We’re always keen to glean insights from the French in regard to fashion and beauty. But their approach to health and food is just as intriguing, as their signature effortlessness is embedded in everything from their tablescapes to their cuisine. That’s according to food and travel writer Jacqueline Parisi, who moved to France to “fully immerse” herself in their “gastronomic culture” after college. “Although I didn’t realize it at the time, France was slowly yet steadily working its magic on me and completely changing my relationship with food in the process,” she writes on MindBodyGreen.
Here’s what she learned about food, balance, and healthy eating from the French way of life.
Fat is not the enemy
“While many Americans reach for skim milk or low-fat yogurt, the French embrace full-fat dairy in moderation,” she writes. “When you strip fat out of a product, its taste is compromised (this also, by the way, explains why most low-fat foods are higher in sugar—you have to make up for it somehow).” She adds that full-fat dairy is not only less processed and
infinitely more flavorful, “but it’s also more satisfying.”
Be more mindful with your meals
While Americans pioneered the sad desk lunch, the French respect food and mealtime in general. “When I heard that lunch lasted an hour and 15 minutes, I was skeptical, to say the least,” she explains. “But after just a few weeks, I came to appreciate the time I was spending to actually sit down at a table with my co-workers, respect the food in front of me, and really taste what I was eating.” Despite the fact that she’s moved back to New York, Parisi still takes a break to consciously consume her lunch every day.
“In addition to helping clear my mind and increase productivity, it eases my digestion, prevents me from overeating, and decreases my mid-afternoon snack cravings.”
While mindless snacking is the American way, “at most, the French eat one snack, or goûter, a day, usually between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.,” she explains. “They don’t keep sugar-laden energy bars in their desk drawers, they don’t sit in front of the TV with a jar of roasted almonds, and they definitely don’t give snacks to kids as a way to occupy or appease them.” After just a few weeks in France, she noticed her snack cravings subside—“I just wasn’t hungry and had a feeling what I was eating (three full meals with protein, fats, and healthy carbs) and how I was eating (slowly, sitting down, at a table) had something to do with that.”