Book Review: French Kids Eat Everything

If you deal with picky kids (or even spouses) I highly recommend reading the book French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon. Several readers recommended it to me, and I am so glad they did. First of all, this book is very inspiring. Whether you are able to apply every single tactic to your life or not it gives you the confidence that kids do not have to be so limited when it comes to food. I know I am not the only one who often wonders why so many think that kids will only eat and enjoy “kid food” like pizza, chicken fingers, plain pasta, hot dogs, and macaroni & cheese.

Now I will say, as motivated as I felt after reading the book, there’s one huge component we’re lacking here in America. Apparently, in France, their schools, governments, and communities all work “together to create food and education systems that support parents in feeding their children well.” I don’t know about you, but I oftentimes feel like others are working against me (not with me) when it comes to feeding our next generation well. My daughters eat more junk food at school than I would ever dream of giving them at home. I can’t imagine how much easier things would be if everyone in our society was on the same page like they appear to be in France.

But rather than waiting around for that to happen we must just take matters into our own hands. And what I have learned from my own children is that converting a picky eater requires a gentle, yet persistent approach and LOTS of patience! Winning over a picky eater is not something that will happen overnight, but if you really make it a priority in weeks, months, or even a year I guarantee you will start to see some of the dramatic changes you are hoping for. And in the end it will of course be worth the effort.


10 great takeaways (the “French Food Rules”) from the book French Kids Eat Everything:

  1. Parents: You are in charge of your children’s food education.

    Apparently the French think us Americans cram our schedules so full with activities (like sports, art, music, dance, etc.) that it leaves little time to teach our children “some of the most basic, important things they need to know, like the proper way to prepare, cook, and eat healthy food.” You have to admit it’s hard to argue with that criticism. And I just love the analogy the author uses when she says, “French parents think about healthy eating habits the way we think about toilet training, or reading.” If your child had trouble learning to read or using the potty would you just give up? Same should go for eating a variety of healthy foods…I know, they are right and it stings.
  2. Avoid emotional eating. Food is not a pacifier, a distraction, a toy, a bribe, a reward, or a substitute for discipline.

    I feel like we are so far down this rabbit hole it might be hard to get out, but let’s face it they have a good point here! Food is for nourishment, hunger, and nutrition…not for being a good listener.
  3. Parents schedule meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat: no substitutes and no short-order cooking.

    If this were a reality for everyone it would certainly make life a lot easier!
  4. Food is social. Eat family meals together at the table, with no distractions.

    How
    you eat can be as important as what you eat.
  5. Eat vegetables of all colors of the rainbow. Don’t eat the same main dish more than once per week.

    I agree that variety is extremely important, but I am personally a little stumped when it comes to the second half of this rule. We love leftovers at our house and feel they are such a time saver…but that certainly means eating the same main dish more than once, or in some cases, more than twice per week!
  6. For picky eaters: You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it.
    For fussy eaters: You don’t have to like it, but you do have to eat it.

    When considering these statements it’s also VERY important to remember that “you’re not going to convince the kids to love food by being too strict with them. It has to be enjoyable. Not necessarily loads of fun, but simply pleasurable.” This takes us back to that “gentle persistence” I mentioned above.
  7. Limit snacks, ideally one per day (two maximum), and not within one hour of meals.

    Now, I know out of all the rules on this list that “no more constant snacking” will likely cause the most uproar. But according to the author it’s okay to feel hungry in-between meals and guess what…your kids might eat a better dinner if they are actually hungry!
  8. Take your time, for both cooking and eating. Slow food is happy food.

    “North Americans associate food most with health and least with pleasure. The French are at the opposite extreme: they are the most pleasure-oriented and the least health-oriented about food.” And ironically enough “20 percent of kids in the United States are obese, but only 3 percent in France.” Now if that doesn’t send a message, I don’t know what does.
  9. Eat mostly real, homemade food, and save treats for special occasions. (Hint: Anything processed is not “real” food.)

    See…I am not the only one preaching this statement! :) But “so much of what French people eat is, by default, ‘real food‘” so I’d have to say they don’t exactly face the same challenges we do when it comes to encountering junk food on almost every corner. The French do have an admirable approach though when it comes to the processed, junk food their kids may want to eat on occasion. They do not police their children’s food intake (or ban all junk food), but instead attempt to “train their children to eat a balanced diet and to realize how much healthier they feel if they eat mostly ‘real food.'” I’ve always said that if my daughters only avoid processed food “because mommy said so” then it’s not going to get us very far.
  10. (The Golden Rule) Eating is joyful, not stressful. Treat the food rules as habits or routines rather than strict regulations; it’s fine to relax them once in a while.

