Karen Le Billon’s French Kids Eat Everything is the kind of book that makes you question what you’re feeding your kids. Her tales of petite children in French preschools lining up for lovely lunches of lentils and salmon make our lunch boxes loaded with granola bars and PB&J sandwiches look lackluster, unhealthy, and well, boring. Getting To Yum, her follow-up book, out this month, promises to teach parents a few simple solutions to quelling picky eating habits.
While it tackles the usual suspects (hello, broccoli!), Getting To Yum also delves into interesting food category territories, identifying common eating bugaboos and prescribing techniques to help turn things around. For instance, if your kid has trouble mixing food together, Le Billon suggests starting slowly with games and hands-on kitchen experiments which show how foods they already love (like macaroni and cheese) are actually several ingredients mixed together. Putting them in charge of some of the mixing work gives them a sense of autonomy and confidence, and might make mixing other foods, say, some different snack foods or some parsley mixed into that mac ‘n’ cheese, less bothersome to them.
With sensible text and a light-hearted take on including kids in the kitchen, which the author thinks is key to raising eager eaters, Getting To Yum is a very approachable guide to livening up your family’s palate. It also does a good job of removing any sense of anxiety that you as a parent might have about what your kids are actually eating right now. In a chapter devoted to toddlers, the first paragraph instructs parents not to worry about all the USDA recommendations for five servings of fruits and veggies a day, and that if your child is within the normal range for weight and height that their picky phase is probably just a normal phase of development. Phew. With constant reminders about a child’s need for a sense of control over their surroundings, it’s easy to see how the table can become a battleground if we fall too easily into the “eat this or no dessert” trap. All the techniques and tricks in the book begin gradually, which is such a sensible way to approach anything with kids. There are also quite few simple but silly tricks, like the Silly Name Game, which reassigns a name of the child’s choosing to a dish to cut out any negative perceptions—Monster Surprise sounds a lot more fun than “spinach,” doesn’t it?
One major theme that runs throughout Getting To Yum is leading by example. As parents, we are responsible for feeding our children, and if they see us taking bites and proclaiming something to be delicious, then they are much more likely to have positive attitudes about food. Telling your child constantly that they “have” to eat something enforces a sense of duty, not excitement. An alternative? Try telling them “Eat this! It tastes so good!” That idea of enjoyment is part and parcel of developing their palate, and their sense of engagement at the table.
Ready to try something new with your kids? This grated carrot salad is colorful and crunchy, and a perfect introduction to food with texture for young palates.
Grated Carrot Salad
8 large carrots
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one orange
Juice of half a lemon
One bunch flat leaf parsley
Optional: a dash of Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
Dressing: Mix the orange and lemon juice with the olive oil and the salt. Store separately until just before serving. You may want to add more oil, or lemon, depending on your tastes. But don’t overdress this salad! It should be nicely coated, but not swimming in the dressing.
Carrots: Peel the carrots. This is important, because the skin is often more bitter than the interior! Grate the carrots in fine shreds using a hand grater or machine. (These food mills are popular in France, and make fine, delicate shredded carrot—if you have one, use it!) The finer the strands, the more delicious the salad.
Parsley: Chop a quarter bunch of flat leaf parsley, in fine, small (I mean teeny, tiny) pieces. Make sure you don’t include any of the stems—just the leaves. Note: you don’t want dried parsley, as the fresh parsley offsets the texture of the carrots perfectly, whereas dried parsley tends to taste a bit crunchier and, well, dry.
Combine the carrots, parsley and dressing just before serving. Best served slightly chilled or at room temperature.