May 6th, 2022, 01:00 PM

The French and American Diet

By Ian Stone
Image Credit: Unsplash/Spencer Davis
Observations about dietary differences between France and the United States.

I moved from Chicago to Paris in early January; this was my first time ever in France. Having lived in New York for six months before moving to Paris, I had a different experience with food and nutritional adjustments. My experiences in the US and France made me realize how different food and nutrition can be across two countries.

My exposure to two food cultures made me realize that food is a critical contributor to the physical well-being of human beings. Food is a major source of stress, worry, and pleasure, making it a positive force in life. I have grown up going to places such as Sweetgreen, Urth Café, Chopt, and other super “foodie” restaurants. When I arrived in Paris, I realized that the people in the city seemed to put more thought and time into their meals.

The French have more than an appreciation for food and ingredients; they live to eat. Wellness is more self-actualizing and synonymous with happiness, and wellness and wellbeing means live well and be happy. The American attitude to food seems contrast with the more pleasure-oriented, relaxed attitude to food of the French. 

The attitudinal difference between the Americans and the French is accompanied by the high consumption of high-fat foods. I noticed the French live to eat while the Americans eat to live. It seems to me that the French consume food with high-fat concentration more than the American.

Despite consuming high-fat foods, I noticed that the people in Paris were healthier than the Americans in New York. The French people eat all their meals together and in small portions, while Americans eat their food in large quantities. This habit has made fast food outlets more prevalent in the US than France. Chain restaurants that serve minute-made foods are uncommon in France.

Eating healthy helps prevent weight gain and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. In France, food is savored and people tend to linger over a meal instead of eating as quickly as possible in a fast-paced outlet. Parisians often serve their food with a glass of red wine when taking the meal, an uncommon characteristic among Americans. I noticed that Americans tended to eat more often at the fast-food outlets, but the Parisians make a priority out of cooking most of their meals at home using predominantly local ingredients.

Food in France is about smaller, but filling meals of bread, cheese, vegetables, and meat. On the other hand, the American food culture advocates for food comas and buffets. The Parisians consume food with high saturated fat but keep their portions under control. They also serve food cooked with local ingredients, while American fast food culture exposes its consumers to organic foods.



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Parisians’ breakfasts tend to be light, and their lunches are much longer. In America, people believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Americans eat a heavy meal for breakfast, including meat, cheese, and potatoes. The French prefer croissants and coffee or bread and jam for breakfast, while Americans consider eating meat and eggs.

During lunch, banks, shops, and businesses close, and the Parisians sit for an hour or two for a hot lunch at home with their family. They end up eating a healthy, organic lunch since they get most of their vegetables and fresh food products from the market. Most Americans take lunch at fast-food restaurants and quickly return to work.

While Americans think negatively of fats and carbs, Parisians do not eliminate any food groups and instead live by the “everything in moderation” rule. Childhood obesity in France is much lower than in the United States despite consuming food high in cholesterol and saturated fats. Both Americans and the French serve meat and fish with potatoes, serve extra salads or vegetables after the meat, and eat a bit of cheese before the dessert, not after it. With moving to Paris from the U.S., I have had the first had experience of comparing both diets and have found it interesting to compare and contrast both diets. The American and French diet does not have many similarities, and what Americans consider as healthy food options is different from the French view.