Getting Your Child to Eat Well

One of the biggest challenges of parenting is getting your child to eat well.(Sometimes it’s just getting your child to eat at all!)  One of my sisters lived in France for a while and talked about the cultural differences between the United States and France which I found fascinating, so when I happened across a book called French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon ( I immedietely checked it out from the library (and then bought it because I didn’t have time to finish reading the borrowed copy).  If you have a picky eater I highly recommend checking out this book!

In it you will find the 10 rules of eating:


1. Parents, You are in charge of Food Education!  Educate yourself about the food you are putting into your body.  Let your children know what they are eating!  Talk about what is in the meals you are making!  Teach the children how to cook!  Let them be involved!

2. Avoid Emotional Eating.  This is where I like to say you are not a dog, food is not a reward.

3. Parents Schedule Meals and Menus, KIDS EAT WHAT PARENTS EAT.  Okay, parents, this is where a lot of us go wrong.  Our children won’t eat what we make, so we get them something else.  Kids are pretty smart little creatures and if they have figured out that if they don’t eat their food you will make them a grilled cheese instead, they will repeatedly not eat their food to get to the grilled cheese sandwich.  Solution: Don’t make the grilled cheese sandwich.  The child can eat what’s on their plate, or they can NOT eat and NOT have a snack later.  I promise you your child will not starve by missing one or two meals here or there.  I recently pulled this with my own child.  He would not eat dinner and then wanted a candy (left over from Easter).  I told him he did not eat his dinner so he could not have a candy, but if he wanted to eat some of his dinner (that I had left out because he hadn’t eaten it) he could have a candy he proceeded to eat enough of his cold dinner to satisfy me and got his candy.  Dessert is fine if they eat their dinner but no dinner, no dessert which in this case was a childs size handful of mini M&M’s.

4. Eat Family Meals Together.  This is part of healthy families on so many levels!

5. Eat your Veggies.  Try to provide your child with a variety of vegetables, even try letting them pick some from the produce aisle that they want to try! You might be surprised in their choices.  (I have been known to get stuck buying an extra head of Broccoli if the babe is left within arms reach.  If I step away from the cart for the 5 seconds it takes to grab a different vegetable, I turn around and he has a head of broccoli up to his little mouth and is taking a big ole’ bite out if it. . . better add that to the cart. . .)

6. You don’t have to LIKE it but you do have to TRY it!  A women I worked with for a short while said in her house she had the rule of three.  You weren’t allowed to say you disliked a certain food until you had tried it at least three times.  I thought it sounded like fantastic advice.  (She was Canadian.)

7. No Snacking!  This is a hard one in my house as my husband is a big snacker. . .and it’s hard to tell the child NO when he sees you (or your spouse) snacking.  So I’ve told my husband if he must snack he needs to do it where the babe cannot see.  If the child snacks before dinner, getting him to eat dinner is a battle.  More often than not if he hasn’t snacked he is hungry at dinnertime and will eat dinner (He will also go from fine to starving in 2.2 seconds and have a meltdown when dinner has 5 minutes left to cook if it is not ready at exactly 6:30.)

8. Slow Food is Happy Food (and as my husband likes to say Happy Food tastes better).  Eat slowly, enjoy your meal.

9. East Mostly REAL FOOD. This means you might actually have to learn how to cook!  Processed foods have so many things in them that are so incredibly awful for us.  Try to eat mostly foods that don’t come in a packages.  Someone taught me a trick about staying on the outer rim of the grocery store  this is where you will find the veggies, fruits, meats, dairy; the processed foods tend to be in the aisles in the middle.  Limit your trips in the middle.

10. Relax. Again, Eat slowly, enjoy your meal, throw in some conversation and make it a time to enjoy your family and/or company.

Check out author Karen Le Billons website for recipes and tips or to buy her books French Kids Eat Everything and Getting to Yum

(Illustration by Sarah Jane Wright for French Kids Eat Everything)