I’m so happy you’re here, because it means you care about healthy food. On this blog you’ll find discussions of a range of parenting issues (like picky eating and snacking, food marketing and politics), as well as delicious recipes and menus. Enjoy!
I’d love to hear your comments! I’d also love a photo or drawing on the Getting To Yum Photo Wall – where you’ll find kids eating everything from spinach and sushi to olives and octopus. Yum!
ps My new book Getting to Yum is now available for purchase in the US, UK and Canada!
49 thoughts on “Blog”
HI! I am a Senior going to a school in Ohio and I am doing a project in my French class about what French kids eat in school and I’ve found your website to be amazingly helpful! I was wondering though, one of my requirements for this project is to converse with a native French person, and if you would be willing to help with that? If not I certainly understand. Thank you so much!
I just found your blog, and I LOVE IT! It’s so pretty. Can’t wait to keep up with your writing. 🙂
Hi Mark – thanks so much for your message and so delighted you enjoyed the book — even read at top speed! 😉
I just finished your book (in under two hours). I loved your experiences and the fresh perspective you brought to eating culture in the US. I had already been using some of your tips with my daughter and will undoubtedly be adding some more too
One question for you about french culture. I work with several French nations and I have noticed their openness to all types of foods…. with one major exception. If there is ever a very spicy dish (think indian, malay thai food) or even a dish where some heat is indicated on the menu, they refuse to even try the dish and really dont even want to frequent restaurants where spicy food is served.
When I was in paris earlier this year, I noticed a similar phenomena. Traditionally spicy dishes had almost all traces of spicy removed to create a dish that is nothing like its native version.
Is this typical? Is spicy food just not a part of a typical french palate?
Thanks so much for writing this book,
I am reading your book currently and it is inspiring me to try (yet again) to get my kids to eat more variety of food. My 3yo in particular is shocking fussy and I really struggle with him. I can relate to so many of the scenes you describe even down to my own diet which tends to be v repetitive (and a bit snacky!) and as you note in your book, if you want your kids to change you just have to change along with them.
Have you any recommendations for a book of simple quick receipes that would follow the type of diet french children would have? I would be particularly interested (though I doubt it’s out there yet unless you are writing it yourself!) in a practical guide as to how to work with an older child to expand their food. Particularly as i do not have the benefit of the French support system and don’t have the care of my child all day either as I work full time.
If I could find some sort of guide I would defintely try and do it but it is totally overwhelming to contemplate it alone! I’ve read a lot of books on children (have you come across Ellyn Satter?) and eating but actual implementation is so difficult.
I just landed on your Blog after looking for new recipes for my family (my husband being diabetic) I get inspiration from all continents. After surfing around cyberspace I landed on your article in an north American online magazine I couldn’t stop reading I absolutely loved it!
I live in France myself, with my French husband and my two kids of 6 and 2 . I am Danish/French grown up the French way in Denmark. And it is so true, that food is not a big question regarding the kids here. They eat what you eat that is it. We would never make special kids food and special Adult food. I remember when my youngest daughter started solids, I would take our dinner and blend it in the food processor for her to eat with us for dinner or at the “nounou” for lunch.
My son started eating oysters when he was 4 where my daughter started drinking the water and scraping the shell when she was 1, to mention that there is no specific kids menu or food at the oyster bar! they love it though because it is different and fun!
I think they learn to eat many many different foods because they have no choice. I make dinner and you take it or leave it, but not without tasting it. I would never cook a second plate because they don’t like it. This is what they learn in the schools cantina as well, they have to taste then they can refuse. As you mention, schools menus are not “child proof” in France as they serve normal restaurant or French home food. They have Fish once a week, veal, beef, salads, and div. vegetables etc etc.
It might also be the way we live here. I work till 6pm like most people and after picking the kids up from nounou and school we don’t have a lot of time to start cooking twice. I will only cook one meal, and that is what we all eat TOGETHER. Which is what I think is one of the most important things in adapting kids to foods and table rules. French kids nearly always eat at the same time as parents, rules say you don’t leave the table until everyone is done eating, you don’t put your elbows on the table and when everyone is done it is the kids who clear the table (even my two year old does it). It is such a habit that we don’t even need to ask them any longer.
