IMG_0005We recently enjoyed a visit from a Parisian friend and her 13-month-old, and the baby’s meals struck me as very French. Our own child was never so lucky. We moved here when our kid was three months old, and I pretty much relied on family and friends back in the U.S. for advice. When I started to make friends here, I realized that the whole baby thing was different, but this was many years ago and I had mostly forgotten about it.

Left, risotto with small vegetables and rosemary. Right, risotto with mushrooms (chunky). Both for 12 months old. Both for night–see the stars?

The biggest difference is that French baby foods are marked by time of day. Protein is for midday and never in the evening. I vaguely recall French moms telling me this back in the day. I searched around a bit to see whether baby foods sold in, say, the U.S. were marked for evening or whether nutritional recommendations said anything about protein in the evening, but I found nothing (which doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist). I considered calling up a pediatrician, but (1) they don’t have time and (2) there’s a broad range of advice out there. My friend, in fact, was horrified at what her friends feed their children of the same age–cereal in the formula to get the kid to sleep at night, sweets, etc. All I can say is that if there were only one way to raise a child, there wouldn’t be 7 billion people on the Earth today.

For lunch. Notice also that the baby here is looking lively, whereas the one at the top is sleeping.

There are two arguments about protein at night: that too much protein is taxing on the kidneys, which are delicate at such a young age, and that protein is hard to digest and will disturb sleep. The latter argument also applies to adults, and in fact quite a few of my friends have supper (souper) of soup. And that’s it. They eat a big meal at noon, not at night. All the ones who do this are very trim and fit, by the way, even though they are retired.

Seen at the supermarket: “My good night dinner.” Vegetable risotto (with smooth texture), left, and lasagne gratin with celery root (not the green stalks! “melting morsels” of the root).

Another thing is that French kids don’t drink milk. Babies get formula in bottles, but when they get bigger, they might have hot chocolate with milk for breakfast and that’s it. In France, McDonald’s Happy Meals don’t have milk among the drink choices, but it’s typical in the U.S., even in school lunches. French kids are expected to drink water (and yes, there exist French parents who give their kids juice and sugary sodas).

For day: Pot au feu is a kind of soup with beef and vegetables, but the vegetables are whole or, if cut, left in large pieces, so they aren’t all mixed up.

And then there are the menus for babies. Get a load of these:

Navarin de petits légumes, agneau français–a kind of ragoût with lamb and “small vegetables”: carrots, potatoes, butternut squash and mushrooms. This was marked for lunch.

Tenderness of little vegetables with rice. You can tell it’s for night by the stars and moon. Too cute. The note on the left side says “Suggestion for presentation,” which seems to be humor, since, of course, baby food is puréed.

Patate douce, chataigne, pintade fermière du Poitou–sweet potato, chestnuts and guinea hen from the Poitou department. Also for lunch.

Légumes verts, panais, boulghour–Green vegetables (peas, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, coriander), parsnips, bulgur. For evening.

“My first vegetables…diversification offer.” Left: carrots, white carrots, parsnips, leeks; right: carrots, green beans, zucchini, pumpkin. For 4-6 months old. LEEKS!!!

Douceur de panais, carotte des Landes, polenta–sweetness of parsnips, carrots from the Landes department, polenta.

Other evening meals included broccoli, green beans and rice; and fondue of carrots, sweet corn and quinoa.

Seriously, when is the last time YOU ate parsnips?

Applesauce with quince.

The snacks included apple with chestnuts; apple with quince; and mirabelle plums with apple. For the all-important quatre heure–four o’clock snack.

My very clever friend orders the Babybio meals online and has them delivered–smart move to not have to carry groceries in Paris. She even had some delivered here.

At the left, “for exploring from 12 months,” “for savoring from 8 months,” “for getting started from 4/6 months,” “evening dishes” in purple, organic.

To refresh my memory, I strolled through the baby aisle at the supermarket. The shelves are marked by age AND there’s a separate section for evening meals.