    I couldn’t agree more with the importance of this rule, but striking the perfect balance between “good nutrition” and “relaxing the rules” is no easy task. And maybe that’s because most American children are faced with processed, junk food on a regular basis (at birthday parties, friend’s houses, church events, soccer practice, school celebrations, etc.). As I mentioned above, our society is (unfortunately) not exactly working together on these issues like they are in France. Regardless though, I agree it is not “healthy” to constantly be stressed out about the food you eat.

In addition to this list of rules there were so many other startling facts and insightful statements that I took away from this book. I wish I could share them all here, but since that’s not a very practical idea I will instead just highly recommend that everyone go out and read the book yourselves! I promise you won’t regret it…not to mention there are a handful of kid-friendly recipes in the back.

*THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED*

The winners are: 

  • Ann – “I abide by the kids eat what adults eat rule and don’t offer other options. We also stick to real foods, minimal sugar. So I think that helps kids eat real food without complaint.”
  • Emily – “My husband can be a picky eater, so my trick is preparing the same food a number of times. He may not like everything, but perseverance pays off!”
  • Nicky – “Rule #6 is the big one in our house….even if you’ve tasted it 50 times, taste it again!”

Posts may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but 100 Days of Real Food will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated and helps us spread our message!

2,974 thoughts on “Book Review: French Kids Eat Everything”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

  1. My mouth fell open at Joy’s comment. Unbelievable the audacity of others. I have been a SAH mom and now a working mom. There is absolutely no more “hard” in one over the other. Both choices are difficult for different reasons. The whole reason I went on this food journey is because I saw my family’s eating habits deteriorate when I went back to work. The change wasn’t about quitting my job so I could stay home in the kitchen all day. And be spoiled. (Still can’t believe she said that.). The change was getting my entire family on board with being healthy. I’m actually in the kitchen far less than I used to be. My husband and one of my 3 kids made dinner last night. You are a mom. It’s your job to take care of your family regardless of job status, career choices, income level, etc. It is NOT your job to insult and criticize others. It sounds like there is much needed advice to be sought after in order to provide your family real healthy nourishment. I take just as much offense to Joy’s comment as any SAH mom. I have 3 kids (2 of which are hungry-all-the-time teenagers), a job, a husband who also works a full time career, and an EXTREMELY tight and humble income. Eat well and be well whether you’re a SAH mom, working mom, single mom, no kids, lots of kids, a man, or a kid. Bringing socio-economic politics in to a food and health blog. Did she really just do that?

    1. Beautifully said Karen. I too have done both SAH and working mum. Both can be really hard, and both can be easy!
      I believe people need to stop comparing and do their best. If you have children, they come first! Sure we all need time away from them, some mor, and most go the fast food/junk/treat options sometimes. We’re human after all. But the kids NEEDS are the priority. If you’re unhappy with your

  2. Laurael Robichaud

    For Joy’s comment- I have to work full time, I drive over 100 miles a day and have an adult child with special needs—- and we (both my husband and I) still manage to provide whole foods most of the time. It truly is all about what you are prioritize. I spend a lot of weekend time freezer prepping etc, but with the money saved on not eating out all of the time and the health benefits- it’s what I choose to make my top priority. We are what we eat!

  3. I whole heartedly believe in #3! It has never even crossed my mind to make a seperate meal for my 1 year old and 2 1/2 year old. They eat what we eat and if they don’t like it then that’s that. I think it is the strangest thing to make a whole other seperate meal for your kids. Its So much more work for you as the parent and I’m assuming the meal is probably something not too healthy like mac and cheese or chicken nuggets. My kids are good eaters because of it :)

  4. Just wanted to say that I am a nutritionist and that most of these points are taught throughout my state to those at food pantries. It is so wonderful to help other moms de-stress their lives! All these points really do help!

  5. Well. For those of us who are not spoiled stay-at-home moms and actually have to WORK for a living, slow food, real food, etc. is not always an option…the quicker the better.

    1. I am also a working mom and believe there are ways to serve more real foods without taking a ton of time. It does not have to be all or nothing… My kids eat a ton of organic cheese, whole grains and fruit – all of which are not/less processed and fast. There are lots of frozen vegetable options now too. We should learn from, not resent, one another.

