How French schools handle fussy eaters

For one mum, sending her daughter to a French school changed everything.

February 02 2017

But, for one mum, sending her daughter to a French school changed everything.

When Canadian expat Lisa Webb moved to France with her husband in 2009 she was surprised to see the kids eating anything that was put in front of them during lunch - especially seeing there was fish on the menu.

"I'll never forget dreading the fact that I was on lunchtime supervision because I saw that fish was on the menu that day," Webb wrote in her blog Canadian Expat Mom.

"I had been a teacher for long enough to know that there was going to be a lot of elementary school kids plugging their noses and telling me they didn't like fish. This was going to be a long supervision period," she wrote.




A few years later, it was time for her vegetable-hating daughter to start school: She feared she would starve.

"She ate everything but vegetables - foie gras, saucisson, lapin (rabbit). At home I stopped offering her broccoli because I didn't like wasting food,” Webb explains.

But as it turns out, Web had nothing to be worried about. The reports coming home from school said that her daughter ate everything, including broccoli.

Searching for the secret, Webb sat in on lunch to watch her daughter eat her greens.

“Every day for lunch, the cafeteria is set just like you would if you were having guests over," she said. "There's no plastic cutlery or non-breakable plates."

Students are served a hot meal and nothing is brought from home: "The kids are served their meal at the table...They were always offered seconds when they were done a course, and not forced to eat something they didn't like; yet always encouraged to try it."

"If someone didn't like something there wasn't a fuss made, their plate was cleared, and the next course was served."

Similarly, child psychologist Dr Gillian Harris at Birmingham Children's Hospital made headlines in 2015 after saying it’s parents who are taking the wrong approach when it comes to their fussy eaters.

Instead of pushing the pressure on kids to eat, Harris says they should leave the room.

"It is very inhibiting having a parent telling them to taste," Dr Harris told The Telegraph

"'You must try this' is the last thing children want to hear," she said.

Testing her theory, Harris teamed up with a sushi restaurant and prepared food for 11 kids know for being fussy.

The children were presented with 26 dishes and asked to try whatever they liked. Despite the parents' disbelief, most kids tried everything while they were out of the restaurant. 

Harris said, "I was fairly amazed at how well it all went for a pilot study, with even the most fussy children trying a very good range of foods."