Does Having a French Mom = Veggie-Adventurous Kids?

by Bettina Elias Siegel on January 31, 2012

Those of us with kids who are, to put it mildly, a tad veggie-resistant often scratch our heads and wonder where we went wrong.

In my own case, I’ve long been baffled by my son’s (now lessening, but still an issue) vegetable avoidance, given that we’re clearly doing a lot right. For example, my husband and I love vegetables and have modeled our enjoyment of them since my son’s birth. Following what I believe is sound advice, I’ve tried (when humanly possible) not to make too big a deal out of it, lest our pressure backfire. In keeping with the notion that kids eat what they grow, my son has had the experience in school of growing his own vegetables — but nonetheless passes on a chance to taste the harvest. And, not to be immodest here, but I’m a pretty decent cook and my vegetable side dishes are, in general, tasty and kid-accessible.

So where did I go wrong? Turns out the problem is quite simple: I’m not French.

french tomatoes

Just havin' fun with the stock photo credits, people. TLT does not in any way endorse the dyeing of one's tomatoes blue just to make a cool French veggie montage.

OK, I’m being a little glib here, no doubt because I’m feeling pretty bitter. Go check out Dina Rose’s fascinating post today on It’s Not About Nutrition, discussing why French kids may be eating more vegetables than your kids do, and what we can all learn from the differences between how the French and the Germans approach early childhood feeding. It’s such an interesting read.

And as for my son and the ways in which I may have failed him as an infant? Well, what can I say now except “C’est la vie?”

Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 1,600 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page (or follow on Twitter) and you’ll get your Lunch delivered fresh daily, along with bonus commentary, interesting kid-and-food links, and stimulating discussion with other readers. You can also check out my virtual bulletin boards on Pinterest and find selected TLT posts on The Huffington Post.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Bettina Elias Siegel

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda @ Tales of an Amateur Mommy January 31, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Hmm… I felt like I gave our daughter a lot of fruit, and that does tend to be what she loves. I eat the same way, not huge on veggies but adore fruit. What cracks me up about our 15 month old is that she wants her veggies cooked with FLAVOR. I swear she’s going to be a foodie some day. She will eat green beans if cooked with bacon, and baby carrots slow cooked in the crockpot all day with a little beer, but she won’t eat the frozen or canned variety of either.

Reply

andrea January 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm

That’s really interesting– and totally contrary to the instructions most new moms get about how to introduce vegetables in babies’ diets! For what it’s worth, my house sounds like yours, right down to the kids who garden but don’t eat the stuff they grow. I can’t see why they won’t loosen up and try a few things, but compared to some of their pals, they’re doing pretty well, veggie-wise. I know I happily eat veggies now that I wouldn’t really touch until after college, so I’m trying to be patient.

Reply

Karen Le Billon January 31, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Dr Rose explained the ‘variety’ aspect of the French approach so well in that great post, and I loved your thoughts Bettina! The French approach does seem different than the advice we get in North America. But it really works! Introducing lots of variety, early on, is key.

However, it’s never too late to start. We began using the French approach when our older daughter (an incredibly picky eater at the time) had just turned 5. It transformed her eating habits: she’ll eat almost any vegetable now (e.g. cauliflower, spinach, beets, broccoli, lentils, all kinds of things in sushi). Best of all – she eats them happily.

ps Don’t blame yourself Bettina! (In fact, the French are very good at not feeling guilty about parenting, but that’s another story). A lot of these tactics are easy to try anywhere. We learned them when our family moved to France, but we’ve been able to maintain them even after we moved back home to Vancouver. That’s why I’m so excited to share these ideas with everyone here!

Reply

Karen Frenchy February 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm

This is exactly how we’ve been raised and how I did with my 5 YO daughter.
Having my daughter in the USA, I was a bit lost when it came to start “solid” foods because the “instructions” from her pediatrician were not helpful (no quantities, no time). I called my mom (mothers are just awesome !) and she reassured me… I slowly introduced “jar food veggies” like sweet peas, green beans and carrots and later made her soups : no salt, no oil, just vegetables (potatoes, leeks, carrots, onion, zucchinis etc…) boiled in water and later mixed with her milk in her bottle. I got A LOT of guilt trip like “oooooh, no solid food (soup ??) in a baby bottle” but it worked for us.
Same thing with fruits. When I got more comfortable with cooking for a baby, I made her some apple/prune sauce… At 9 months, she would eat ratatouille (eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini “stew”) because she was interested in our plates ^^

Of course, she went through some frustrating phases where she would refuse eating anything greens (man, that seemed like forever), or raw tomatoes (cooked, it was fine) but eventually, we worked around them and she came back to them.

Now she’s 5 and she eats any veggies and doesn’t need “tricks” (like adding cheese or cute presentation even though I like preparing her bentos).

Sometimes, I find myself lucky to have a child who loves eating good meals… When my nephew from France was visiting us last summer (4 YO), feeding him was a bit of a challenge : “I don’t like it!” without even looking what was in his plate -_- But by the end of this stay (3 weeks), he almost ate like us, meaning everything (I screamed Victory inside of me)

So I guess it’s not just a French thing ^^

I hope baby #2 will be as easy as my first…

Reply

Bettina Elias Siegel February 3, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Karen: So interesting to hear your experience, and also to hear that your nephew — from France — did not arrive in your home as an adventurous eater! Obviously there is no one way to go about expanding a child’s palate but you clearly found a method that worked well for you and your daughter.

I feel like I exposed my kids to many fruits and vegetables when they were quite young but looking back I would have ramped that up even further. I might be in the exact same boat I’m in now but, either way, it would have done no harm!

Thanks for commenting here and sharing your story.

Reply

Karen Frenchy February 10, 2012 at 11:45 am

Thanks Bettina!

Don’t look back. We shouldn’t blame ourselves = we do what we think is best for our kids, with love and what we have available around us. Let’s not forget our kids are little people with their own mind and tastes. We try to expose them to many different types of food but if they don’t like it, well… what can we do about it?
By the way, there is no way on earth someone will make me eat chard and salsifis.. no way ! and I was exposed to these at home and a la cantine ;)

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: