Between mums we always want to know how the other mums do it, so I thought I would share with you today a basic French toddlers eating routine, which is pretty much the one of my 15-month-old twin boys, Charles and Ethan. I got it from one of my dear French friend, Noémie, who got it herself from her pediatrician (in France a lot of children are still followed directly by a pediatrician for day to day matters). Of course all French children don’t follow this to the letter but these are great indicative guidelines.
I love this eating routine as it makes it easier to eat together as a family, which we try to do on week ends and hopefully soon during the week (with twin boys and a husband working long hours it is still a challenge). I love it as well simply because it is the way I have been raised and that it helps me structure their meals.
French toddlers eating routine (children 1 to 3 years old)
Dairy: breastfeed or bottle or milk or yogurt or cheese
+ cereals: bread or ”biscottes” or cereals or viennoiserie (week ends only)
+ fruits: fruit or fruit puree or fresh fruit juice
Introduction to crudités/raw vegetables
+ 30g to 40g of proteins (fish, meat or eggs)
+ 150g to 200g of vegetables and/or carbs
+ dairy: cheese or breastfeed
+ fruits: fruit or fruit puree
Goûter (4pm snack):
Dairy: breastfeed or bottle or yogurt
+ cereals: bread or cereals
+ fruits: fruit or fruit puree or fresh fruit juice
According to what hasn’t been given during the other meals considering that:
- Once a day: proteins (fish, meat or eggs) – Eggs: once a week – Fish: twice a week
- If at lunch you gave carbs you should give vegetables for dinner or vice versa.
- At least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day
The key differences that I have witnessed with the UK eating routine are the number of meals/snacks and how the meals are balanced and structured. Yes, it is true that French children do like their several-course meals!
Charles and Ethan are not hungry between meals however as for me eating is a social thing, if Charles and Ethan are with other children having snacks in between their main meals (at nursery, play dates…) I let them have a little, they just eat a little bit less at the following meal, well sort of :-)
Original picture from Kym McLeod
Hi, this is really interesting to read. It would be great to know the rough timings for this routine as well. How late are 15 month olds eating dinner and going to bed?
Also, what are your thoughts on texture at this age? Are babies still having quite pureed / fork-mashed food or are they eating more whole foods?
Thank you for your comment. To give you an idea our boys currently have the below routine. They are now 2 years old. However I found that routine is really down to your family, at what time you come back home, your activities… The boys were originally eating at 6.30pm and going to bed at 7.30pm but I managed to push it to 7pm so as we now eat together as a family every evening.
7am-8am: wake up/ breakfast
1pm to 4pm: nap
4pm: afternoon snack
With regards to texture, at 15 months they were already eating more textured food/whole food indeed. They were already most of the time eating exactly what we were eating.
firstly, your twins nap 1-4pm! I’m so jealous!! impressive!! :)
I think we have a really similar routine, although an hour earlier for everything (because we wake between 5-6am), and dinner is at 5pm and bedtime routine starts at 6pm (with the aim to be sleeping by 7pm).
But food contents are pretty much the same! Although I do find mine doesn’t like eating much for breakfast- he will refuse his cereal or toast and just want fruit (probably because I breastfeed when he wakes up and it fills his tummy!)
Thank you for the really interesting #mumslist ! xx
Thank you for your comment. Breastfeeding must def make him feel full. It is a fab way to get full :-)
This routine is helpful, thank you! My daughter is just over a year old and a pretty good eater. We’ve tried to give her a wide variety of foods and usually she eats well. Sometime though, she just takes the food we give her and throws it on the floor without even trying it. Other times she’ll take a bite and then spit it out (at least she is trying it).
I’ve read that if they don’t eat something at one meal that’s fine, don’t replace it with something else. But sometimes she just ends up eating only fruit for her meal. Do you have any tips for these situations? How do the French make sure their kids get enough to eat when the kids don’t want to eat certain foods?
Thank you for your comment and your readership :-)
It looks like you are doing a great job at weaning your daughter. It can take a lot of trying before a child starts eating something new. The earlier she will try a wide variety of food, the easier it will be afterwards. Throwing food on the floor can also be a way she affirms herself as a little individual starting to say “no” in her own way. This is not a big deal. Even if it makes you upset (which I would totally understand) don’t let it affect you, meals should not be about confrontation. Even if she spits it out it is great when she takes a bite. There is a French saying « Un enfant, ça ne se laisse pas mourir de faim » (A child won’t let herself starve) however I would take this with caution, if ever you think something is wrong, she starts losing weight… never hesitate to go to your health specialist.
To sum it up I would say stay positive, keep on trying and if you can eat with her (she will spend more time in front of her plate plus you will inspire her).
Dear Helene, I have 24 month old twin boys. I am desperate (although try not to show them!) to broaden their palates. In the past couple of months I’ve noticed that one may prefer something and the other will dislike it. They watch to see what each other says! This proves frustrating for me as something they would enjoy one day is ‘Dee-gusting’ the next. They’ve become quite picky and I am finding mealtimes have taken on a new struggle for me. I’m feeling a little lost and although I sit and eat with them at mealtime (my husband too works long hours we try hard to eat together and do at the weekends) they seem uninterested with food and generally have become reluctant to even come to the table… Could this be they are not hungry and I should extend mealtimes? Thank you very much for your time and I do hope that I haven’t wasted it by waffling on.. The boys were born in France and we are hoping to return so to get them interested in food again and enjoy sitting down to eat together for more than 20 stressful minutes would be a blessing!
Dear Rachel, thank you for leaving a comment. My boys tend to influence one another as well. They are so funny. It is possible that they are not hungry maybe if lunch/dinner is too early? or if they had (big) snacks? I also find with boys that growth spurts timings have major impact on how much they eat… a lot and then a lot less… One thing that works wonders is getting them to choose what they are going to eat or even involving them when preparing their meals. Tonight I am going to make pizzas with them for example. It is a treat but it is easy and straightforward and they love it. I will prepare the dough in advance. Let me know how it goes! Take care and congratulations on your little ones. Helene.
Thank you Helene
I have a question with regards to portions, when you mentioned 30 to 40g of protein, is this the raw weight or the cooked weight?
I apologies for the late reply, for some reason I could not see this comment anymore. Thank you very much for your readership. This is raw weight.
Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any additional questions.
All the very best,
Helene AKA Croque-Maman
How much are the portions for bottled milk or formula?
Dear Kate. Thank you for your readership. You need to tailor it to your little one’s appetite however to give you an idea I just talked to one of my French friend who gives 200ml to 300ml for breakfast and same for goûter (when her daughter is not eating a yogurt instead). I hope it helps. Have a nice day! Helene