Ten Eating Rules French Children Know and Most Americans Don’t

My daughter posted a link on her Facebook page.

The article from Rebeca Plantier on Mind Body Green lists the Ten Eating Rules French Children Know and Most Americans Don’t.

My beautiful, intelligent, and caring college daughter linked me and wrote: “Totally true.”

Her comment and smileys made me smile.

Later as I read the article, I thought I’d like to add a few comments based on my personal experience.

Here is the beginning of the article:

How the French eat, age, dress, raise their children and live in general is a real talking point these days. So, as an American mother of three half-French kids, I figured I’d add my two cents to the conversation.

I lived in France before becoming a parent, but eventually it was my kids who taught me everything I need to know about eating like a French person: Eating, and staying slim and healthy, isn’t just about what you eat, but also how, when and why. Yes, French people enjoy junk food occasionally, and sometimes they eat between meals, but people don’t just let loose every day. There’s a code of conduct for food, for big people and little ones alike. Here, in 10 quick life lessons, is what my kids taught me about food.

Although I am a French native, unlike Rebeca I have never lived in France with my children.

My oldest daughter was born in Paris, but we moved to the States when she was eleven months old.

Rebeca says that her children taught her about food.

I had to teach mine about food.

DID I MANAGE TO STICK TO THE TEN EATING RULES?

Fact # 1: Children love doing what other children do, including what they eat.

I was challenged on the playground.

Most parents arrived with bags loaded with food and drinks as if they were prepared for a disaster or a trip in the desert.

My children ogled the cookies and chips that were offered at any time and for no specific reason and begged me to buy the same.

Until then I baked from scratch and brought fresh fruit to the playground, but I figured that we lived in the US and not in a French colony, so I said yes to a few changes and got them occasional store-bought cookies.

Things became more complicated with school. My children made friends who didn’t have Ten Eating Rules at home.

Fact #2: Anything that is not familiar is exotic. Including junk food.

My oldest one, the family pioneer, was the first one who complained about her lunch bag.

Her friends either bought the school lunch from the cafeteria or brought chips, sodas, cookies, and often a store-bought packed lunch that came sometimes with a small toy or a piece of candy, from home.

In the late 90’s and even early 2000’s, a bag of Cheetos was more common than an apple or grapes in a brown bag. Schools were still offering soft drinks in the vending machines and PTA moms sold cookies and candies after sport games.

So my sliced kiwis, my avocados and cheese sandwiches – made with real cheese – had little success in comparison to the exotic Doritos and Lunchables.

We made a pact: my kids would eat the school lunch on Fridays as long as I prepared their bags from Monday to Thursday.

Fact #3: Anything that is not familiar is exotic. Including good habits.

When their friends came over for lunch, which was often because I worked from home unlike most of the other moms, they were initially surprised and sometimes angry when I asked them to sit down for lunch. When they asked to eat in front of the TV – something most did at home – I said no. On the other side they liked the napkins and regular glasses instead of paper napkins and plastic cups because they felt special and made them feel special.

Then a funny and unexpected thing happened.

Fact #4: Anything that is not familiar is exotic. Including good food.

The kids who had refused to eat my quiche or green salad and cheese at home told they mothers about the kind of food we ate. One day I met one of them at the supermarket and she asked me where I found the Vache Qui Rit I packed in my children’s lunches because her daughter liked this cheese very much.

The first time I had met the same little girl she had told me that she only liked orange cheese, red apples, and white bread.

I understood then that my kids’ lunch bags were successful at school, and that the food I offered at home was in fact appreciated. Even though my kids’ friends made faces and said, ‘no, thank you’ to my French cuisine, they ended up trying.

French Memories

My daughter’s comment on Facebook made me smile and feel a little proud, too.

As any parents my husband and I do what we think is best for our children. In the food department we have an edge.  We both grew up in a country that takes food seriously and our parents fed us well and taught us decent table manners.

IS IT STILL THE SAME NOWADAYS IN FRANCE?

Yes and no.

Yes, the French way of eating is tied to a way of life, which gives an important part to good quality food and to the conviviality of food.

No, it is not exactly the same for everyone. Many French people, especially among the poorest and the young, eat poorly, too.

Fact #5: In our two countries a segment of population is eating well and following the Ten Eating Rules while a much larger segment doesn’t, for economic and social reasons.

In the States the people who eat well are the wealthiest and often the most educated. The same is true in France.

Although French supermarkets offer a large variety of good products that we would only find in more select shops in the States, they also carry packaged food, which is similar to the one we have here – including American junk food brands. Kids and teens are naturally attracted by the inexpensive and popular American snacks and soft drinks.

In addition, more fast food restaurants have opened, and the French can also order food to go, something that wasn’t possible when I lived there. Lack of time to prepare healthy meals, high unemployement, and an expensive cost of life have a toll on the traditional French eating style.

For the first time French magazines write about health issues due to excessive weight and poor diets.

