The Main Meal Served At Midday. Lunch In France
Is having the main meal at lunchtime typically French?
This is the fourth part of my summer series on cultural differences between France and America and how this difference can potentially affect our health. In France, the main meal is served at lunchtime and a lighter supper is served later, even later than the normal American dinnertime. A hot three course main meal is served around noon and lasts for about one hour (although the lunch “break” is usually two hours long). This French midday meal is a filling meal, combining a protein source such as meat or fish, along with a vegetable and some starch. Dessert at lunch could be a fruit or yogurt. A French breakfast is small so typically the French are quite hungry once lunchtime comes.
A lighter and quicker American lunch
This is in contrast to the lighter American lunches of a sandwich or soup and salad, or perhaps just a light bowl of pasta or a hamburger and fries. In the States, lunch is quicker. Normally within a half hour the American lunch has started and finished. Dinner is the main meal in typical American households. It is the time for the sit down dinner, filled with the same things the French lunch has: meat, starch and vegetables.
Why This Difference in main meal at lunch between France and America?
This difference in timing of the main meals has to do with the long-time history of the two-hour lunches in Old Country France compared with the New Country of America with the industrial revolution movement, business trends with lunch on the run, plus busy people and two working families. The two-hour lunch is quite sacred in France. Although now the trend is progressing towards what is seen in America; which is a shorter lunch and then back to work. In large companies in France there is usually a large cafeteria with good food, this is to encourage spending time at work and not drifting home. Lunchtime at these big companies is usually 45 minutes. In the school system the children still covet the two-hour break. For working parents with young school age children, you are obligated to either find someone to pick up the children at school to return home for lunch or have the kids eat in the cantine (school cafeteria). The cantine offers schoolchildren a three course hot meal but home packed lunches are not allowed.
Is the French option of main meal at lunch a healthier one?
Is it healthier to eat the main meal at lunch? Actually your body just takes what you give it, meaning it doesn’t distinguish what time of day you eat. Thus, as far as vitamins and minerals are concerned, whether you eat the main meal at lunch or dinner, there is no difference. However, for weight control my personal belief is that it is better to eat the main meal at lunch. Eating that heavy meal earlier on in the day rather than at night means that you have all day to work off what you are eating. Also, I find it difficult to sleep well on a full stomach. We eat supper late in France, (like the Frenchies), by eating a big meal at 8 or 9 PM, I find it hard to digest this heavy meal late through the night.
So what is the ideal solution? Main meal at lunch?
What is a better solution, main meal at lunch or dinner? Try out the main meal at lunch and see how you feel. Try out the lighter meal at dinnertime. Can you fit this into your lifestyle? If you work, this means either good planning to find a way to eat your 3 course meal at lunch (some jobs this seems virtually impossible) or why not at home?
How to make that family dinner a light one? Small portions of meat and protein and load up on the veggies. Eat carbohydrates in moderation. American adults and children are currently eating more protein needed for their daily requirements so this is why I mentioned eating small meat and protein portions.
Do you already eat your main meal at lunch or made a recent switch? Let me know how this eating plan is going for you by commenting in the “Leave a Reply” section below.
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Merci and Bon Appetit!