last month or two combined! :)
    Do you always make her eat the same thing you are eating at breakfast and lunch, or primarily at dinner?
    I thought moving his lunch to before his naptime would energize him and cause him to not nap…but thankfully he’s been napping well this week!
    I’m so happy about all of this!
    I’m excited to make my meal plan for the week—I feel so inspired to introduce him to all the amazing flavours that are out there…

    Melissa · Monday February 4, 2013 · #

  33. Hi Kacie – I landed over here from the Gorge Grown facebook page. This book sounds really interesting and helpful. My 15 month old eats what we are eating and has since she started foods. We followed the book Baby Led Weaning. It’s not necessarily for every family but you basically give your kid whole foods from the beginning, no purees. It was really wonderful and she is an adventurous and healthy eater. Our big struggle is snacking! Trying to get from nap to dinner on just one snack – yikes! Right now she tends to be a mess from 5-6 while I’m trying to prepare dinner. It’s miserable. I’m excited about the success you’ve had, definitely going to get this one and read up!


    Leah Cain · Tuesday February 5, 2013 · #

  34. Melissa,
    1)What’s funny is that sometimes when we have guests Gwyneth seems to know our defenses our down and she will fight us more at the table… but lately she’s been digging in when we have people over for dinner (especially if she’s really hungry)!
    2) The idea in the book is that your first introduce foods as soups or purees and then move on to whole foods. The author even did this with her older daughter because they had gotten of on the wrong foot. I do find this works well with Gwyn. For example, I make this dish ( ) a lot and she mostly ate the pasta. But then I made this dish ( ) a few times and she can’t get enough. She helps me cook both and has gotten braver about tasting the squash in the first recipe. She definitely carb loads. If it’s a dish with pasta she mostly eats the pasta or bread or whatever. I try to keep in mind that that’s totally normal and I just try to keep carb free dinners in the mix so she doesn’t fill up on that every night. But kids need a lot of carbs so I don’t stress too much about it or feel guilty. (p.s. she still won’t touch peas!)

    For me and my family it makes the most sense to primarily focus on dinner. Although G and I eat lunch together most days too. I put the most of my time/energy/money into planning a wholesome, fun and complete dinner.


    Kacie · Wednesday February 6, 2013 · #

  35. Leah, Thank you so much for visiting. I’m so glad you find this post helpful. My sister is currently doing baby led weaning with her son and having great success with it. I will definitely be doing some more research on it this next time around! That time right around dinner can be really hard. Maybe play with her snack time so she’s not miserable and then adjust the time bit by bit? Some nights are like that here too. =)

    Kacie · Wednesday February 6, 2013 · #

  36. Melissa,
    I forgot to add the recipes to that comment.
    Recipe 1 (with whole squash)

    Recipe 2 (soup)

    Kacie · Wednesday February 6, 2013 · #

  37. Hi Kacie-
    We are nearly two weeks in and are loving this!
    One of the things which I appreciate so much about this system is that previously I had struggled to measure the “success” of my two-year-old’s eating for the day. Was the meal a success if I “snuck” some vegtables into him? Was it a success if I forced him to eat a banana? Was it a success if there was no food thrown on the floor?
    Now it makes sense that if he tastes new foods and is slowly developing his palette and eating what we are eating…then we are headed in the right direction!
    Only one meal so far did he flat out refuse (he chose to go to bed with just a bottle of milk) but he made up for it by eating plenty at breakfast the next morning. The fact we didn’t cave and didn’t give him an alternate meal showed him our resolve and he seems to have learned the lesson that he must eat what is set before him (which is actually really nice food!). I do think he is enjoying this process too (despite that one challenging evening).
    I can’t believe the number of new foods he’s eaten this week— rice, black beans, pine nuts, taco shells, strawberry {100% fruit} jam, almond butter, blueberries, ground turkey, zuchinni bread, tomato, new flavours of yoghurts…he did even pop a pea into his mouth! Of course there are plenty of things we put on his plate that he didn’t taste this week, but that list of things he DID taste is simply mind boggling to me when I think he hadn’t really tried any new foods in months, before we began this journey two weeks ago!)
    I am truly so grateful!

