One of the seemingly most popular cultures that American women like to emulate is that of France. And perhaps it's because their lives look très chic from the outside looking in. From fashion and style to pastry shops, markets, and impeccably dressed kids that look straight out of Madeline, it can be an easy life to romanticize. So, how do French women's diets differ from American women's? The so-called "French paradox," that French women (and men) are able to drink wine and eat things like fatty cheeses, foie gras, and buttery pastries and remain slender and stylish (and, most importantly to physicians, fairly low levels of heart disease) without spending hours on a treadmill has captivated American women (and others) since the 1980s.
Wait. So, full-fat cheese, pastries, wine and less time at the gym? Perhaps those calling cards are the reason why so many American women are trying to eat more like French women - and why there is so much information available that will easily chart a course for you, including the very popular French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano.
Americans already eat quite a bit of saturated fat, as the French do, so perhaps instead of comparing the French and American diets food-by-food, it'd be more important to look at how French women eat.
Here, a look into the contrasts.
1. Portion Size
Let's face it. Aside from those fancy schmancy restaurants with teeny tiny meals that costs too much money, American portions are often gigantic in an effort to give you more bang for your buck . French portions, however, are typically a bit smaller. Fanny Bourdette-Donon, international publicist at Christian Dior, told Elle that French women would prefer to eat many small courses (like the aforementioned teeny tiny food) over one large portion.
American women will often reach for a snack if they're feeling a bit peckish in the middle of a hectic workday, but according to Vogue, French women aren't likely to snack.
I'm often guilty of eating on the go, which I'm told over and over again is "bad for me." And there may be some truth to that. Bourdette-Donon told Elle that French women always sit and take their time eating.
For many American women, dinner is the main meal of the day. It's a time to take a break and decompress after a long day. According to Mind Body Green, French women eat more at lunch. Many French women get a longer lunch break than their American counterparts, which allows for a more relaxing meal midday.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only one in 10 Americans got their daily recommended fruit and vegetables in 2015. On the other hand,SFGate noted that French women and kids eat more fresh produce, perhaps because they start to eat such a large variety at such a young age.
6. Quality Of Ingredients
American food is often more processed than French food, according to WebMD. French women also try to use ingredients of the highest quality, which can sometimes mean butter, rather than a butter substitute. American women focus more on specific nutrients.
7. Dining Companions
Although it's not uncommon for American women to eat alone (and not considered overly lonely or rude), French sociologist Claude Fischler told The Guardian that French women eat in groups. Mealtimes are important for fellowship and community in the French tradition, meaning coworkers, families, and friends eat together.