I could continue writing about all our French habits as I find lots of them really really good, I’m not saying that it is the best as there are also negative things about France and bringing up kids (although I can’t find that many but there are).
I do however find more recipes on low carbs and diabetic friendly food on US/Australian websites, the creativity is huge there compared to France where even if there is are multiple amount of choice, low carb food haven’t developed that much. France does stay very conservative when it comes to their foods and regional foods.
By the way I saw there were debate on French women and breastfeeding, if this can help, most French people do not breastfeed at all. It has started in the past years but most French women are not “adapting” the new wave, they stay very conservative on this as well not exposing breasts in public. I did it for 10 month which here is extremely rare and I remember that it did make people feel uncomfortable when around.
Oh yes and Food machines do not exist other than at the train station, and I don’t know if they really know how to use them.
I haven’t read your book, but what I’ve read from the article is very true!
I wish you lots of success in the future.
ah yeah…about my son falling in love with Sophie…he tasted the Sophie’s Spinach Surprise puree, then asked about the name of then item that he, his brother and sister was (surprisingly) enjoying. I explained to the best of my ability and so now I have a son enthralled by your daughter through food!!
Sooo…I was at the library, helter skelter with my 15 month old and I see your book. The title grabbed my attention(and the cute drawings) so I took it out. As a busy mom of three(two rambunctious six year old boys and a 15 month daughter), I read that book cover to cover!! I loved the honesty and I laughed at the many things that I could relate to !
I’ve always worked hard to have the boys eat healthy. Your book inspired me to reintroduce good healthy food habits to my boys. It also taught me to slow down at the dinner table(husband is still a work in progress).
NEVER in a million years would I have thought to give beets or spinach to my kids(maybe sneak it in something). They gobbled up the purees!!Wow…
One of my sons is already in love with your Sophie(“I would love to meet Sophie.” he said).
So thank you thank you thank you for changing my outlook on food!
Thanks so much for your message! I am actually working on a new book right now (“Getting to Yum”) which is a cookbook and how-to guide. It will be out next September, but this is obviously too late for your child. There are resources from the French equivalent of the American Academy of Pediatrics (The Société Française de Pédiatrie). Do you read French? If so, try looking at this:
Click to access alimentation_nourisson_01.pdf
Note, they have recommendations that the AAP might not agree with. For example, at the age of 5 months, they suggest making a thin vegetable soup (more like a bouillon) and serving this to your baby in their bottle, mixed with milk–by gradually reducing (not eliminating) the amount of milk, you get your baby used to eating vegetable soup. They even suggest that you can mix a spoonful or two of store-bought baby purees with the baby’s milk (again, in a bottle) to introduce them to new tastes! Or you can serve a thin soup using a spoon, before moving on to thicker purees. So this is obviously not the same as American advice. Note: they do not make mention of rice cereal, which is not the normal first food. See Dr Greene’s ‘White-Out’ Campaign on this: http://www.drgreene.com/whiteout.
In practice, French parents introduce a new veggie every 3 or 4 days (a recent study found that they introduced, on average, 6 new veggies in the first month, and more than 40% of the babies in the study were introduced to between 7 and 12 vegetables).
(Source: Maier, A., C. Chabanet, B. Schaal, P. Leathwood, and S. Issanchou. 2007. “Food-Related Sensory Experience From Birth Through Weaning: Contrasted Patterns in Two Nearby European Regions.” Appetite 49: 429-40.)
When asked to explain why they choose their particular feeding strategy, the French parents mentioned “taste development”, which is prioritized by French paediatricians and parenting books! The Society of French Pediatrics tells parents: children’s appetite diminishes around the age of 2 years old. It’s important to maintain the “4 meals per day” structure to the eating routine, without forcing kids to eat. Before ‘neophobia’ (fear of new foods) sets in between the ages of 2 and 3, it’s important to introduce your child to lots of flavors, textures, and tastes.
So what veggies are French parents serving? From the above-cited document from the Society of French Pediatrics, here is the list of starter vegetables (at 5/6 months; French original text below):
-Any of the following can be mixed into a small amount of potatoes, which should be introduced separately first
-List of veggies: carrots, green beans, spinach, zucchini (peeled and seeds removed), leeks (whites only), pumpkin.
