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Useful ways to use day-old French baguette

Kid’s Healthy Snacking: The Good and Bad From the French Goûter

What is the French Goûter?

The word goûter is used as a verb or a noun depending on the context. 

As a verb, goûter means “to taste” and conjugates as a normal French verb, je goûte, tu goûtes etc.

As a noun, this word has even more popularity (primarily with French children). Le goûter is the French snack cultural ritual that happens somewhere around 4-5  pm, when the children are just getting out of school or the witching hour on the weekend for taking a break at the table for some refreshments.

See more here: “French Kids DO Snack, The Sacred French “Gouter.”

The Bad Aspects of The French Goûter Ritual 

The French goûter habit is an integrated part of every French child’s day. You cannot just miss the goûter , it just doesn’t happen in France. This break time to stop and eat a snack is part of French life’s necessities like sleeping and bathing.

And it is this necessity of providing a snack to your kids, every day, that is a negative aspect of the process. (I am being a bit ironic here.) You feel guilty if you don’t give your child the goûter when you live in France. And believe me, your child feels left out if they are the only one whose parents don’t have a snack waiting for them at school (in their backpacks or when you go to pick them up on the school run) or at home. And if the kids are not hungry for snack, they still feel ‘obliged’ to eat one-because the next meal is hours away.

Forget about giving your kids dinner at 6 pm. They are not hungry at 6:00 if they have eaten a snack at 5:00.

The real negative aspects of the French goûter snack offerings is connected to big food industry business. Take a look at some of the pictures I took at the French supermarket: 

french gouter snackDora and the Cars are front and cover on these French cookies sold by BN

french gouter snackThese snacks are already marked for the goûter

french gouter snackThis is only half the aisle for the snacks. So much to choose from!

French snacksThese are marketed as snacks for the French kids, but these are not healthy!

french gouter snackA wide array of so much to choose from, even M&M snacks for the kids’ goûter

Ah, French grapes. A naturally sweet and non processed perfect snack.

What are the Good Aspects from the French Goûter Habit?

This French snack habit does have positive aspects.  If you take away all those processed cookies, biscuits and chocolates (that you see in the pictures above) and provide your kids with a varied choice of fresh fruits, yogurt, nuts, trail mixes, healthy cereals (my kids love to snack on Muesli), cheese or homemade breads, cakes and cookies, then this snack time is a perfect time!

Because this snacking ritual is a necessity for a French child, the goûter time is a privileged moment to fill up on some calories and take a breather. But, attention: no more eating again until dinner, which is typically at 7:30-8:00 pm.

Kids are hungry when they get off of school, whether it is at 3, 4, or 5 pm, your child needs a break to sit down and take in a refreshment. The French kids have this art of snacking down to a perfection. And although the processed snacks are terribly abundant, there are many French parents that I know who provide their children healthy snack options on a regular basis.

This French snack being the most typical and old-fashioned:

french baguette and chocolate

What Can We Learn From This Snacking Ritual?

  1. Keep snacks at a scheduled time each day. Stop snacking at least 2 hours before dinner to keep your child’s appetite.
  2. Let snack time be an enjoyable time in a relaxed atmosphere at the table.
  3. It is an opportunity to offer healthy snack options and control the snacks your child eats. If you are not home when your child gets home from school, or your child brings their snacks to school, this is an ideal time to offer healthy snacks (with some fun snacks occasionally) either in their backpack or on the table ready for them at home.
  4. Like the French are with snacking times, be “strict” also with your kids by not allowing constant grazing. It is okay to say “no” to kids for their demands on more food and drinks if snack time is over and dinner will be served soon.

If you want to read more on this interesting aspect of the French snacking ritual, here are two articles on the subject:

French snacking: Should kids be allowed to randomly snack? and Snack Time in France.

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Or got to the end and want to read more? I would love to share my professional and personal stories as a nutritionist and mom living in France, just ‘next door’ to Italy, my second heart home. You can follow me on Twitter, or sign up for article updates and newsletter by clicking the button below. Your email will always remain private and by subscribing you can download your free E-report on “10 Simple Ways to Eat Like the French Without Having a Food Snob Attitude.”

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