As a registered dietitian, my go-to baby shower gift is Ellyn Satter’s Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense. Satter’s advice is simple: parents are in charge of the food served, children are in charge of how much (and whether) they eat. This was my mantra when raising my two sons. Our dinner table was a pretty positive place, and I ended up with one “good” eater and one “picky” eater (and there’s still hope for that one too!).
I’m still a fan of Ellyn Satter. But I wish all new parents could read Karen Le Billon’s French Kids Eat Everything (William Morrow 2012). Le Billon moved from Canada to France with her French husband and young daughters, and she saw firsthand how French parents raise their children to be “good” eaters almost from birth. By trial and error, Le Billon implemented these habits with her own daughters.
Here are some of her observations about how the French instill healthy eating habits for life:
- Parents teach healthy eating habits. Just like potty training or learning to read, the French “assume…that all children will learn to like vegetables.”
- Food isn’t used as a reward or to keep kids occupied while running errands. You won’t see sippy cups and on-the-go containers of fish-shaped crackers littering minivans and strollers.
- Children grow up eating what their parents eat. There are no kid versions of real food and no children’s menus!
- Mealtimes are scheduled social occasions. The family eats together, sitting down at the table.
- School lunch is important. Kids get at least 30 minutes to eat. Many schools have chefs and cook from scratch. Food is served on real plates and eaten with real utensils.
- Food is something to be enjoyed. The French always eat sitting down.
- There is no between-meal snacking. Children learn that it’s ok to be hungry between meals. As a result, children are hungry when it’s time to eat.
Le Billon’s newest book is Getting to Yum: The 7 Secrets of Raising Eager Eaters (William Morrow 2014). I’ll have more to say about this one in the future!
By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.