Whenever Americans think about French food, the first things that come to mind are croissants, crêpes, macarons, quiche, croque-monsieur, coq au vin, bourguignon, cassoulet … and of course, wine.
Let me clarify the misunderstanding: French people don’t eat these foods every day!
4 French food stereotypes
Here are four foods commonly associated with French cooking stereotypes that aren’t necessarily part of a balanced French diet:
Sure, a croissant is inexpensive and more available in France than anywhere else in the world, but you need to make the effort to leave your house in the morning to go to the boulangerie to get your super fresh croissant (because fresh is the only way to eat a croissant). Here is the reality: you (or your loved ones) will only make the trip on weekends—and not every weekend. If you eat croissant or pain au chocolat everyday, you will acquire what my little sister has: very generous curves. (If you’re reading this, I love you little sis!) A croissant is made of pure butter, and butter is good, in moderation.
Consuming a lot of baguettes has also become a common French stereotype in the states. My parents, and most French, do take the time to stop by the boulangerie and buy a fresh baguette every day. It’s a French cooking tradition to accompany your meal with a slice of fresh baguette, but also traditional to eat moderately.
I personally don’t know any French people who make their own French fries at home! French fries are so easy to find in French bistros, but they are quite a hassle to make (let alone the ridiculous amount of oil that’s needed). Most of the French will eat their French fries when they dine at a bistro, and prepare healthy foods with high quality ingredients at home to compensate for the high (and unhealthy) fat intake.
I could certainly eat quiche everyday of the week (but I don’t)! Quiches are very easy to make in France because ready-to-use pie dough is available in every French supermarket. Quiches are so versatile, and you can make them with just about anything you have on hand. Filling a quiche with seasonal vegetables and herbs is an easy way to create an extremely nutrient-dense, calorie-rich meal. Use only the best organic ingredients to make it as in traditional French cuisine, and serve with a bright green side salad.
French people are introduced to the notion of “balance” very early in life. We love food. So whenever I go out to eat, I will not order a salad!
Instead, I will splurge on what looks like the tastiest meal on the menu. I will enjoy it thoroughly. Then, I will compensate for this indulgence by having a lighter meal that same day. In France, as in much of Europe, the main meal is lunch, which is served in three courses: appetizer, entrée, and dessert. But whether we eat the main meal of the day for lunch or for dinner, the other meal is ALWAYS a lighter one.
I hear some Americans becoming completely adverse to eating certain foods. They make eating rules like, “I should never ever have sugar, or I’ll get fat.” Where is the fun in that? I don’t know about you, but if this were my rule all I would think about is how much I want a macaron!
Eating should be playful, not restrictive. This is finding balance in a healthy diet.
Eating habits to explore
Coaching American women to change their eating habits has proven to me that making these items a top priority is the best way to begin embracing a healthier way of life:
- Eat slowly, at the table, and only when you’re hungry.
We must learn to stop eating when we are full. Consider how you feel after a meal, and get in touch with what your body and what it’s telling you. American portions are much larger than in France. There is a reason why when dining out in France we never need to ask for our leftovers to go! Our portions are smaller, and they are all we need.
- Save dining out for special occasions and choose high quality.
The biggest differences between going out to eat in Paris and going out to eat in most places in the US will be the size of the meal and the quality of the ingredients used. We might spend a little more for high quality ingredients, but this is why we plan easy healthy meals to make at home and limit dining out to special occasions.
- Cook meals that make your mouth water.
Eating the same things over and over again is boring, and will cause you to seek exciting, indulgent, and often unhealthy options. Experimenting with cooking meals at home doesn’t need to be complicated; sometimes just adding different fresh herbs to a meal will make it taste completely different and interesting. Make cooking a fun experience! I love to listen to music or a good podcast when I cook, and/or have a glass of (good) wine.
These are the Fast French Food purposes: to help you to discover new flavors in healthy foods, enjoy eating nutritious meals with high quality ingredients at home (just as much as when you dine out), and to enjoy cooking again!