The French are well-known for their delicious food AND for low obesity and coronary heart disease rates – the so-called French Paradox. It seems rather unbelievable that a nation which reveres food and wine would also have a population with an obesity rate FAR below that of the United States. But it’s true. Perhaps we should learn to eat like the French.
There are a number of contributing factors for what seems like magic:
- Three meals a day with little or no snacking
- High quality foods with enough fat to provide satiety
- Meals eaten slowly and savored
- Lots of walking
I had the opportunity to experience this when David and I visited Paris a couple of years ago. Our hotel provided a simple, help-yourself breakfast each morning. A small buffet with fresh fruit, yogurt, mild cheeses, juice, coffee and tea was set up in the basement dining area. A server brought a basket of fresh breads to each table. I was very happy to be able to start my day with a cup of tea and a freshly baked croissant.
Lunch and dinner were more than just meals, they were events. Leisurely, delicious events complete with wine. Let’s take a look at:
How to Eat Like the French
Petit Déjeuner (breakfast)
This is one of the reasons I love the French. A typical French breakfast consists of some variation on the “tea and toast” or “coffee and bread” theme. Cafe au lait/tea/hot chocolate and a tartine/croissant are considered an adequate breakfast in France. None of this “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” nonsense. I’m a life-long breakfast hater. Tea or coffee and a delicious croissant? These are my people.
The French actually take time to eat a leisurely lunch and in fact, for many it’s a three-course meal. We enjoyed several two-hour lunches with a bottle of wine while in Paris and I’m convinced the world would be a better place if we all did this.
Most restaurants offer a three-course lunch including starter, main course and dessert. We never could manage to eat much of a dinner after one of these lunches. Some days we ate our heavier meal at night so lunch was something simple, yet delicious, like a Croque Monsieur and small salad. Leave it to the French to be able to take bread, cheese and ham and turn them into something totally scrumptious.
Le Goûter (afternoon snack)
The French do not, as a rule, indulge in mindless snacking. Three regular meals are the order of the day. There is an exception, however. Le Goûter is a snack served primarily to children at about 4:30 in the afternoon. Their school day is long and dinner is late – around 8 or 8:30 p.m (another reason I love the French; I just can’t get used to eating dinner at 5:30 or 6 p.m.). Le Goûter helps bridge that gap. And guess what it usually consists of? Squares of chocolate in a chunk of baguette! Again…I love these people. Adults will often take a break for a cup of coffee or tea and a pastry or other treat, too.
Dinner is a leisurely, multi-course affair, eaten “à table” (at the table). Typical courses include:
- Apéritif – light alcoholic drink and perhaps something like nuts, olives or crackers to stimulate the appetite
- Appetizer – soup is a common choice for this course
- Main course – some type of meat, potatoes, vegetable (I just want to say here that I have no idea why but the potatoes we had in France were out of this world!)
- Cheese and dessert
If lunch was a large, multi-course affair dinner may be lighter but will still likely be served in a couple of separate courses. And it will, of course be eaten at a leisurely pace seated at the table with the whole family.
David and I adored Paris and the food was a huge part of that. I think we should all learn to eat like the French.
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