The French Dietary Guidelines are highly respected around the world thanks to what we call the "French Paradox. French eat large amounts of saturated fats and sugar yet they are among the healtiest people in the world. Let's examine why.
The French diet is usually made up of fresh fruits and vegetables which are locally grown and available. They buy them from the groceries or they get them from the small markets in the streets which are usually set up on some days in most cities and towns. The towns have better produce than those from the local groceries as they have more people seeking the freshest foods available for cooking. The French especially love fresh meats and freshly caught fish.
Today, the French still continue to practice cooking in their homes as it is part of their culture and they have delicious food that the whole world appreciates. The French take pride in their cuisine and of course their country. for this reason, the older generation, in particular, still think twice about eating new kinds of foods especially those from American franchises like MacDonald’s.
A normal breakfast in France would start with a light breakfast with bread and jams and spreads as condiments. Today, however, these are now being slowly replaced by instant cereals and coffees, teas, and chocolate flavoured milk.
Lunch and dinner are typically served with a lot of choices of foods depending on the region. They usually serve appetizers like salads and for the main dishes they serve meat or fish with a side dish of fresh vegetables, pasta, rice or fries. They also serve desserts of yogurt, fruit or cake. Each meal is typically followed by a cup of coffee.
The French use alcoholic products throughout their meals. They typically start out by taking an aperitif, when they ea,t they have wine, sometimes beer but that depends again on the region. Usually the choice of beer or wine depends on the food that is being served. If it is a festive meal then each dish is served with a different kind of wine.
After the meal, they serve a digestif or a small portion of liqueur.
However the French government has seen a steady rise in obesity among their younger population. It seems that more than 16% of the young population are now overweight compared to 30 years ago when it was just 5%. This is blamed on poor eating habits because of eating more junk foods rather than the traditional home cooked meals.
The health ministry has issued recommendations which target the eating habits. They recommend eating more fruits and vegetables in whatever form they can be served as. This plan also intends to find out what is stopping the children from eating fresh produce as in the past the French were quite fond of them.
The recommendations also want to encourage the citizens to eat more whole grains, to lower their consumption of high sugar content foods, salty foods in the form of chips and fries and to increase the intake of water. The government even went so far as to put up more drinking fountains in public places to encourage the drinking of plain water.
The government also encourages exercise as opposed to laziness by at least getting off the sofa and walk for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. This exercise was prioritized by the government as well.
The French dietary guidelines are illustrated as stairs. Foods from which higher amounts can be consumed are found at the top of the stairs, and the ones that should only be consumed in small quantities are found at the bottom, with the ones that should be avoided in the magnifying glass.
. The French guidelines are also shown in a table containing recommendations on the amount of each of the six food groups, salt and fluids that should be consumed. The table also displays recommendations on physical activity. (see below)
Here is what the guide says:
One or two portions a day. One should choose the least fatty parts of the meat, favor the variety and not only the same cut. One should also eat fish at least twice a day.
3 portions a day. One should eat a large variety and choose the least salty and least fatty chesse over the others.
This category includes bread, cereals, potatoes and legumes. They recommend to eat some at each meal and according to your appetite. (meaning they are not limited) They do recommend eating whole grains over refined ones though.
This category includes all the fruits and vegetables, anytime, anywhere, as a snack, raw, cooked or frozen, they want you to eat at least 5 portions every day.
Water is unlimited, Drink as much as you like. they recommend limiting wine to 2 glasses for women and 3 for men. For other alcoholic drinks: 2 pints of beer and 1 ounce of stong alcohol.
Limit the intake of sugary drinks and choose the "diet" version.
Slaty, fatty and sweet foods are to be avoided. They make a point of mentionning that foods that are both sweet and fatty are the worst (pattisseries, ice cream, chocolate, etc.)