The Pleasure of Food, the French Way

Diets are stressful. That one day when you “cheated” can leave you feeling guilty, or you restrict yourself from eating your favorites. When food becomes associated with guilt, regret, or disappointment, the natural enjoyment associated with a healthy meal disappears. Obviously, food is necessary, contributes to our wellbeing, and is a big focus of our daily lives. In many countries outside the USA, food is seen as a positive force, and a recent study reveals Americans are the least likely to associate food with pleasure – that is a sad situation. Look to the French way if you are stressing about food!

The French Perspective on Food

The French love food, eating, and the process of preparing and serving meals. They set aside plenty of time for each meal. Even though the French diet may have more flour, butter, and fat, the French are far less likely to gain weight – what’s the secret? 

Smaller Portions, More Meals.

Generally, the French focus on depth of flavor, and serve smaller portions. Lunch is the main meal of the day, and lunch break is one to two hours long, even for school children. The lunch menu is typically three to four courses and has an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits. Rather than searching for food that is lower in calories with a low fat content, we could do what the French do – eat delicious foods, just less of it, taking the time to savor every bite, rather than rushing through a meal. 

Work/Life Balance: France vs. USA

Americans are known for being some of the hardest working cultures. Rushing to work, eating lunch in a hurry or missing it altogether does lead to good eating habits, or improve your ability to perform. Maybe it is time to “think French.”

In France, breakfast is typically just coffee with butter and jam on a slice of bread, croissant, or baguette. They may eat a midmorning snack of an apple or other piece of fruit. Then comes “dejeuner,” or lunch – which is enjoyed slowly. Before the pandemic, it was illegal for the French to eat lunch at their desks, and employers who allowed this practice would be fined! The French believe it is healthier to leave the office, eat a leisurely lunch, move your body and refresh your mind. A lovely way to break up the day, don’t you think? 

Dinnertime

Children have a snack at about 4 pm, and then comes dinner – at about 8 pm. It starts with an appetizer, or soup, followed by a salad dressed with vinaigrette. Then comes meat, fowl, or fish, with fresh vegetables, or a hearty stew in the colder winter months. The portions are far smaller than what we eat in the USA but prepared for ultimate flavor rather than volume.

In France, a “kid’s menu” doesn’t exist. Children eat what their parents eat, and kids in general love fruit and veggies – they have been eating them since they were able to chew. As taste reigns supreme, they will choose to eat fruits and vegetables in season, when they taste the best. They don’t focus on the size and shape of the produce, as is common in the USA, but strictly on flavor. 

Restore your enjoyment of food and set aside the stress and anxiety associated with eating. We can learn to change our habits and restore the pleasures of a satisfying meal, the French way.

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