Endive and chard can be used in limited quantities, and only baby endives and baby chard (to limit the amount of fibre). Green peas can be used only if they are ‘extra-fine’, and served in small quantities. (The French think that green peas are really hard on the digestive system and don’t tend to serve them until the babies are a bit older. The document also suggests limiting carrots, which they state can cause constipation.)
-They note that parents should wait on certain vegetables which are too rich in fibre or pose a higher allergic risk: cabbage, turnip, onion, green leek, celery, celery root (celeriac), green peas, tomatoes, Jerusalem artichoke (salsify), cardoons, artichoke, peppers, eggplant, parsley. These are to be introduced around 9 months if the child is handling the other veggies fine. Then other veggies are added too, like fennel, cauliflower, broccoli, and beets.
-They also suggest starting with fruits later, and note that these should be cooked before pureeing, for younger babies.
-From 18 months onwards, the document suggests that babies can eat all vegetables. But they recommend waiting on ‘dried beans’ like kidney beans–maybe until they can chew them properly? They might pose a choking hazard.
Hope that helps and I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!!
“La pomme de terre en petite quantité peut servir de
liant. Il est préférable de proposer un seul légume « vert »
par jour (en plus des pommes de terre) afin que l’enfant
apprenne le goût particulier de chaque légume. Parmi les
légumes « verts » il est possible d’utiliser : carottes, haricots
verts, épinards, courgettes (épépinées et sans peau), poireaux
(blanc), potirons. Les bettes et les endives peuvent
être utilisées en quantité limitée, sous forme de légumes
jeunes pour limiter l’apport de fibres. Les petits pois peuvent
être utilisés seulement s’ils sont extrafins et en faible quantité.”
ps I feel like I should insert a disclaimer here — this is not medical advice!! And please check the information here with your health care provider if you have any questions. Note: the rate of allergies in France is approximately 5 to 8% (similar to that in the US) (source: Maier et al (2007)).
I have a 6 month old baby who is now interested in food. I would like to take the French approach and start introducing a variety of vegetables but can’t seem to find anything on what vegetables to start with. You mentioned to wait on feeding infants beets but I wouldn’t have known that otherwise. I’ve searched endlessly online for a French food recommendation for infants but keep coming up empty handed. Do you know of any resources when it comes down to actually putting all of this into practice that might be helpful? What, when and how do I start all of this on an infant??? What are the different foods at the different stages (4 months, 6 months, ….). Any practical advice and direction would be super helpful. I’m confused on which vegetables, if I start with fruits, are there any cheeses, etc?. All American doctors and material go back to the American approach of rice cereal, pureed fruit, etc.
Any direction would be great! Thank you.
Thanks for such an interesting comment, and so glad you enjoyed the book! In response to your question, the child obesity is rising in France but is still much lower than in other industrialized countries. Here’s a discussion of why: https://karenlebillon.com/2012/09/17/french-kids-dont-get-fat-why/. Would love your thoughts!
I am almost finished with your book and as a person who lived overseas for a year herself, I can relate with all of your feelings and the revelations regarding food and attitudes. It was in the Philippines, and there was routinely things like ox tail and squid with the ink intact served. I lost a lot of weight that year, but not because of skipping meals. The quality and variety was much healthier than what we have here.
I come from the autism community, and food for health is a big deal here. I have a daughter much like your Sophie who never slept and is very sensitive. I can only imagine that the pickiness is not only from how we Americans eat, as you pointed out, but also gut issues. When you eat the way you all did, you give your body the nourishment to clean up unhealthy gut issues which can affect behavior as well. Too much sugar and vegetable oils create oxidative stress and can feed pathogenic bacteria in our guts. All of these things affect behavior, mood, etc.
I would like to see, however, if some of our imported grains and other GMO infiltrated foods affect even the French at some point. I was on another blog, and one of the commentors was recently in France and noticed some obese 25-30 year olds walking around. That makes me wonder if things are changing now. I have eliminated grains for my autistic daughter and will be doing a special diet to help myself and the girls. I will be using your “rules” for helping me help them make that transition.
Thanks for the wonderful read…..and sorry for such a tumultuous year! I get it! It’s rough being that outsider.
