Nutrition: The real reason French women don’t get fat

I spent the past week in France, part of the time visiting friends who have been living for four months

nutritionfewersnacksinthefrenchdiet

I spent the past week in France, part of the time visiting friends who have been living for four months in a small city west of Paris. So I asked them what they’ve seen as the biggest difference in how the French way of eating’made famous in “Why French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano’differs from our own.

Without hesitation, their response: The French don’t snack, and don’t have as easy access to snacks as we do here in Canada. For example, in general, a drug store or pharmacy doesn’t have bags of chips or chocolate bars at the front cash, and there aren’t stores on every corner with shelves piled with snack foods. My friends’who have three kids’thought this was especially important in terms of childhood obesity; again you don’t see nearly as many overweight children there.

Two other quick observations (not new or earth-shattering):
‘ They eat what’s in season and local. With a small local market open every day, and one of the largest ones in the Brittany region on Saturday mornings, it’s much easier to make daily decisions about what to eat.  Of course, it helps that local fresh asparagus (white is more abundant than green), lettuce and strawberries are already in the market, while we’re still excited by the smallest of green shoots (sorry B.C., I know you’re ahead of us).

‘ There’s no guilt about whole-fat cheeses and butter croissant. As we already know, this doesn’t mean that people overindulge in high-fat foods. Rather, these are incorporated naturally into a generally healthy diet.

The one high-fat warning I did get? A woman at a booth at the Saturday morning market warned that a famous Breton delicacy “Kouign-Amann” (butter cake) I was buying had “beaucoup, beaucoup, beaucoup de beurre,” as she made movements with her hands indicating ever-expanding hips. Surely that wouldn’t happen after just one cake!

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