What the French Know About Food: No Snacking


Learn why the French don’t need this.

In Paris, there’s a bakery on every corner offering buttery croissants, but residents are still slim enough to fit into elevators the size of coffins. What do the French know? This is the first of several posts on food and lifestyle in the city of lights.

Among four health-related announcements required to be included in advertisements for salty/sweet junk foods, is the following:

“Pour votre santé, eviter de grignoter entre les repas.” OR “For your health, avoid snacking between meals.”

When I first read that, I thought I must have mistaken the meaning of “grignoter.” After all, hadn’t nutritionists been telling us in the U.S. to eat several smaller meals? What is a snack if not a small meal, right?

Well, I can tell you one thing: our “small” meals in the U.S. aren’t doing us much good. In fact, I’m inclined to think that we eat bigger-than-French-sized meals plus snacks. But I digress.

So I was saying, snacks basically have a bad reputation here. Unless you’re under the age of 10, you will get funny looks gnoshing in public at non-meal times. I’ve been using public transit in Paris for over a month, and I can count on one hand the number of times that I have seen people eating. Even in the halls of the university where I teach, there are no signs of the sugar/salt stimulants U.S. students rely on to get them through their courses.

For me, this seems to be the most powerful difference between the U.S. and Paris. In the U.S., wherever I am, at whatever time it may be, I encounter people who are eating, and I often think, “Hey, I’d like to be eating that, too.” In France, by contrast, when it’s not meal time, I just don’t see food out. I used to be a has-it-been-two-hours-yet-so-I-can-eat person. Now I actually forget about food for stretches of four hours at a time.



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