My Kids Eat Their Meals in Courses

My kids eat their meals in courses. That’s right. COURSES. Their are usually 3 courses, starting out with the healthiest food first. Where did I get this idea? Well, as you probably know by now, I am a Francophile. Here’s the definition, because I have found this isn’t a very common word:

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They Do Exist

I am fascinated by French parenting. Particularly, that their children are so well-behaved at the dinner table and they willingly try everything. Here’s what Pamela Druckerman observed, author of “French Kids Don’t Throw Food“:

“Each meal got worse. Bean would eat some french fries, then tear apart some sugar packets, then demand to get up.”

So far, so toddler. Yet Druckerman also noticed something else.

“After a couple of days of this I looked around and realised there were all these French families who were having a completely different experience. They were having long multi-course meals with children who were eating their vegetables and sitting in their high chairs.”

“They weren’t in hell, they were on holiday.”

She was also struck by the fact that the children themselves, while well-behaved, were otherwise normal kids.

“They weren’t robotic, joyless children. They were happy, boisterous and curious and their parents were talking to them. They just weren’t having fits. That was the big difference.”

So yes, they do exist, children who don’t throw food.

Lunch Time in France

Lunch is typically the biggest meal of the day in France. This is what a typical school lunch is like:

“French school lunches are simply amazing. The French have decided that teaching healthy eating routines to children is a priority, and they teach children about healthy food in the classroom and the lunchroom.

Starting when children enter school at age three, school lunch consists of four courses: a vegetable starter (for example, grated carrot salad, or beet salad), a warm main course served with a side of grains or vegetables, cheese, and dessert.

Fresh baguette, eaten plain, is also served. The kids drink water (there are no other drinks of any kind available at lunch, and there is a national ban on vending machines and junk food in all French schools). Dessert is usually fresh fruit, but a sweet treat is often served once a week.

There is only one choice on the menu, and food is served to children at the table until they are finished primary school (at 12 years old). This may be why the place where lunch is eaten is called a ‘restaurant scolaire‘ (school restaurant). High-school students typically get two choices for each course and often eat in a ‘self’ (meaning a self-serve cafeteria), although many French parents are ambivalent about this self-service model (preferring the idea of a restaurant).

The French Ministry of National Education sets a minimum time requirement for children to sit at the table: 30 minutes. This is in order to allow them eat their food sufficiently slowly and properly. Talk about ‘slow food’ training!”

The How of Feeding Your Kids in Courses

You might be thinking “Oh, well look at you that you are so fancy that your kids eat in courses.” But before you think I’m just bragging, let me tell you I’ve adapted it to the needs of my home and circumstance and here’s how it works:

The first course is vegetables, then a meat-based dish, then fruit, then sometimes dessert. The rule is that the child can’t move to the next course without at least trying the current course. Every now and then I change up the order depending on which food I think is the priority for my child at the time.For example, my son isn’t a huge meat-eater so I will put that first sometimes.

All these plates adds to the never-ending story of dishes, yes, but it works! Here are the benefits:

  • My kids loved this concept, and other kids I have served love it too. They get excited about the next course
  • For toddlers, it’s less overwhelming. They don’t like to see a bunch of food on their plate anyway.
  • They are more likely to eat their veggies, or at least taste them.

A side note: To put a Dr. Ray spin on this, sometimes I bring out any food from earlier that hasn’t turned to mush and have them finish it before moving on to the next snack. When I first started doing this there was a lot of resistance but I have found that it has been a great way to discipline my children to trying new things.

How do you teach your kids to eat well? As one of my dear friends says, it’s funny how you have to remind your kids to survive! Toddlers can eat so little you just wonder how are they so energetic!