Mary Luz Mejia recently interviewed me for the UltimateFamilyVacations.com. Here are some highlights; a link to the full interview is at the bottom of this post. Bon voyage!
Q: What do you recommend parents do to introduce picky eaters to try new foods while travelling?
Le Billon: Where possible, have them taste new foods before you leave. For example, try tagines if you’re going to be taking a holiday to Morocco! Watch food videos on Youtube of foods that people eat. Anything to familiarize the kids with the food before you go – so they aren’t having to encounter the new food in a new environment (which is often over-stimulating). This is a version of French ‘taste training’; gently acclimatizing your children to new foods.
Q: How to get children to want to try new foods in foreign countries that don’t have chicken fingers and fries on the menu?
Le Billon: Often, kids do as we do (rather than as we say). Try the new food yourself, and if they see you appreciating it they may be more willing to try it. This is actually backed up by scientific studies that show the kids are much more likely to eat something if their parents try and enjoy it first. Having family meals together, sitting down at the table, is what the French do–so eating the same thing together, at the same time, comes naturally.
Q: We’re travelling with an infant- almost 7 months old. What can we do to gently introduce her to new flavours that are good and healthy for her while on the road in Amsterdam and Flanders?
Le Billon: For infants, I recommend soups. They’re the classic way French parents introduce new foods to babies. Even just tasting a little broth can be great. For example, if you’re in Flanders, you can try ‘moules’ (mussels). She’s too young for shellfish (stomach poisoning is always a possibility), but give her some sips of the broth, which will be really tasty. My family is Dutch, so I remember lots of great soups as a child such as Rijstsoep — with beef broth and rice, or Aspergesoep (asparagus soup) for example; often these are made with a clear broth, so they’re great for infants.
Q: What’s the #1 mistake parents make when travelling with children when it comes to meal time?
Le Billon: #1 Mistake: feeding kids snacks close to mealtimes because you’re worried they’ll be hungry. It ruins their appetite, and sets them up for not eating a proper meal, which means they’ll be hungry again too soon. This is French Food Rule #7: Limit snacks to once per day (and not within one hour of meals). Obviously, an infant might be on a different feeding schedule (although French infants only eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have one big snack at around 4 pm).
The above is an extract from the Q&A session (the full-length version of which you can find here).