    2. Dissatisfied with your life much? Don’t blame others for how you choose to live your life. In the blame game, you’ll always be the loser. :(

    3. Name calling is pretty immature for a grown woman. If you are frustrated by the amount of time some meals take there are plenty of other ways to provide real food to your children. Blaming other women’s life choices for that frustration sets all women back a little, don’t you agree?

    4. Excuse you? I’m not entirely sure what bitter nonsense has convinced you that being a stay at home mom makes someone spoiled, but you really ought to check yourself. I’m on my feet 18 hours a day, and never not doing something. I have a household that I’m running, and I’m raising my child. I’m my child’s educator. I’m her cook. And I’m about sick of being called spoilt by someone who is working and has someone else raising her child 8-12 hours a day, 5-7 days a week.

      1. You hit the nail on the head there Marie! I’m a nurse and work 12-14 hours a day, and constantly on the run during that time. I sometimes babysit for my niece her 2 kids (7 mos and 5 yrs), … and I swear, I work harder babysitting than I do “working”. It’s all ‘work’, and raising a child to be the best they can be is the MOST IMPORTANT and DIFFICULT job on the planet! SAHM’s are NOT ‘spoiled’, they are, for the most part, very hard working, dedicated PARENTS doing the most important job, without “compensation”, most of the time without acknowledgement, no “benefits” to fall back on, and a time clock that doesn’t exist. Then, if you did your “job” right, and with a LOT of luck and prayers, the long term payoff comes when they are fully grown, independent, self-supporting, responsible and contributing members of society. THEN you can sit back and say, “whew, it was worth it”!

        Some don’t have the ability to stay home, but STILL find the time to give good meals, love, support, guidance and encouragement to those little people who are trying to find their way in this crazy, mixed up place we call Earth! We all do the best we can with what we have, and hopefully learn something along the way, and improve as we learn. It’s all we can ask for. To Joy, blaming someone else or putting them down, just points the finger back at yourself. You are still on a learning curve. I hope you continue on your journey and can see more light as time goes on. I also hope someone comes to help relieve some of that stress from time to time that you seem to be under.

      2. Love all the replies to Joy!

        Before kids, I worked as a computer programmer for 23 years. I enjoyed my work and enjoyed all the benefits that went with it. Without kids, I was always able to fix healthy “real” food for my husband and I.

        After 14 years of marriage, I finally got the joy of becoming a mom, and fortunate enough to be able to stay home with them (although finances are tight). I often have said that this is the hardest job I’ve ever loved! I am currently home-educating my 14-year-old twin boys.

        I wish I could say that my kids always get healthy, “slow” food….but unfortunately the demands of my life make that really difficult. I think it is challenging to all moms, whether they are EMPLOYED or not….as most all of us WORK hard to take care of our families the best way we can.

    5. This is the problem with our fast food society and culture. It is easier but it is not better. You could probably manage to put food in the crock pot before you go to work or marinate your meat. You don’t have to spend hours slaving away. These are your children. They don’t have to have a 5 course meal but they should have real food.

    6. WOW…that was not called for…I am a stay at home mom of twin girls and my husband works out of town 10 days and home for 3 and gone again….I manage to run my house and feed my girls healthy homemade meals….and believe me there is no sitting down around here with twins. You just need to plan your meals and prioritize your time in order to make healthy choices. I spend sundays cooking and freezing healthy meals for the week. This way it make days that are “crazy” and I don’t want to cook easy…take it out of the freezer and reheat :) I would not call this being “Spoiled” as you stated.

    7. Wow. Angry much? ‘Spoiled stay at home moms’. Please explain what part of staying at home makes a mom spoiled.

      SAHM’s make their choice, you’ve made yours.

    8. Please. Take your foot out of your mouth and your head out of your butt, you’re in a very awkward position to be handing out crappy comments. Thanks!

    9. I work outside the home. I make healthy real food freezer meals so when I get home dinner can be on the table in 20-30 mins.

    10. Im a WORKING mom as well – you know my day starts at 430a and I still have time to feed my kids a decent dinner AND not only take my one child to cheerleading practice BUT also head to the gym too. I have husband who works 50/wk as well. I can make time to feed my kids a good meal. I know ANYONE can if they looked at their time management. Is it easier just to feed them some McDonalds and call it a day – yeah but that totally adds up after a while. Im not the best cook but I will tell you my kids will choose fruits and vegetables any day of the week before junk.