Thanks to my heritage, I have been able to teach my American-born children about the importance of food and the rites that surround meals.

Through my daughter’s comment – and smileys – I think I succeeded.

It is only too bad that it cannot be the same for everyone, everywhere.

What do you think about the Ten Eating Rules?  Do you come from a country with Eating Rules?

Tell me.

French Memories

Comments

  1. Very interesting post and also very nice to discover your blog Evelyne. Thanks for popping over to my blog and comment on my slavery debate post, much appreciated. I agree with the ten eating rules and i come from a culture where food was home made, the only things you could buy in shops were sweets and desserts but not prepared or ready-meals. We also ate a lot of vegetables and fruit so it was all kind of natural. I have also lived in france when i was a student and i didn’t always eat healthy, as you do as a student. I have enjoyed the french eating habits and related culture but i like the way you stress the fact that not everyone is able to do this and that often it depends on economic status and education. Now i live in london and there is the whole talk about healthy eating, the 5 a day, vs the use of processed food, etc so the same issues. But i think when it comes to children they take most of your habits and if you don’t make it varied, presenting different foods and keeping it healthy they won’t know anything else.

    So thanks for taking a balanced view 🙂 Laura

  2. Thank you, Laura for your thoughts and related experiences, and also for your blog that I was also happy to discover.

  3. Children love doing what other children do and sometimes this is a good thing. My son eats better at school because all the children are eating as well. I’m fortunate that they have a very healthy balanced lunch at school.

  4. giselacarmona says:

    Your blog is a wonderful discovery! I am Mexican and live in Mexico City and can definitely relate to your experience. In Mexico, meals are all about sharing, enjoying, talking… Fast paced life, more working moms, etc. have shifted this a little just as you mention in your text, but we still absolutely enjoy a home prepared celebrational meal full of etiquette rules, laughter, comraderie and love… Great meeting you!

    • Great meeting you too! Through the many Mexicans I’ve met, I have found many common points between the way they grew up and I grew up. I enjoy meeting people from other places, even if it is only through my blog. See you on yours.

  5. krissy cano says:

    I found this post interesting because I worked with children and I hope to start a family soon. When I worked in the school, in more recent years tgey started to offer more feesh fruirs and encourage children to grab a fruit and not just buy packaged junkfood all tge time and schools were starting to bake fresh sweets from scratch. Tge dchool did have a lot of junkfood options to buy but as tgey had more fredh fruirs, children at lesst took fruit more. I think in france childeen usually eat cafeteria lunch from what I heard, but I guessthey give a good feesh meal hopefully. My mom always cooked for us but we had occssional fast food or pizza on busy days or for a treat, or my parents made homemade pizza sonetimes we had omlets for dinner on busy days. But we were not overweight msny children today are overweight because they dont exercise Inguess bexause of bysy scheduled. I guess also busy moms dont know how much tgeir chikden eat.nwhen I was a child we had one snack after school and tgatvwas all, sonrtimes fruit or my mom would sonetimes treat us to homemade or packaged treats orca fresh madecake.i guess tgats also a generatiobal thing. My momcslso made quiche, we loved spinbsch quiche. At tgat tine quiche from celbreack creamed spinnach and canned mudhrooms was all the rage, afrerva while my mom and I made it with fresh vegetable too, inclufing the quiche recipes from Julia Childs book.
    When Ibworked in the school we had to remind the chikdren to sitvduring tgeir meal Inguess cause many of them weee alliwed to get up and eat at home. But tge school also encoyrsged children to play outside for reces unless bad whetger and on days tge whether was bad, they tried to bribg them to tge gym if gym class wasnt going on.
    That was intersting that you said the children were sfraid tontry your cooking and learned to like it. The children in the school I worked learned to like fresh fruits. My mom used to have tge children at birthdays sit during tge time the pizza came and cake time. Hopefully tge new generations will have better eating habits.

  6. krissy cano says:

    Sorry about my bad typing. Im using a touch screen. I learned to type on a regular computer so iv never really , asrered tge touch screen.

    • Just read your comment on my post about food, France and how I fed my own children between my native culture and the American culture. Agree with you on the importance of fresh food. Many schools have tried to improve the quality and variety of the meals they provide. And it’s admirable since school is too often the place when children eat a real meal. There is still a lot to do but there is progress in terms of awareness to the benefits of local fresh food. More French style. Thank you for stopping by.

  7. krissy cano says:

    But that was interesting comparing france to america. I went to england and Ireland years ago and Im wondering now how children tgere vompare to americans in eating and exercising habits and if they sit down with family to eat. I think thats importwnt also from tge stsndpoint of famiky spending tine togethrr. Hopefullybwhen I have children theyvwillbe complient (hopefully I have children soon) Hopefully if I d8 tgeyvwill like my cooking. dont plant on geing too strict but I do agree with giving childrenba bslancced meal and more structured eating habits. Anyway I learned a lot from your article.

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