21 April 2014

book musings: French Kids Eat Everything

I encountered the book, French Kids Eat Everything, by Karen Le Billon, when reading some of the blog posts for the Carnival of Evidence-Based Parenting on food and eating habits over the summer. One of the bloggers referenced Le Billon's book, so I looked it up, discovered that the author lives in Vancouver (local writer!), and got the book at the library. Now I'm finally getting around to writing up my reaction.

I've read bits of it out loud to J., who asked, "Why is it always the people from Vancouver who do an interesting life experiment and then write about it?" (Earlier that year, I read him The 100 Mile Diet, written by a pair of Vancouverites). I don't know what it is about the air or water or landscape that drives us to do this,but the results are interesting. French Kids Eat Everything is certainly a useful read, given that our child is starting to eat solids now.. Not all the principles that I lokked will be applicable right away, but once we started introduce solid food, there were some ideas that I found very helpful.

For example, it's apparently typical for French parents to have their children try many different foods many times. They don't worry if the child doesn't like it right away. They just introduce the food again at a later date. They don't assume that the first exposure to something new will "take." This reflects my own experience with food as a child. For a long time, I disliked mushrooms and wasn't terribly fond of onions. I wasn't too keen on cooked spinach, either. When our exchange students from Taiwan made us seaweed soup when I was five, I was not enthused. This has changed. Drastically.

There were, of course, things I didn't like. The general French approach to parenting and food is far more rigid than what I would prefer. Here doctors recommend feeding on demand with infants, but in France, they're on a schedule quite early. I do a bit better with the North American version, since having to adhere to a strict schedule doesn't always work for me (with some things, it's great, but if my child is hungry and screaming, I'll feel a lot better about feeding her rather than waiting until the clock says it's time). We have a rough schedule for E., but I don't want her to be so dependent on the routine that a change in it throws her off.

However, the emphasis on the variety of foods, limited snacking (something I need to implement more in my own life), and insisting that your child tries foods regardless of whether or not they like them on the first try, are principles that I appreciate.

From the beginning, E. has been given a variety of foods. On the list on the side of the fridge of things she can eat are the usual bananas and rice cereal, but we've also given her tofu and asparagus. Recently, we checked off most of the major allergens (just nuts, peanuts, and shellfish to go!). Since she's only about 8 months old, she tends to make a face at new flavours and then try them anyway. She is, I must say, far more interested in what we're eating than in what she has. She dumped her snack on the floor the other day and crawled over to demand my eggs and toast. Last week we were able to give her a meal that was basically what we were eating, except her fish was cooked separately and unseasoned. It's nice to finally be able to do that, though we're still figuring out what works and doesn't work for her food-wise. It looks like strawberries may be a problem (but the problem could also be our laundry soap or several other things, so we're still trying to figure out what's making her look like she has acne). We still can't feed her exactly what we're eating yet, but it'll be nice when we can. Next on the list is probably broccoli. Steamed. 

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