The French Paradox

We’ve heard about the French paradox.  The French can eat lots of fatty foods and still stay annoyingly thin and petit with surprisingly low rates of heart disease.  But after living three years on a French island, I discovered something else.  French kids eat their vegetables.  No fights, no whining, no complaining.   

How can I forget the time I dropped off my seven year old daughter at a play date which happened to coincide with lunch.  It didn’t seem like a problem until I picked her up a few hours later and was informed by her friend’s French mother that she had refused to eat her salad.  The mother was not amused or understanding.  She downright disapproved of my daughter’s fussiness.

At the next play date I knew enough to pack my daughter her own sandwich which I embarrassingly handed to the mother upon arrival.   From then on I avoided mixing mealtime with play dates!

From a cultural standpoint, it left me feeling like the ugly American who had not exposed her kids to healthy eating (which is not true, it just hasn’t been totally successful yet!) and left me wondering: what do the French know that we don’t when it comes to getting kids to eat their vegetables?

I boiled it down to two conclusions.  First of all, French mother’s (please excuse the gross generalization) seem to have a zero tolerance for whining.  You eat what you get and you don’t leave the table until it’s gone.  Two, there’s no “kid menu”.  You mention the word chicken nugget in France and they nearly fall over in disgust.

Whatever it is, it certainly seems to work, I just wish it would have rubbed off on my own children!

— Ilaria St. Florian


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