Hi Cathy – so happy you enjoyed the book! It’s never too late to start! Love the idea of giving this to mothers-to-be (I certainly wish that ‘I knew then what I know now!’). 🙂
I just finished reading your book! I loved it! I checked it out from the library and now am planning on buying my own copy for reference. I just wished my kids where younger ( age 8 and 10), but I am going to immediately start implementing some of your ideas. This book will also be my go to gift for every new mother to be!
Hi Bobbi – This is SO kind of you — I’m really delighted! I do accept! 🙂 And will pass on the love….Thanks again!!
ps So sorry I didn’t reply sooner – back to school has been crazy busy.
Your blog is fantastic and I am passing the One Lovely Blog award to you. You can check out the details here if you accept 🙂 Keep up the good work! http://www.bobbisbentos.com/2012/09/one-lovely-blog-very-inspiring-blogger.html
So glad you enjoyed the book! Attitudes towards smoking have evolved significantly in France over the past decade. Smoking is now banned in all bars in Paris, for example; and, the French government banned smoking in all public (i.e. government) buildings a few years ago. Approximately 27% of French people smoke, versus 19% in the US (2010 data from CDC and INPES). Interestingly, the number of cigarettes per day (on average) is about the same in both countries: 14 in France, versus 15 in the US. As in the US, rates of smoking are higher among younger age groups, and those with lower levels of formal education. In our village, smoking wasn’t terribly obvious, but perhaps that’s because we tended to befriend people our age and older, amongst whom smoking rates are quite low. That’s the best I can do to answer your question!
I started to read your book out of a sense of duty and finished reading it because I enjoyed it so much. I totally identified your description of North American eating habits and was fascinated by how your family adapted to the French approach.
I’m curious about the smoking habits of the adults in your husband’s village. Are the French smoking “mindfully”?
I just discover your blog, following an article about you in “L’Express”. It is interesting, because kids’ food is one of the subject we, French mothers, discuss a lot. A hot topic.
Many French mothers in my neighborhood globally think that menus at school (that are exactly what you depict here) are not balanced enough : too many proteins, starchy foods, sauces, etc. Usually, a French mother checks everyday the menu at school to make sure not to cook pasta or potatoes for the dinner if kids ate them for lunch.
As for myself, I do not propose meat or fish in the evening on a regular basis : I consider, as many of my friends, that kids had enough proteins for lunch. So very often we eat what my kids call “mum’s big salad”, a mix of lettuce, tomatoes, boiled eggs or cumcumber with goat cheese, etc. No “yellow” (pasta, potatoes, …). Only “green” and “red” 😉 . And fruits, many fruits.
Snacking is not cultural here, maybe because family dinner is so important : we eat, but we also share what happened during the day, discuss school / work / family issues, etc. And we do not appreciate that kids are not hungry when they seat at the table. It is also a kind of lack of respect for their mum, who spent some time cooking (instead of reading a great book for instance) ;).
As I am not a food torturer neither, two times a week the kids decide what we eat. This generally means pizzas or French fries, and a soft chocolate cake.
They eat and appreciate almost everything, ask for green beams on a regular basis with their “duck magret” or “tuna tartar” at the restaurant, and have a real consciousness that eating healthy is important (they’re 10 and 13). They love trying new foods, new vegetables, new cooking ways.
As everybody, they love cakes, chocolate stuff, etc, mais they try to balance with healthier stuff. My 10 years old son can even ask for one of my steamed chicories if I confirm that it is over 50/100 on his “good for health scale”.
To conclude … I’ll buy your book !
AMAZING POST:) Your blog is so wonderful and I will happily follow.
If you want some décor inspiration from Sweden, check out my blog:)
Have an awesome week.
LOVE Maria at inredningsvis.se
So glad you enjoyed the book, and that the suggestions are inspiring. I don’t actually have many lunch menus on the site — you’re right. And you’re not the first person who has asked for more lunch menu ideas…I am planning to start posting more recipes soon, so keep checking back! A month of menus is ambitious….good luck, and let me know how it goes!
So glad you’re enjoying it! Teaching kids to eat well is partly a struggle because it’s not a routine in our culture — it’s something we often have to rediscover. So happy if the blog can help with that!