      I hate hearing SAHM are spoiled or hearing how nice it might be to be a working mom and have someone else raising my kid. THIS IS THE PROBLEM – WE JUDGE OTHERS WAYYYY TO OFTEN AND QUICKLY. Props to both sides of the fence – no matter what its a difficult decision to make.

    11. I have been a SAHM, a FT working mom & a PT working mom. I can tell you that being a SAHM doesn’t mean you have a rich husband & go out for coffee & pedis while your nanny watches the kids. Some of us scrimp & save to make it possible to stay at home or work part-time. And I will agree, those of us that can are very fortunate & blessed, I know it is not possible for everyone. I’m sorry if you are unable to be at home & want to, but that is no reason to have a poor opinion of mothers who spend many hours every day caring for & teaching their little ones. Of course there are some moms who are not great examples, but most sahm’s I know do it bc they want what’s best for their child, not so that they “don’t have to work”. It’s hard work if you are really doing a good job at it!

    12. Just because we stay at home it doesn’t make us spoiled. You go to work and get sometime to yourself even if it’s just working. I don’t even get a minute. You also get a lunch break. So don’t be saying that those of us who stay at home don’t do anything, you don’t have any idea what we do all day. And even when I worked I still cooked almost every night,so don’t say that you don’t have time, If you chose to feed your kids fast food, that’s fine, nobody is judging you, it’s your kids and your business. Just don’t assume anything about stay at home moms.

    13. It sounds like Joy is bitter and I get that she is very busy. You have to change your lifestyle and work to live instead live to work. I mean is a bigger house, new car or $500 handbags more important than the health of you and your family. The big companies have convinced us to play their game. At the end of your life none of these material things matter. Just because they tell us we need processed food in our fast paced world doesn’t mean they are right. We are putting substances in our bodies via prepared foods, which were never meant to be digested. It is amazing what they are allowed to feed the public this way and it should be criminal.

    14. You know, as a spoiled, stay at home mom who obviously doesn’t do any work whatsoever…nope never mind. If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all. Mouth closed.

  6. I don’t have a problem getting my kids to try new things or eat veggies. I’d have a problem with #7 though. If I didn’t let my 5’3 101lb 13 year old eat snacks, she would definitely lose weight and people would start thinking thinking I dont feed her. She is skinny enough eating 3 meals and 2 snacks a day.

  7. I was a picky eater as a child, but now I am very adventurous. To help our children be adventurous from the start, I did not give them any whole foods until they were old enough to eat with a spoon themselves, around 8 months each. I would only give them tiny bits of what we ate, never jarred food. They would be able to feed themselves and taste regular home cooked food. As they got older, we have never had an issue with food pickiness. Of course, from time to time the kids decide they don’t like something in our regular rotation, so the deal is you can choose one meal you don’t like and it can be your freebie: but it has to be claimed ahead of time and you have to prepare something equally healthy as an alternative for yourself. For instance, when my oldest was 6 he stopped liking beans. So chili was a big issue. He got to refuse chili as long as he made himself something else to eat. BUT if he decided that he did not like the food as it was being served he could not refuse it for the first meal. Eventually he decided to eat chili again and now he loves it.

  8. As a picky eater I was forced to try everything when I was growing up. There are so many foods these days I can’t even stomach the smell. My kids are never forced to try any food. They all love a good variety of foods without being forced to try anything.

    1. I totally agree with Lisa! I was SUCH a picky eater growing up and my mom forced me to have 3 bites of everything. All the time. I can honestly say that it did nothing to change my palate. Growing up has expanded it somewhat, but still not for many of the things I was made to eat as a child. As a result, right or wrong, I rarely force trying food. I do make sure always we have plenty of the fruits and veggies they do like on hand. 3/4 of my kids ate everything up until they were 12 or so months and then just stopped. Their palates changed, and I’m pretty sure as they grow, they will change back and embrace many of the foods they liked as babies, but grew out of.

  9. Rule 5 can be overcome with a little creative planning. For example, if I make a roast chicken, with steamed vegetables and rice on Monday, I toss the leftovers into the crockpot (chicken bones and all), cover with water and simmer into a soup. Even if you don’t eat it that week, you have a healthy homemade soup that can be frozen and pulled out for a quick meal (with hearty sandwiches) on a busy day.

    Alternatively, it can become chicken tacos with spiced rice or chicken salad wraps for lunch. Leftover steamed veggies can be pureed into a pasta sauce (you’ll never even know it’s there!)

