Do French Kids Really Eat Everything?


I have an affinity for all things French. Fortunately, I was able to live in the South of France for a while, and I’ve travelled back there with my husband since. It’s my favourite place to visit, and I would fully admit that I’m obsessed with the food (and the whole culture of food) there.

When I first arrived in Monaco (that’s where I lived… seriously), I was fascinated by the differences in how the local French people ate when compared to my family here. Most notably:

  • Weekday breakfasts were almost always comprised of hunks of baguette slathered with Nutella, jam, or butter. Kids drank hot cocoa, while the parents consumed tea or coffee. There was no evidence of juice or cold cereal at the breakfast table.
  • Lunch was always hot. It was often made up of a meat dish (think veal, chicken, rabbit or beef), a salad (made from endive or other greens), and vegetables (carrots and zucchini were popular choices). I rarely ever saw a sandwich served at lunch. Also, no pizza.
  • Kids only snacked once a day. It was known as le goûter, and it was served after school, or around 3 pm on weekends. It often consisted of a hot drink, bread, and butter, small cakes, cookies, yogurt, cheese, etc. In essence it was a mini meal.
  • Dinner was served around 7 pm. Most weeknight dinners were made up of the following: simple homemade soup, a few crackers or some bread left over from the morning, cheese/cured meat, and yogurt.

I’m not exactly sure why there is such a difference between the North American way of eating and the French, but I’m certainly fascinated by it. Thankfully, Karen Le Billion, a Canadian who divides her time between Vancouver and France, has written a book called French Kids Eat Everything.

Here is a quick synopsis:

French children happily eat everything and most of what they eat is healthy. That’s not all: child obesity rates in France are significantly lower than in North America, where poor nutrition is so widespread that it threatens the health and well-being of our children. So how do French parents teach their children how to eat so well? And how do the French government and school systems support families, teachers, and farmers to provide food education? French Kids Eat Everything answers these questions, and more.

If you can’t get your hands on the book right away, satisfy your cravings for more on this topic by reading Karen’s blog. It’s chock full of interesting tidbits about the French food culture, and I’m especially interested in the school-lunch series she’s been writing about.

Do we glorify the way the French eat? Do you think their way of eating is better?


1 Comment

  1. Nurriddeenah on September 23, 2023 at 5:43 pm

    Absolutely, their way of eating is better! Much similar to Spain, Italy, Greece, many African countries, India, and many Asian countries but only the dishes are different and make use of their locally grown vegetables, herbs, grains etc. “Our” (North American) way of eating is most likely a result of several combined factors, some being major loss of an intimate and respectful connection to farm-life and farmers, during the 70s, recall we had the overproduction of corn (which is then highly processed into marketable corn syrups) and other additives that made their way into our foods and meals and overall food culture.<<<Interestingly enough, this is the time period when the overweight and obesity numbers shot up! It can become at the point when people's taste buds are thrown off, people's hormones and ability to taste, appreciate and become satisfied by real food are inhibited by these additives. When I traveled to South of France (Lyon), my sister and I said, "OMG we have never had actual real food before". And the dishes we were eating were not exquisite dishes. I'm talking about things like grass fed butter, their chicken that we bought from the grocer and prepared ourselves, their vegetables, cheeses and fruits. Our food ills probably also stem from the result of dare I say (capita…m) where more is better and you want to get more bang for your buck. In France, what we call here farmers markets are the norm, I have heard (although I do not know this for sure) that most of France is walk able where fresh foods are the norm. Fresh foods also do not break the bank. I also notice my shopping tendencies as I do in USA, more specifically NYC (buying bulk items) had to be curbed in France because the food items actually rotted, wilted, and spoiled as food should do LOL. So, I shopped a little every few days. This sort of made me more "connected" to the food because I was thinking, "hmmm, what do I feel like eating today?" and then I would go pick up the items I need. In NYC, I don't know what it is, but there is this sense of rush, you have to do this you have to do that that oftentimes food and what you are going to eat is the afterthought and you may go and grab whatever is convenient and there is ALOT of that to choose from. What I also noticed in Lyon is that there are no individual bags of snacks like we have here. Fresh squeezed orange juice is a normal thing in the metros and water bottles as opposed to individual soda bottles or sugar filled drinks are the norm. I think it is the simple yet overall approach to food, what it is for, how it should be enjoyed (at fixed periods of the day and at a table with colleagues, friends and/family) as opposed to odd time of the day scarfing our faces in the car during very stressful rush hours with the TO DO lists piling up. I know people in France have busy lives too and they are not just all sitting around thinking about food and skipping to the farmers markets with a tote bag in hand, but the approach to food and life in general is different. I have been trying to incorporate many happy habits I have learned during my time there (albeit only 2 weeks and YES, I picked up on all of this LOL), small things that make a happy difference…

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