French Children as a general rule are not obese, so there are a few reasons why your children need to eat like French children.
While visiting the average cantine (cafeteria) in France, you will make a few observations. The first is that there are no ready-made or frozen foods served at school in France. Instead, the foods are made right in the cafeteria kitchen, and they are made based on menus that are made months in advance in order to send them to a dietician to be adjusted as he or she feels is necessary.
The next factor is that the meal includes two courses, a cheese and dessert. That is each meal served to the children at school. They go to school four days each week (skipping Wednesday) so that is a total of four meals each week served by the cafeteria, preparing the majority of the items in the kitchen, although the occasional dessert is purchased from a nearby bakery.
Can More Exercise be the Answer?
French children get three recesses each day they are in school. These activity periods last an hour and a half, with two 15 minute sessions and one 60 minute session. However, the French children typically walk to school or ride a bicycle, rather than riding a bus. This adds yet more activity to their school day.
Moderation is Key for Meals in France
Eating in moderate portions is a big part of meals for French children. So is the fact that the meals are prepared on site. Both of these can contribute greatly to the children being a lot leaner than those in the United States. For that reason, however, it is time to reconsider the methods used to make lunches for the children of the US. Despite current efforts to alter meal plans and improve the healthy food provided in school lunchrooms, the reality does not come close to matching that provided in France.
A sample lunch in France includes cucumber and tomato salad, veal marinated with mushrooms and served with broccoli, cheese and apple tart for dessert. While children in France tend to eat what they are given, it is clear that the trap of feeding the kids what they are likely to eat is not a problem in France. Instead, they feed them a meal any adult would be content to sit down to as well.
Feeding children in the United States is a process that needs re-evaluated and completely revamped in order to fight the prevalence of obesity in children that we currently see. If parents have a problem, send them to France to tour a school and see the way children there not only eat but look and behave. They may come back with a different perspective. If not, there is no hope for that parent and we should still work to save their child from issues in the future -- with their health, at the very least.