I just finished reading your book and have already started some of your suggestions on my 2 1/2 yr old. Like you, I found myself in a food rut with my son and have been looking for suggestions in the book store from other mothers like myself on how to get out of this rut. Your experience is validation that many mothers are in the same boat about feeding our children healthy and delicious foods. I have enjoyed some of your recipes already and see that you have links to french lunch school menus, but I was wondering if you have resources for lunch menu ideas (in english) that I can prepare at home (ie. quick and easy). This is where my problem lies- what do I fix for lunch and keep it varied, fun, delicious and healthy?!? I am trying to put together a whole month of menus so I can rotate them and have them on hand instead of trying to think of something on the spot.
Thank you for your time and I appreciate any suggestions you may have. i just loved you book and have been recommending it to all my mommy friends.
Just found you! Love your blog and the content is refreshing and very helpful!! I’m sharing with all my friends who are struggling to get their kids to eat healthy or eat et al!!
Thanks for all of these great comments!
On breastfeeding: French women have lower rates of initial breastfeeding than North Americans, and don’t tend to breastfeed for as long. For more discussion on this (sometimes controversial) topic, see my post on Elisabeth Badinter’s recent book:
A comment was made regarding breastfeeding and its effects on children and eating. Kat Gun remarked that she suspected that French mothers breastfeed longer than many of their American counterparts. That is a mistaken assumption, as you pointed out in your book, Karen, French mothers nurse for much shorter times than is the norm here.
There is nothing magical about the way French children are fed. It is common sense,and the way that families fed their children in this country prior to the current generation. I am 50, and my parents were born during the Depression, they were small children at the time of Pearl Harbor. As rural farm children, they ate copious amounts of fruits and vegetables, far more of them than meat all their lives. Why? Simple, for the same reason so many others of that generation did the same, you can grow enough vegetables to feed your family adequately. Meat is expensive if it must be bought, time consuming and in need of lots of space if you raise your own. As adults, they continued to eat in the same way and to feed myself and my brother like this. I was surprised to discover that many people considered a starch and one vegetable to be appropriate dinner plate components with meat–we never had less than four vegetables, potatoes and three others! I fed my children this way as well. School lunches in my day had some pretty odd combinations sometimes, but that was because there was an inflexible “meat and three” rule of thinking in terms of what was acceptable as a lunch menu for children. How many of us educated in that era remember the combo of chili and cornbread, with carrots and salad on the side? Spaghetti and salad, with a side of succotash? Salisbury steak with the “Holy Trinity” of parsley potatoes, green beans and corn? They might be odd–but they were vegetables and we ate them!
We need to return to the thinking of my childhood, which is also the way I raised my own kids. Our parents generation were not too far removed from being worried about having ENOUGH food, so they had NO tolerance at all for picky eaters. The mantra was “eat it or go without”, and it was quite common for the “go without-er” to find that what they had refused was heated up and served again at their next meal! I recently heard a preacher remark about having to eat lima beans as a child because “there are children starving in Africa and his mother did not have their address”. Well, there are still children starving in Africa, I still dont have their address, and when I put lima beans in front of my grandchildren, I am not interested in hearing about it. Eat them. Or eat nothing. Those lima beans will start looking a lot better at the next meal. This is parenting, folks, pure and simple parenting and discipline. Make it a practice at the table, and you will find that it becomes more natural in all areas of child rearing.
Intriguing! No snacking?! Wow. In your book are there the studies showing that French children (and adults) are healthier than we (United States) are? Not just obesity but resistance and resilience to illnesses etc.?
I just saw you on live with on channel 5 in the uk this is what I’ve been telling friends for yeas based on how I grew up in Quiberon Brittany though the rising obesity and snack machines and junk food must have been around 2008-9 as throughout the 80’s/90’s and 2000-2007 I only ever saw one McDonald’s in st malo and never saw a snack machine in school even friends from Lyon & Grenoble never had such “luxuries” in school or the town you had to go to tourist towns which the brettons and a lot of french avoid like the plague for such things
Thank you so much for your brilliant book! I have (or should I say, HAD) two very fussy, picky, typically North American children! I bought the book the second it came out, implemented the rules immediately, and within a week we were seeing changes in the children’s attitude, behaviour and expectations. AMAZING. Your ten rules have changed our lives. I’ve recommended it to all my friends and everyone who’ll listen to me!
