I recently read a fantastic book called “French Kids Eat Everything” by Karen Le Billon….
The book is an account of an American mother desperately trying to change her American children’s poor eating habits while living in France. This proved to be a great read for a mother that hopes to mold her son into a foodie!
The first part of the book describes the mom’s embarrassment and frustration at not only her children’s picky eating, but also their poor manners at the dinner table. Her writing takes a humorous approach as she recounts her family’s rushed French dinner experiences while observing other French children patiently sitting through dinner and eating anything put in front of them. In the second half of the book, she writes about what she decides to do about it and comes up with a few simple rules that she slowly tries to implement with her children…
While our family doesn’t have the local resources to eat like your average French family and most definitely doesn’t have the energy (or courage) for the four hour dinner parties with children described in the book, many of the “rules” she discusses in the book are ones we already try to follow. Here is how…
1. Parents…You Are In Charge Of Food Education. To me this one is simple, I control Liam’s food not the other way around. I expose him to as many healthy food options as I can (even now) and we talk about what he is eating. We also make a visit to our local Farmer’s market a part of our weekend time together. As much exposure as I can give him early on to the right kind of food, the easier it will be in the long run.
2. Avoid Emotional Eating. This is tough sometimes even for a one year old. A handful of cheerios and a cup of milk will almost always settle Liam down when he is in a cranky mood but I don’t use it. This is one area that having a scheduled meal and snack time (Babywise mama!) has helped enormously. Food should never be used as a punishment or a reward and we stick to this closely in our home.
3. Parents Schedule Meals & Menus…Kids Eat What Adults Eat. My strict Babywise schedule has definitely helped the scheduling part (see # 2). However, I also don’t offer Liam a lot of substitutes if he doesn’t like what I put in front of him. I try to give him a few options each meal so if he isn’t feeling something, he has something else to choose from to satisfy his hunger. Even before I read this book, I always said I would not be a slave (i.e. short order cook) to my child’s food demands. He will eat what we eat, when we eat it. So far this has been easy for us. I realize toddler years bring stages, but I hope I can stick to my guns on this one!
4. Eat Family Meals Together. This is the hardest for our family, especially during the week. It is difficult to get both mom and dad home from work and other obligations, Liam’s meal prepared, and our meal prepared to have dinner together through the week. While I am getting better about it (through lots of meal planning), we do make it a priority on the weekend. This is a big focus for me as we are definitely entering the years where this becomes really important.
5. Eat Your Veggies. This one has been pretty easy for us…one of Liam’s favorite foods is broccoli! I try to make sure he has a vegetable offering at every lunch and dinner and he typically gobbles it right up.
6. You Don’t Have To Like It…But You Do Have to Taste It. Liam tastes everything right now so this hasn’t been an issue. As he gets older and more opinionated, we may have to work on this one.
7. No Snacking…It’s Ok To Feel Hungry Between Meals. Even as a newborn, I never demand fed Liam. He definitely didn’t go hungry, but we followed a feeding schedule from day one. Of course there were always exceptions to the schedule in the early days, but we really have moved away from that as he has gotten older. He only eats when he is in high chair and when it is a scheduled meal or snack. Sometimes he gets a little fussy right before a meal, but otherwise he does pretty well with this. It’s always been important to me to not have a habitual snacker all day. I feel that if I create the routine now, he won’t know any other way.
8. Slow Food Is Happy Food. Not doing such a great job here! Liam grabs food by the fistfuls and crams it into his mouth. I try to control the amount of food available to him but he is pretty aggressive! This rule is definitely one to work on…no four hour french dinner parties at our house…perhaps four minute ones instead!
9. Eat Mostly Real Food. This is my favorite rule. I really try to follow a no processed foods diet for our family by using lots of seasonal produce and ingredients in our cooking. I am very strict on this with Liam (see my homemade baby food posts). While our family still has some improvements to make, we adhere to this in the most part. It is hard for working parents to follow this 100% of the time, but we’re getting there!
10. Remember Eating is Joyful…Relax! You may think after reading my blog that I look at eating as anything but relaxed, especially when I have just outlined “rules” for a one year old. However, dinner time is a fun time at our house. We enjoy home cooked meals with fresh ingredients and Liam is always guaranteed to provide a little comic relief. I am definitely not the uptight cloth napkin, sterling silver, Sunday best for dinner kind of mom, but I do try to set an example for Liam so he can grow to enjoy food as much as we do.