    Usually, I repurpose my leftovers into meals that I can prep, freeze and toss into the crockpot later when I need them.

  10. So thankful for this article and your comments, ladies. I never buy Little Debbie’s etc. I buy grapes and cheese etc. Why? Number 1 because it’s healthy and they need to fuel their brains. Number 2 because everywhere else they go is sugar, sugar, sugar. Our lifestyles are so busy, that if it’s a mom’s turn to bring snacks, they bring Little Debbie’s etc. instead of a healthy choice. I finally have my kids bring their own snacks everywhere. It has really been a blessing.

  11. Roslyn Christiansen

    I loved this book. I took quite a few things away from it. I love how the French incorporate food more as a fuel rather than a reward or a treat. The ironic part for me is that treating it more like a fuel instead of a treat results in them enjoy more diverse foods…making it a treat or a celebration.

  12. I love these rules. Well, my husband and daughter are Quebecois French. My husband is like a rabbit and loves to eat fruits and vegetables. I want my daughter to be the same. Sofar she’s doing pretty good. I just hope she continues. Right now she is 22 months.

  13. Grandma introduces a lot of new foods that my daughter likes because they came from grandma. If I introduced the new foods, she’d turn her nose up at many of them! I still introduce new foods without grandma, but the ones that she takes to the easiest are always from grandma’s house!

  14. Nichole Krueger

    I always offer something healthy for my kids to dip their food in – homemade ranch-style dip (made w/ Greek yogurt and seasonings), hummus, homemade organic mayonnaise, or even fresh squeezed lemon. They get added protein or healthy fats from the dips and it makes dinner time much more pleasurable without the complaining.

  15. I always offer something healthy for my kids to dip their food in – homemade ranch-style dip (made w/ Greek yogurt and seasonings), hummus, homemade organic mayonnaise, or even fresh squeezed lemon. They get added protein or healthy fats from the dips and it makes dinner time much more pleasurable without the complaining.

  16. Nicole Matthews

    I let my picky eater dip in either ketchup or ranch. He isn’t so picky now but still uses it on a few things. They do know though that they have to have as many bites of something as their ages (8 and 6 years old). No short order cooking in my house either.

  17. Picky eater tip: make food fun!! Add dip to veggies, let kids pick which veggie/fruit they want, let them help prepare it too. Also, give options so they feel in control. We try to have two veggie options at dinner. They have to eat/try one.

  18. Love this! We follow a couple of these, but need to work on the no snacks. I absolutely don’t short order cook!

  19. I let my kids pick one food that they don’t have to eat. Thy MUST TRY everything else. Works pretty well for us.

  20. When my kids did not eat their meal I would cover and save it until the next meal.if they got hungry before the next meal this would be their only choice, no snacks or dessert.

  21. Out strategy to get kids to try foods is to keep track of how many times they have tried something. After trying the same dish (just a taste) at least 7 times, they don’t have to try it again.

  22. My pickiest eater dips almost everything in ketchup. Even his broccoli. It’s terrible. I really want to break this habit before he starts preschool in August.

    1. Natalie,

      I work as a cook for a family with strict dietary issues and they faced a similar problem. Their children are on a very limited diet, essentially no dairy or carbs. I felt bad that their kids were unhappy with their food but bottled ketchup was not an option in their house because they don’t believe in anything store bought. I found a delightful homemade organic ketchup recipe that has completely changed our lives! There is no more guilt about using ketchup! We do try to limit it to once a day to kick the habit but for now at least, this is a great option.

  23. I encouraged our children to take a small “no thank you helping” and try it. Refuse children’s menus at restaurants and establish a no eating in the car rule helps children develop better eating habits.

  24. london ingoglia

    I really believe that everything starts when your kids are 1st starting to eat food. I made all my daughter’s food and she absolutely loves fruits & veggies and I think it’s largely due to the fact that she had them in their truest form when she was young. I also make sure to always have fresh fruit & veggie options for snacks versus junk food.

  25. Trying very hard to help my 8 year old niece who has about 5 foods she will eat. I personally thing all snacks and sweets should be saved for the weekend and for celebrations. And I think it’s okay to wait feel a little hungry before you eat

  26. I have two eaters on the picky side. What’s work the best for me is to keep offering foods that they are “picky” about. The fruits, vegetables, meats etc…that they enjoy has greatly expanded over the last few years as I’ve consistently offered them.

  27. My husband is just as picky as two of my kids! I don’t force my kids to eat all the healthy things I make, but they have to at least try it!