Karen finally someone who understands. I am 65 years old and raised by a French Mother until I was brought back to the States at 12 years old. Even now when I return to Paris my Mother lectures me on how to eat “always eat something green with your meal”. My daughters, all raised in the U.S., learned to eat when spending summers in France. I cridge at some of the meals I have watched my friends eat here. I know they cringe by some of the meals I prepare. The best was when a teenager looked in my refridgerator and asked “why does Randy have hermit crabs in his fridge”. Her father then tried to explain escargot to her.
I love your blog – so excited to hear your thoughts on the book!
Hi Karen! I just got a review copy of your book in the mail yesterday, and this morning I noticed that you “liked” my Perry’s Plate FB page! Thanks so much! I can’t wait to start reading… it seems your philosophy is right up my alley and should be shouted from rooftops 🙂
I think it is probably the documentary called (in French) ‘Nos Enfants Nous Accuserons’, which is available in English as ‘Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution.’ It’s an interesting movie because it shows how good French school lunches are (in a little town called Barjac), but also exposes the fact that the broader food system in France is far from perfect — and is prey to many of the same issues we are facing here (according to the film-makers, these include environmental degradation, health risks from agricultural chemicals (e.g. pesticides), and pressures from fast food and the ‘McDonaldization’ of food culture). A polemic that not everyone may agree with. But it’s a fascinating movie, which doesn’t romanticize or idealize France or French food.
So glad you enjoyed the book!! Thanks for reaching out…and looking forward to more of your thoughts on the book if you have a chance!
That sounds wonderful – love the idea of an ode to veggies! The French have many children’s songs about food (each chapter of the book starts off with a French children’s rhyme or song). So I’ll look forward to your book – and would love to hear your thoughts about French Kids!
I would love to see this documentary! Do you remember the name? Thanks!
Just gobbled up your book and LOVED it. Loved it! I’m an American with a child in a French immersion school, and lucky me, there have been a nice collection of books about French culture lately, such as Lessons from Madame Chic and Bringing up Bebe. But your book focuses on what I’m most interested in: food and specifically how children — well, people actually — learn to eat, and how that ties in with a given culture. I was very sad to have finished the book but delighted that you are also writing a blog. Well done! And merci!
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I just heard about your book via Super Healthy Kids blog! I can’t wait to read it. I thought you might be interested in my book, Poems on Fruits & Odes to Veggies – Where Healthy Eating Starts With a Poem.
I wrote and illustrated this book to introduce kids and their families to healthy food choices!
I would love to hear from you and congrats on the book
I too found you on a cross post but whoo hooo the good luck I that! I am very interested in reading your book! Goes with a documentary I just saw on Nexflix about French school lunches!
I wll now follow your blog too :))) keep up the greatness!
Yes, a couple dozen recipes! All easy and quick to make…but tasty too. 😉 There are a few sneak previews of the recipes — check out my ‘media’ page for some bloggers who have already posted a few.
Hi Karen! Very excited about your book. Does your book contain recipes?
After reading through the blog posts I guess I would say the most important thing is to “educate” the family and then the school systems. Kids only do what they are allowed to do so let’s allow them to do what is best for their health and of course their brain.
Americans are so fast. It always amazes me when someone tells me that they were so busy and couldn’t get time to enjoy the day. Forget about what happened to their meal times.
For this reason I have supported Jamie Oliver’s food revolution movement here in the states. Unfortunetly, not much has changed.
Thanks so much! It’s a fun read, I promise! 😉
Just found your from Sarah Jane’s blog and pre-ordered your book- can’t wait!
Salut Ines! So lovely to hear from you! I do remember those endless conversations and the mutual amazement about parenting and food habits! You can see I was so impressed I’ve put it all to good use (I hope) in trying to explain the French approach to North Americans. I think you might see us in Toulouse earlier than you expect (spring 2012) and we’d love to try some confit de canard and tripoux! Bises, Karen 🙂
Hi Karen, Celine gave us the news about your blog! It is great and reminds me the endless conversations I had in Vancouver with our friends about toddlers and food…And how we were amazed at each other’s habits…Well if you come through Toulouse you have to stop at our place and try our specialities (confit de canard, foie gras and elie and adele’s favorite :”tripoux”)…Bisous Ines
Very excited about your upcoming book Karen!!! Can’t wait to read it!!!!!