French food rules

“French Food Rules”
Moderation not depravation.
Worry less about nutrients and calories, concentrating on loving food as a life pleasure.
Schedule meals and menus.
No short order cooking, everyone eats the same.
No snacking, food rewards, or emotional eating such as in front of the TV, or elsewhere.
It is okay to feel hungry between meals.
You don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it.
Eat foods with lots of variety, including vegetables.
Eat together without distractions.
Slowly eat food.
Eat mostly real food, treats on special occasions are okay.

What nutritionism sees with the French paradox is that the slender French eat gobs of saturated fats washed down with wine. But what it fails to see is a people with a completely different relationship with food than we have. Nutritionist pay far more attention to the chemistry of food than to the sociology or ecology of eating. All their studies on benefits of wine and foie gras overlook the fact that the French eat very differently than we do. They seldom snack, and they eat most of their foods at shared meals with other people. They eat small portions and don’t come back for seconds. And they spend considerably more time eating than we do. Taken together, those habits contribute to a food culture in which the French consume fewer calories than we do, yet manage to enjoy them far more.
It is found that serving sizes in France, both in restauraunts and supermarkets, are considerabl smaller than the United States. This matters because most people have what psychologists call a unit bias- we tend to believe that however big or small the portion served, that’s what the proper amount to eat. He found that the French spend considerably more time enjoying their tiny servings than we do our large servings. Although they eat less than Americans, the French spend more time eating, and hence get more food experience while eating less. He suggests that the French gift for extracting more food experience from fewer calories may help explain why the French are slimmer and healthier than we are.

Pay more, eat less.
What the French case suggests is that there is a trade off in eating between quantity and quality. The American food system has for more than a century devoted its energies to quantity and price rather than quality. There’s no escaping that better food-whether measured by taste or nutritional quality costs more, usually because it has been grown with more care and less intensively. Another important benefit of paying more for better quality food is that you’re apt to eat less of it. “Eat less” is the most unwelcomed advice of all, but in fact the scientific case for eating a lot less than we presently do is compelling, whether or not you are overweight.Calorie restriction has repeatedly been shown to slow aging and prolong lifespan in animals, and some researchers believe it is the single strongest link between a change in the diet and the prevention of cancer. Overeating promotes cell division, and promotes it most dramatically in cancer cells; cutting back on calories slows cell division. It also stifles the production of free radicals, curbs inflammation, and reduced the risk of most of the Western dieases. Eat less is easier said than done in a culture of cheap and abundant calories with no deeply rooted set of rules to curb overeating. But other cultures have rules and we can try to emulate them.
The French have their modest proportions and taboo against seconds. The people of Okinawa, one of the longest lived and healthiest populations in the world. practice a principle they call hara hachi bu: Eat until you are 80 percent full. You’d need to be more in touch with your senses than many Americans have become. Americans eat until they recieve some visual cue from their environment that it’s time to stop: the bowl or package is empty, the plate is clean, or the TV show is over. Brian Wansink concludes that Americans pay much more attention to external than to internal cues about satiety. By comparison the French, who seem to attend more closely to all the sensual dimensions of eating, also pay more attention to the internal cues telling us we feel full. The kind of cheap foods also are cheap in the sense that they require very little if any time or effort to prepare which is why we eat more of them. How often would you eat french fries if you had to peel, wash cut and prepare them yourself? Many of us can afford paying more for food. In the last decade we’ve found somehow the time and monet to spend hours on the internet, broadband service, phone bills, television bills foremerly free. For the majority of Americans, spending more for better food is less a matter of ability than priority. The portion of our income spent on food has declined, spenging on healthcare has soared. Choose quality over quantity, food experience over mere calories.

Quality foods, not quantity. Be balanced.

Eat meals.
We are snacking more and eating fewer meals together. Americans have added to the traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner a fourth daily eating occassion that lasts all day long; constant sipping and snacking we do while watching TV, driving and so on. It is the dinner table that we socialize and civilize our children, teaching them manners and the art of conversation. At the dinner table parents determine portion sizes, model eating and drinking behavior, and enforce social norms about greed and gluttony and waste. Shared meals are about much more than fueling bodies; they are uniquely human institutions where our species developed language and this thing we call culture. Mom might still cook something for herself and sit at the table for a while, but she’ll be alone for much of the time. That’s because dad and each of the kids are likely to prepare an entirely different meal for themselves. (Microwaving a package) The biggest threat to the meal as we know it is the snack, snacking in recent years has colonized whole new parts of our day and places in out lives. The bulk of the extra calories over the past twenty years has come from snacks. I don’t need to point out that those snacks tend not to be fruits and vegetables.

Do all your eating at a table.

Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.

Try not to eat alone.
There is research suggesting that light eaters will eat more when they dine with others (probably because they spend more time at the table) for people prone to overeating, communal meals tend to limit consumption, if only because we’re less likely to stuff our face when other’s are watching. This is precisely why so much food marketing is designed to encourage us to eat in front of the TV or in the car: When we eat mindlessly and alone, we eat more. The shared meal evates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture.

Consult your gut.
The french are better at this than we are, Brian Wansink asked a group of French people how they know when to stop eating. “When I feel full,” they replied. (What a novel idea! The Americans said things like “When my plate is clean” or “When I run out”) Perhaps it is their long, leisurely meals that give the French the oppurtunity to realize when they’re full. Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think. Serve smaller portions on smaller plates, serve food and beverages from small containers (even if this means replacing containers bought in jumbo sizes) leave detritus on the table, empty bottles, bones ans so forth- so you can see how much you’ve eaten or drunk; use glasses more vertical than horizontal (people tend to pour more into squat glasses) leave healthy foods in view, unhealthy ones out of view;leave serving bowls in the kitchen rather than on the table.

Eat slowly.
I mean slow in the sense of deliberate and knowledgeable eating promoted by slow food, the Italian born movement dedicated to the pronciple that a “firm defense of quiet matierial pleasure is the only way to opposite the universal folly of fast life.” Fast food is precisely the way you’d expect a people to eat who put success at the center of life, who work long hours (two careers per household), get only a few weeks of vacation per year, and who can’t depend on social safety net to cushion them from life’s blows. Many food cultures have rituals to encourage this sort of eating, saying a blessing before a meal. The point it seems, is to make sure that we don’t eat thoughtlessly and hurriedly and that knowledge and gratitude will inflect our pleasure at the table.

Cook, and if you can, plant a garden.

Pollan, M. (2008). In Defense of Food. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

Druckerman, P. (2012). Bringing Up Bebe. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

Le Billon, K. (2012). French Kids Eat Everything. New York, NY: HarperCollins

Le Billon, K. (2012, April 13.). Why French Parents are Superior in One Way. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from

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