Did you hear the one about the mom who got her two picky eaters to love vegetables? Not just eat -- LOVE vegetables. True story. Karen Le Billon had a toddler and a 4-year-old on the "white foods" diet who ate more during snack time than during meals. So she tried a little experiment to see if she could get them to change in a year -- and it worked, mamas. It freakin' worked!
Just one little thing: The experiment involved moving the whole family to France. Hey, who said this was easy? Karen and her family lived there for a year, where she had her whole food world turned upside-down and came up with her own 10 common sense, life-changing "food rules." Her book is called French Kids Eat Everything. And they do. But Karen's rules are meant for the rest of us living here on the other side of the ocean.
Are you wondering how you get your kids to eat everything? Here are Karen's 10 rules.
1. Parents: YOU are in charge of food education! This doesn't just mean teaching your children to eat right. It means teaching them to appreciate and love food -- all kinds of food. Karen was not much of a foodie, and this approach to eating was just crazy-pants to her at first. But little by little she saw it working magic in her family's lives.
2. Avoid emotional eating. NO food rewards, bribes, etc. Because children are not sea lions.
3. Parents schedule meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat. No short-order cooking. I am such a fan of this. We do this in my home (most of the time), too. And I have to admit, it's easier with just one kid. But yeah -- no mac & cheese special just for the boy. If we're having pad Thai, he's having pad Thai. Period. And it's not just about getting your kid to overcome pickiness. I think it's important for him to see us, his parents, enjoy a wide variety of foods (see rule #1).
4. Eat family meals together. No distractions. This is a tough one, but we make family dinner happen three or four times a week. And it's worth all the trouble. It's a real bonding time for us when we really talk with each other and catch up.
5. Eat your veggies. Key: Think "variety." Honestly, I think this may be just as hard for parents as it is for kids! A lot of adults don't like veggies, either. So this is about getting out of your comfort zone for adults, too. But kids like it when grownups do that.
6. You don't have to LIKE it, but you do have to TASTE it. Say this at every meal. This is one of our rules, too. I'm working on not acting annoyed when my son makes those gagging noises after trying something. The French are more neutral and will just shrug and say, "Oh well, you just haven't tried it enough times."
7. No snacking! It's OK to feel hungry between meals. I thought this was was pretty harsh at first. Apparently the only snacking the French do is around 4:00 p.m. (they eat dinner later, around 7:30 or 8:00). Could you survive the meltdowns?
8. SLOW FOOD is happy food -- as in, eat slow. Study after study shows that when you slow down and chew your food thoughtfully you eat less. But it also gives you the chance to be social and chat a bit.
9. Eat mostly real food. Treats are OK for special occasions. By "real food" she means food a human cooked from actual fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. Not stuff from a box or a fast food place. But we all know, if you make the boxed cookies "forbidden," they become a bigger temptation. So some flexibility really helps.
10. Remember: Eating is joyful. Relax! And that's the craziest rule of them all. Seriously -- after reading all of these rules that are about not snacking and not eating junk food, this is a real humdinger. But it's also the rule that made all the other rules work. It's a matter of attitude. Karen found that her food rules backfired when she was a hard-ass about them. But when she relaxed and just tried to make food about exploration and joy, her kids were a lot more receptive.
Would these food rules work for your family?
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