There Are No ‘Middle Class Snack Kids’ in France

French kids don’t snack. I knew this from watching the families around us in the village. Their children ate four square meals per day, on a set schedule: breakfast in the morning, lunch at around 12:30, the goûter at around 4:30 p.m., and dinner between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. That was it. Virginie confirmed my impressions. She even sent me France’s official food guide, which emphatically recommends no snacking. It doesn’t seem as if this advice is really necessary, anyway. For most French parents and children, this eating schedule is an ingrained, unquestioned habit. And it’s not that they are constantly struggling to avoid a secret raid on the pantry. Rather, eating at other times of the day simply would rarely occur to them. Just in case anyone strays, snack food ads on French TV carry a large white banner (like the warnings on cigarette packages) bluntly stating: “For your health, avoid snacking in between meals.”

If there’s one thing French children don’t have to worry about, it’s becoming Middle Class Snack Kids—the sort of people who spend a large portion of their incomes to fill their pantries full of snacks so they can grab something to munch on while watching TV or reading magazines, or the other many mindless things we do in the privacy of our own home. I had read about the amazing willpower French children appear to possess back in February when The Wall Street Journal published an essay called “Why French Parents Are Superior,” which explained that French children behave much better than American children in restaurants because they have been trained to wait to eat only at specific times of the day. American kids have no patience, because when they start throwing a tantrum, we give them something to snack on to keep them occupied. “Quit your squabbling, and eat this fruit roll-up!” we yell. “Here’s $5. Get yourself some candy from the corner store, and stay out of our hair for a little bit.”

Photo: SurlyGirl/Flickr



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