What I’m Reading {French Nutrition Edition}

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any book reviews, so I figured I would make these ones extra long 😉

At a friend’s recommendation, I picked up the book Bringing Up Bebe from the library. It’s written by a woman who marries a British man, moves to France, and has a child. As an outsider she picks up on the parenting “quirks” of the French, and shares the journey of her first few years of parenting in this foreign culture. It is very clear that they do things differently, and one of my favorite things she mentioned was the way that children are taught to address adults. They are raised to always say “Bonjour” as not just a greeting, but a signal of respect when they encounter an adult. The author pointed out that in America, children are often ushered in under their parent’s greetings, and often times they can’t even be bothered to look up from their activity. We recently had an interaction with a couple and their middle school aged son. He shook each of our hands, looked us in the eye, and said “nice to meet you”… and we were very impressed.

Reading Bringing up Bebe led me to the book French Kids Eat Everything, which was written by a Canadian woman who is married to a French man. They decided to move to his home village in France for a year with their two young children. These books were similar, and yet different enough for me to stay interested in both. If you know me, you know that food is my passion, so the fact that this one focused on the diet of the french culture made it that much more interesting.

This author pointed out several of the same cultural practices that the author of Bringing Up Bebe had noted, but since she was married to a Frenchman, she had a little more insight onto WHY those practices exist. She also was able to condense her observations into ten “food rules” which then made it easy for her to provide some tips for applying the french principles to life here in America. At the end of the book they move back to Canada and realize that the CULTURE plays a huge part in the food rules being a success. But she didn’t allow everything they had learned go to waste. Instead she adapted the food rules to their current situation, which I found very helpful and applicable! Her kiddos were very leery of trying new foods, and obviously based on the title of the book, one of the goals was to get them to expand their palettes like their french peers.

She also talked a lot about how the French don’t snack as much as Americans. Adults don’t snack at all, and children are limited to one snack a day, around 4:30pm (dinner is served much later). Treats that are purchased earlier in the day must be saved for this snack time, which also teaches patience and self control. Since reading the book I have noticed how many snacks I have throughout the day and I am working to cut back. After reading Bringing Up Bebe, one of my friends put her kids on a one snack a day schedule and she said it is great because it allows more time to do other things, the kids eat more at each meal, and eat less crackers and high carb snacks.

About the same time I was reading these books my hold on the book First Bite became available. This was a selection from the Food for Thought book club and one that I found particularly interesting as it talks about how our relationship with food is developed from our first bite as babies. The basic premise is that “eating is learning”, or a learned process, which CAN in fact be changed. Many people accept it as is—both kids and adults. “My child will only eat corn flakes”, “I don’t like vegetables”, “I can’t lose weight,” etc. The author explores different cultures (including the French!) and groups and their ability to change over time to prove that it is possible. But we have to start with our attitude towards food.

The topic of snacking was discussed again, and it was noted that kids raised in the 70’s  and 80’s (today’s parents) didn’t snack throughout the day. Snacking is a recent phenomenon, probably credited to the marketing of the snack food industry. It is amazing how we have so readily accepted snacks as a part of daily life—every children’s program includes a snack time, babies are pushed around in strollers with cupholders and bags of Cheerios, and I was recently invited to a demonstration of “on the go” feeding products for babies and toddlers.

The author talks about the narrow age window for babies to acquire an affinity for new tastes, and since we were right in the middle of that window, I made sure to add some new items to baby lindszlo’s menu to ensure he continues his trend of eating everything we give him.

There were many take-aways from this book, but a big one was that eating healthy is not restrictive and torturous as many people make it out to be- it is delicious. People tell me all the time “I cant believe you can eat so healthy” or “I could eat healthy too if it was as good as the food you make.” So DO IT. Yes, I love ice cream and the occasional serving of french fries, but I get so much more pleasure out of eating a perfectly roasted brussels sprout or sinking my teeth into a healthy pat of grass fed butter. Those things may sound crazy (and I’m sure I wouldn’t have believed them before I made drastic changes to my diet), but they are true.

I also appreciated that the author explored HOW to invoke change—it’s NOT ABOUT giving advice, or telling people what to do, which is the current trend in dietary education. It’s about getting people to commit to the intention of change. That’s why I want to be a health coach, but also why I’m not sure I would be good at it. I just want people to change.

I am living proof of the author’s point that people CAN change. But I also know that it is much harder to get people to change than to just start them off on the right food. That’s why I’m doing all that I can to ensure that my little guy gets a strong start when it comes to nutrition.

These books brought light to a lot of things I hadn’t thought about before, and I have lots of new things to ponder, especially when it comes to bringing up our own little bébé.

Share the love!