Solutions for picky eaters

I just finished reading “French Kids Eat Everything“, by Karen Le Billon.


Let me tell ya – it’s having an impact on mealtimes around the house, here.

The cover pretty much covers the general plot line of the book – they moved to France, cured picky eating, banned snacking, and decoded some basic guidelines to healthy, happy eating.

For the first half of the book, I felt like congratulating myself.  The author essentially describes their pre-France eating habits as the “standard American diet”, which we don’t subscribe to around here.  There are plenty of healthy foods that my kids love and that friends are astounded to see them eat:  tomatoes, spinach, sushi…

However, as the book went on, I remembered why I had checked it out in the first place.  You see, when I was pregnant with Junior, I let the Moose develop some pretty bad snacking and eating habits because I was sooo sick, and he couldn’t have gluten or dairy.  He ended up eating a lot of hot dogs and Joe’s O’s (Trader Joe’s version of Cheerios), and generally got hooked on rather unhealthy snack foods.  Once Junior arrived, I implemented the rule of “Thou shalt not leave the table until thou art full”, because he’d take three bites and go play, return for another couple of bites, and generally snack all day that way.

The biggest take-aways for me:

1.  “Dress the table”.  I interpret this to mean, “every time you plan to serve a meal, get it all on the table and presentable, with settings nicely laid out, before serving anyone.”  I don’t put a tablecloth on my table, which Billon advocates in the book, because I have a toddler.  And I like my table.  Mr. Caffeinated found it on craigslist, and it’s a beaut.  I also don’t like laundering tablecloths when I can just wipe up any messes.  I talked this over with the kids, and they suggested vinyl placemats.  I’ve added these to my shopping list.

Meals start with everyone present, a prayer, and we all eat together with no other distractions.  This means I have to stop reading at the table during meals, which is  a luxury I’d just as soon keep.  However, I’ve noticed that my children eat better (especially the Moose), we talk more, and there’s less snacking because I’ve made sure everyone has eaten four times during the day.

2.  That’s right – four times a day.  We tend to have a late dinner – Mr. Caffeinated doesn’t always get home at the dot of 6:30.  With the lovely weather, I’d just as soon be outside later anyway.  So at present, we’re mimicking the French system – breakfast, lunch, early dinner (which we’re calling ‘dinner’), late dinner (which I’m calling ‘supper’).  Supper is still our heaviest meal, which I know isn’t necessarily recommended, but baby-steps, eh?  With the advent of ‘dinner’ around 4:00, I can serve the snack-type foods that will hold us over till supper, plus leftovers from other meals, all in one setting.  And then I’m not acting as a short-order cook from 3:00 till Daddy comes home.  For myself, the biggest challenge here is no bedtime snack.  My evening snack can be an entire meal in itself if I don’t watch it.  I need to lose that last ten (twenty) pounds from being pregnant, so I’m motivated.  I’ve only goofed up royally on this one once in the last week!

3.  No snacking between meals.  This has started to come home to roost for the Moose; he would prefer to be picky at mealtime and ask for his favorite snacks as soon as the dishes are cleaned up.  Billon recommends saying something like, “Oh, you’re hungry?  Then you’ll really enjoy {whatever the next meal is}; we’re having _____.  That will be in about {half an hour, two hours, etc.}.”

The Moose’s response has typically been “Me no like that.”  Which leads to the next take-away:

4.  “You don’t have to like it; you just have to eat it.”  I don’t make him eat huge servings of things he doesn’t like, and I don’t make him eat what he’s allergic to.  I make sure that there are at least three or four things (entree, veggie, fruit/other side dish) at every meal that are filling, healthy, and GF/DF; if he doesn’t want ‘em… well, the next meal is in about three hours.  We’re having ____.  And we ALL eat it, which has worked wonders with the Moose.  When he sees us all eating something, he tends to join in even if he’d otherwise pitch a fit.

This week, I picked up a kohlrabi root at farmer’s market and sliced it very thin in the food processor.  Raw, it tastes like a cross between a carrot and a mild radish.  Natter, Rosebud and I love it.  The Moose would have rejected it out of hand, but he saw us all munching away on it, and cautiously tried a bite with some hummus.  Now he’s a kohlrabi fan. 

5.  We discuss our food.  We talk about the texture, the temperature, what it reminds us of, whether or not it’s spicy or mild or soft or crunchy; you name it.  This has led to the kids being even more adventurous, because they like to talk.  I can’t imagine where they get that.

6.  I’m trying to get them in the kitchen more.  The more they help with their own food prep, the more they want to eat it.  This was already happening, but not enough.  I’m trying not to be such a perfectionist, and they’re learning not to hang about whining about being hungry while I’m trying to get the meal on the table.  Now we all work at it, and it gets served faster.  Granted, yesterday and today this mostly meant that they set the table and got water in the glasses (and mopped up the mess when the inevitable spills happened), but they also helped with plating things and some minor assembly of salads and sides.  I can do better than that.

I returned my copy of the book to the library earlier this week.  I may be checking it out again to get some more ideas, once I feel that I’ve got these under my belt.  Or I may decide to just bite the bullet and buy it, even though my bookshelves are packed as it is.

Definitely check it out, whether you’re struggling with picky eaters or just trying to improve upon a system that’s working pretty well already.  My kids are eating healthier, with more enthusiasm, less snacking and less complaining.  Plus, they’re learning to help more in the kitchen.  I can even call it ‘Health’; not a bad unit study for the summer!  Even if you have it all figured out – and who does? – having a reason to pat yourself on the back is never something to be scorned for us Mamas-In-The-Trenches.


About dep31

I am a farm-raised homeschooling mom. I take great joy in making nutritious food that inspires people to take seconds. Thirds, anyone? We are a God-fearing, Christ worshiping family that enjoys good friends and good eats. If the kitchen is clean and the living room carpet is visible, then that's a nice bonus.
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5 Responses to Solutions for picky eaters

  1. Hi there, just stopping by from WWRW. I just read this recently too! I had a lot of the same take-aways you do. I’m having a hard time sticking to my guns with the snacking limitations.

    • dep31 says:

      Yes, I think that’s the hardest part. I love to bake, and I’m having to really re-think what I’m making: “Is this a snack food or a meal food? When do I plan to serve this?” Having one meal designated as snack foods is helping me. It also helps that my oldest two have taken the ‘no snacking’ challenge to heart, so they aren’t bugging me for food all the time.

  2. Pingback: French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters Reviews · WWW.DBESTREVIEW.COM

  3. Pingback: French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters Reviews | WWW.JUSTINFOHUB.COM

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