Nutrition in the Dental Office with Karen Le Billon

14 Mar Nutrition in the Dental Office with Karen Le Billon

“My kids went from basically a beige food diet to eating and loving a whole, wide variety of foods–-mussels, salad…my younger daughter’s favorite food now is stinky, blue cheese, ” said Karen Le Billon, author of Getting To Yum and French Kids Eat Everything.

Would you like your kids (and entire family) to eat a healthier diet? Sure..but, how?

You are going to love this blog post. After years of cavity fighting and nutritional education, I am teaming up with one amazing author to present to you the “how” part in getting your family to eat better foods.

As you may have guessed, it’s not going to happen overnight. As a matter of fact, Karen tells us that it must be taught.

After interviewing Karen, I decided to highlight several key points in her interview for a blog series. I will post the audio version of our interview on my YouTube channel once this blog series is complete.

How Do We Change?

The first point and food recommendation to get your kids to eat better (and one I found very effective with my children, too) is the serving of a vegetable plate first. When Karen lived in France with her husband and two children, she found the eating styles to be very different. Before the main course is introduced, a plate of vegetables is often served. She said this primes the pump for even more vegetables to be eaten throughout the meal. When kids are hungry, they eat what is first available.

My son occasionally bemoans what is in his lunchbox in the morning, but by the afternoon, he manages to eat what is provided. One time he told me, “Mom, that soup wasn’t very good, but I was so hungry I ate it anyway.”

Here is what I do at restaurants as well: When the server asks us for a drink order, I also place a vegetable of the day order. I know my kids are hungry, so the first thing that appears for them is steamed vegetables. They devour it. I also ensure they choose small beverages, especially if they want anything besides white milk or water. They get one. They get one beverage (if anything besides water)—no free refills and unlimited amounts of sugary, empty calorie drinks. These beverages fill them up too easily, and then they are not hungry for the nutritious parts of their meals. And, of course, the sugary lemonades and sodas are not helpful for their teeth either.

Teaching our children how to eat is one of the most important things we can do as parents. The second most important thing is to teach them what to eat. Karen referenced another nutritionist, Ellyn Satter. Ellyn refers to this as a “division of responsibility” when is comes to eating. The parents decide what to eat and the children decide how much to eat.

Le Billon adds in that she recommends parents have their children try new foods. Her rule of thumb is, “You don’t have to like it, but you do have to try it.”

As dentists, we have a great responsibility to help patients understand what is causing the cavities in their mouths or in the mouths of those under their care. Identifying cavities is an important technical aspect of what we do as professionals. When we go beyond 32 teeth and think about helping our patients in other ways, such as finding nutritional solutions to difficult problems, we get closer to recognizing our abilities to help people with their whole health.

Whole health dentistry is what I practice and what I teach. Technical dentistry is an important aspect of being a dentist, and we must continue to advance our knowledge in new procedures and materials. Equally important is advancing our knowledge in human behavior and nutrition. After all, doesn’t food always end up in the mouth? That is our area of expertise, correct?

Let’s prove our expertise by knowing more about food and knowing what food to recommend to our dental patients. If we don’t know, how can we teach our patients? These two books by Karen certainly advanced my knowledge as an educator, as a Mom, and as a dentist.

Special thanks to Karen Le Billon, author of Getting To Yum and French Kids Eat Everything. Her website is

Dr. Knowles speaks nationally on the topic of Whole Health Dentistry and thinking Beyond 32 Teeth. She is a big picture innovator and would enjoy speaking to your dental groups or those simply interested in knowing more about dental and overall health. She also gives private lessons to dentists looking for advice beyond teeth (best business practices, leading a difficult team, behavior & motivational challenges with patients). Contact Lisa at or visit her website at Call her at 517-331-3688.

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