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3 Food Rules You Can Learn from French Kids

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You may want to emulate French women’s perfectly-imperfect style, but for eating advice, look to their children. Representatives from cities across the U.S. recently traveled to France to pick up some tips about promoting healthy eating in schools (the rate of obesity in French children is less than half the rate in American kids), reports Reuters. The school officials were looking for lessons for U.S. children, but French kids have a few things to teach adults too, says Karen Le Billon, author of French Kids Eat Everything. “The French approach to food education is about how you eat as much as about what you eat,” she says. Follow her three kid rules that also work for grown-ups:

1. Schedule one snack per day, maximum. The concept of grazing doesn’t exist in French culture. Kids eat three meals a day, and one snack (around 4 p.m.). That’s it. When you don’t have license to raid the office snack drawer every time you feel a craving, you’ll actually be hungry at mealtime—and fill up on nutritious food, says Le Billon.

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2. Don't reward yourself with food (even 'healthy' food). Giving yourself a food reward (raiding the vending machine after you finish your report), or punishing yourself with it (going on a super-strict diet after an indulgent night out), reinforces bad emotional eating habits, says Le Billon. Motivate yourself with non-food rewards, and when you enjoy something decadent, truly enjoy it (sans guilt). Then pick the healthier option the next day.

3. Make meals feel special. And no, turning on your favorite radio station while you eat in your car doesn’t count. Add some ceremony or ritual to dinnertime—anything from setting the table with real plates and forks rather eating straight out of takeout boxes to using a real tablecloth to lighting a candle at the table. It’ll help you slow down, says Le Billon, and in the end, eat less while still feeling satisfied.

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