Top: summer vegetables with spaghetti; bottom: vegetables and Basque-style poultry.

All I can say, is these kids eat well. I wouldn’t mind Basque-style poultry with vegetables myself!

So: similar? different? surprising? not?




35 thoughts on “Baby Meals in France

  1. So enjoyed reading this article – I had my babies in Germany years ago and I loved the German baby food section – I couldn’t read the labels but they just appeared to be healthier. I’d forgotten about that. Oh and the French and German baby strollers – awesome !!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was poring over various French parenting/pediatric sites for this and so often they emphasize eating diverse foods, no breaded meat or fish (no chicken nuggets), making sure the babies learn to appreciate different flavors. It’s really an apprenticeship.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating. I had noticed the baby food section, but had not actually read the ingredients. I’m not surprised though. We are home now, and suffering major withdrawal symptoms. Just reading this sounds good. Meals in France are such an important part of the day.
    Now I have to loose the few pounds that I gained and start the planning process for next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This reminds me of ITALY again!The BIG MEAL is at LUNCH!NO ONE DRINKS MILK after 11 am………..morning ONLY and don’t you DARE ORDER A CAPPUCCINO in the AFTERNOON!MILK is bad for you and I cannot recall WHY!
    My husband use to make our babyfood by steaming the veggies and puraing them!
    FRESH FRESH FRESH was his THEROY 31 years ago………………NO JAR FOOD!
    Yes, MOST ITALIANS are SKINNY AS WELL…………….something said for their diet!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bravo to your husband for making baby food! My friend did too for a while. So did I. But considering the variety in these organic baby meals, I wonder whether they wouldn’t have been a good choice.


    2. Yes, I agree with you there after spending some time living in Bella Italia. The women all seemed pretty slim. When I drank a glass of milk on a few occasions, the expressions of mild horror and bewilderment on my host family’s faces were priceless!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Parsnips have always been a favourite for winter roast dinners in the UK – especially Xmas dinner . When we moved to the south of France 25 years ago they were still considered as cattle food and were very difficult to find. It was the same for corn on the cob.
    French adults also have strict ideas about when you can eat certain foods. I took a Moroccan dish of oranges and pistachios as dessert when we were invited for dinner with a young French couple and they refused to eat it! No citrus in the evenings!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve heard the citrus-ban also, yet my French friends regularly serve a huge bowl of clementines after dessert and coffee when people are lingering at the end of a dinner party. Kind of like smoking (I never smoked, but they all used to)–the peeling gives you something to do with your hands.


  5. Wow!! Who knew? Certainly not me. Although, my daughters did turn out fine and healthy as well as the grandkids.

    I, also, love the detailed research on your part- very interesting and informative.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I never liked the idea of processed baby food. When our daughter was ready to start eating “food”, I told her doctor my plan to “steam” vegetables and fruits for her meals, cut down on her mild consumption, and use steamed fish/chicken as her protein. This met with approval, which surprised me at first, until I learned her doctor felt the same as I about processed food. We have always eaten “fresh” from the farm/garden and continue to do so. She is now married and has gotten her husband to embrace this as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very interesting! I also made a lot of my daughter‘s baby food-40 years ago, yikes!
    My husband and I (66 and 72) find that we are eating a much lighter dinner nowadays to include just soup quite often

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was a really interesting read, thanks. I have 3 kids under 7, am English and raising them here in the U.K. and had no idea about feeding different types of meals for day and night. Some of the baby foods sound rather gourmet!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is fascinating! It makes a lot of sense from an energy during the day and giving your body time to burn off the larger, protein meal at midday and something light at dinner. Interesting about the milk. I haven’t had milk in 15 years… use almond milk in my smoothies and only eat organic yogurt from cows with no hormones or antibiotics. No wonder the French are such foodies. Look what their babies eat and learn to love and savor. I’m impressed!! xoxox, B

    Liked by 1 person

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