    Melissa · Friday February 8, 2013 · #

  38. Hello! Just thought I’d leave a little update on our adventures in French eating in the UK. {Kacie, I am really looking forward to your follow-up post on this topic!}
    We are about a month into this endeavor and we have had great days, okay days, and not-so-great days (the not-so-great-days usually involve the refusal of potatoes which he doesn’t like yet!). The only time he whines about his meals is when we have guests over, which I am keen to put a stop to! But we are making progress and moving forward, which is what is important. This week our previously-very-fussy-two-year-old son took a few bites of carrot lentil soup and I nearly fell off my chair! It felt like a huge breakthrough that he is open to tasting soups now (something never previously accomplished).
    I finally read the actual book {loved it!} which was the reminder that I needed that we are in a LONG PROCESS…and that I need to enjoy the journey and celebrate the little victories. (Like my son eats marmite, mangoes, and cashews now!) I have been eager for him to love EVERYTHING-NOW! But that is not realistic and I need to come to terms with that. I sometimes still get too stressed at mealtimes, but I am trying to learn to relax. We have been laughing and chatting more at mealtimes which is great—and I try not to hover anymore and give him more space while he eats. He’s definitely snacking less and I feel a little guilty when I snack now :) haha
    One question—how important do you think it is to have your toddler eat off your plate when you are eating out instead of ordering a healthy-ish kids meal? We don’t eat out very often in the UK (maybe once a month), but when we visit the States we get taken out several times a week, so I need to develop a gameplan for that!
    We are DEFINITELY in a better place than a month ago with toddler nutrition and it is SUCH A BLESSING and RELIEF!! :)
    Thanks <3

    Melissa · Friday March 1, 2013 · #

  39. By the way— LOVE your butternut squash recipes! We’ve made the pasta one several times already, subsituting pine nuts and chickpeas for the meat — D E L I C I O U S !!


    Melissa · Friday March 1, 2013 · #

  40. This is so great! I’ve never read this book but have always felt that kids should eat what we eat. After all what did people do before processed baby foods and chicken nuggets? I have also always felt that eating together was important. There have been times when it has been difficult to go against the grain of the prominent american ways but now that Iris is a bit older a making more of her own choices I see that it pays off. She eats so many things other kids wont touch, she always asks politely to be excused from the table and she often turns down sweet snacks all on her own, even when other kids are eating them.

    Jade · Saturday March 2, 2013 · #

  41. Melissa, just so you know I’ve found that the longer we’ve stuck with this program the more relaxed G is about eating new foods… in other words, it does get easier! He’s had a couple years to learn his habits and it takes a bit to undo and rebuild!

    Jade, Thanks! I know Danelle mentioned in the past that she was impressed with how Iris ate… it is really hard to stick to but I’m thrilled to hear that it’s worked so well for you.

    Kacie · Monday March 4, 2013 · #

  42. What a wonderful post! I haven’t read the whole book, but I have skimmed it at the bookstore and I love the approach. I nannied for a family in Switzerland, and I really loved the way the kids ate (though I never understood how they subsisted on bread, butter and jam each morning!).

    We have tried to take this approach with our children, but we have fallen off the wagon lately. This is a great kick in the bottom to get serious about good homemade food again! Thank you!

    Morgan · Tuesday November 19, 2013 · #

  43. Morgan,
    Thanks so much for the feedback. It’s truly taken a whole year but it’s been so worth it (for us). We fall of the wagon often! You can read all the posts on this topic here —-> http://acollectionofpassions.com/tag/french-kids-eat-everything/

    including an interview with the author.


    Kacie · Tuesday November 19, 2013 · #

  44. I just found this blog, and I’m so glad to read this post! I am in the middle of reading French Kids Eat Everything and I’m excited for my son to start solid foods (He is only 3 months old.) I was particularly worried about how all this would play out socially, since things are obviously different in America. I really appreciated that part of your post! Thanks!

    Angela · Friday April 18, 2014 · #


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