French Taste Training Tip of the Week: The Lunch 'Surprise Box'

Introducing new foods in a fun, pressure-free way is a key part of the French approach to kids’ food. In the school lunches served in France, this happens on a regular basis (for example, schools don’t repeat the same dish more than once every two months). They can do this because kids get a fresh, scratch-cooked meal at the ‘school restaurant’ (the name says it all).

Sounds good, you’re thinking. But how to do this when your kids pack a lunch from home (which is what we do now that we’re back living in Vancouver)?

Here’s one simple idea: designate one of the compartments in your child’s lunchbox the ‘Surprise Box’ (we use ones from EasyLunchboxes). We chose the smallest compartment, into which I pack fun, unusual things (fruits, vegetables, or even sweet treats). We talk about the new foods when the kids get home — they love sharing their reactions. And I make sure to put in rare favourites (like out-of-season fruit) from time to time, so they have really positive associations with the Surprise Box.

Some recent suggestions from our Surprise Boxes: pomegranate seeds, very thinly sliced endive (French ‘chiffonade’ style), cubed mango, tiny baby carrots (from my neighbour, who was thinning her new carrot plants), a basil leaf, and (my personal recent fave) a macaroon (on National Macaroon Day, bien sur!).

If you do try it, let me know how your kids like it! And I’d love suggestions about other things to include as Surprises.

4 thoughts on “French Taste Training Tip of the Week: The Lunch 'Surprise Box'

  1. Great tip! I use the smallest compartment in our Planet Box lunchbox to put a little surprise for the kids. And it is really important to follow up with them, I agree. I would also emphasize that it should not be dedicated to “healthy” foods only, as you mentioned in your post. An occasional treat in the “surprise” box automatically elevates the status of other foods kids find there.


  2. Great idea! When our son was younger, we used to play “guess the spice” at breakfast. We’d sprinkle a mystery spice on our fruit and we’d have to guess what it was. We were trying to do the same thing — introduce new tastes with a bit of fun and adventure to make them more acceptable.

    I will try your technique — it’s a good one!

    (And congrats on your book — I just ordered it on amazon.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s