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French Ways to Eat For Pleasure & Good Health:Regularity

From 17 Frenchy Ways to Eat For Pleasure and Good Health; Regular Meals at Regular Times.  Regular Meals at Regular Times, the number 1 on the list of 17 ways Frenchys eat for pleasure and good health.  Do you know that one of the stereotypes Americans have over here in France and other parts of Europe is that Americans don’t do the regular meals at regular times habit.  In fact, I am getting bored with this one remark I hear over and over from French and Europeans that travel to America.  The comment that us Americans are always eating, snacking, drinking.  Walking and eating, standing and drinking; yada, yada, yada.  This idea that Americans don’t ever stop and sit down to eat balanced, satisfying and slow meals.  It sounds quite negative from the tone of their questions.  At least the Frenchys make this American habit sound so negative because they say this comment with that look in their eyes and tone in their voice, adding  “C’est incroyable! (That’s incredible!) Don’t Americans actually take time to sit down and eat?”   Actually, I say, “yes-we do!”…and maybe this is part of the obesity epidemic in America.  Because we do snack and drink a lot (compared to Europeans) but at the same time we also sit down and eat too!  Albeit, the meals maybe shorter, lighter and sitting in front of a screen.  Am I wrong?  I have lived outside of America for quite a while…You tell me what’s going on where you live.  In fact, check out the surroundings next time you are in the mall and have a minute to stop and look at the crowd around you.  Are they holding any food or drink?  Are they walking and eating? Does the stroller have a drink and snack propped up on the handle and is the toddler also eating in the stroller?  The next time you are in the office and it is lunchtime; anyone eating at their desk?  In their car?  Perhaps even at home…everyone with different schedules, grabbing dinner at different times and eating in front of the television or computer.  Regular Meals at Regular Times is a key part of the French culture-even the European culture.  Regular complete and filling lunches around the same time and ditto for dinner.  By focusing on taking time to eat, sitting down at a table, enjoying a complete balanced meal, you will feel more satisfied-less likely to grab snacks during the afternoon or before bed. More leaving the table satisfied, not too full.  Your body comfortably stable with a good “input”, haha-of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The gas for the brain and body.
Is it easier in France to eat regular meals?
Is it easier in France to have regular meals at regular times? Hmmm, schools have a 2 hour lunch break, many business close during lunch hour, even your boss and colleagues at work EXPECT you (this is the main word:  EXPECT) to take a lunch break.  Dinners are served later here-when everyone’s busy schedule is done and everyone is finally at home to eat together.  Fast food is expensive, convenience type stores (like WaWa) aren’t around the corner like in America.  In other words-it isn’t easy to do the American snacking, eating on the run lifestyle here in France.  There aren’t those go-cups that you fill up for coffee in the morning at the cafe and zip off to work.  Want to run in cafe for a coffee?  Better sit down and drink it (with a croissant if it is breakfast time) or if you are really in a hurry-order at the cafe’s counter and drink it there.  No running out the door with your filled go cup with your favorite java.   But, perhaps the most influential method that helps here is that everyone sits down and takes a break for lunch and eats.  Same for dinner.  Just as the other side, the American culture influences the other way; eating on the run, grabbing a sandwich from Wa Wa, skipping lunch to get that deadline finished. And it seems OK to do this because everyone else does it. Don’t be like everyone else….Be strict with yourself, your kids and your family to eat balanced satisfying meals at regular times.
Making the extra effort for regular meals and regular times
The Frenchys are into meal discipline, especially with their children.  See my article published last summer on this cultural differences here.  It will take extra efforts on your part to practice regular meals at regular times.  If you cannot do it for both main meals (lunch and dinner), start with the one meal you think possible to make a regular meal a regular habit.  Here in France for my family it is lunch; in fact,  the main meal is often served at midday in France.  In America I could imagine dinner being your main meal.  If you have to, make the dinner time a bit later so everyone sits down together.  In France, dinner with the family can be from 7:30-9:00 PM.  If you have young children, many parents feed the kids earlier and then enjoy a later dinner just with their partner around 9:30-10:00 PM.  But the point is, you take the time to sit down and eat a regular balanced meal and do this slowly…
Health and pleasure reasons why regular meals at regular times are important

  • leaving the table full and satisfied leaves less incentive to open the fridge for snacks later
  • eating at regular times sets your body up for hunger expectations
  • knowing that the regular meal will be eaten at a regular time helps you to stay in control with snacking beforehand
  • having longer, slower meals allow time for your body to feel full and satisfied; thus leaving the table feeling full but not too full
  • planning out these main meals allow for more structure and menu balancing, thus more healthy options
  • making it a habit to eat sit down and eat in a structured way with conversation and no screens :), in a pleasurable environment
  • feeling sensation of hunger and satiation after a meal are JUST NICE

ALORS, (so) what am I missing?  I didn’t even talk about breakfast.  That is because in France….well, you will have to keep reading this series to find out.  Now I am asking YOU readers, do you practice regular meals at regular times on a regular basis? Does it help you to feel satisfied when you leave the table? If you cannot do it daily, don’t…but don’t not try at all.  Small changes are better than none.  For now, it is lunchtime here in France, off to eat my lunch in front of the computer.  Got you. Only kidding!  Until next time, Bon Appetit!

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16 Responses to French Ways to Eat For Pleasure & Good Health:Regularity

  1. Bethany September 12, 2014 at 17:37 #

    I tutored high-school students for a year and a half and never saw them without food (an exaggeration, but still). Freshman come into the school with a normal weight (if not slightly heavy), but leave as overweight seniors. I do not snack at all, but I am the only person I know that does not. What is most interesting to me is that here, in the US, I get criticized because I do not eat sugar, refined carbs, and snacks. Women do not like that I pay attention to what I eat. I usually feel a lot of peer pressure to “just cheat.” When I don’t, people apologize about their own food and tell me “I don’t normally eat like this.” It is also assumed that I am from a higher social-economic level because I am thin. Women, especially, here in the US seem to want “skinny girls” to get fat… I do not feel encouraged to succeed in my healthy eating habits.

    • mbrighton September 16, 2014 at 10:10 #

      Hi Bethany, Thank you for your insights from a personal level. Are you American? There are a lot of eating ‘crises’ in the United States at the moment, hunger, obesity, jealousy, body image disorders, guilt eating, etc… Keep going with your current eating plan, it is working for you and is one that others should adopt too: (no sugar, refined carbs , limited or no snacks). Brava!

  2. Giulia February 1, 2013 at 09:48 #

    PS: However, it is true that Italians, like the French, seldom snack between meals. Even when we substitute a meal (usually lunch) with a quick “unit”, we do not eat anything else until the next customary mealtime.

    • mbrighton February 7, 2013 at 23:57 #

      ah….the Latins…Food is precious and no snacking is customary!

  3. Giulia February 1, 2013 at 09:40 #

    Interesting insights! 🙂
    I am Italian (from the north of the country) and lived in the States for five wonderful years. Oddly, I was surprised by the opposite phenomenon; i.e., that Americans (including my enviably slender husband) always seem to crave complete, hot sit-down meals! For example, on a hot or busy day, younger Italians (under 60 years of age) may just eat a gelato, a panino, or a pizza slice on the go (I call them “units”), while virtually all American eateries offer complete sit-down meals (often served on one large platter) consisting of a main item (usually meat or fish) surrounded by one or two sides, and a drink. Additionally, a salad and/or dessert can always be added for a modest price. While it is true that Americans usually eat faster than Italians (although I eat faster than my husband!), they also sit down more often to eat complete meals.
    People older than 60, however, seem to have similar eating habits in both continents (I have lived in Germany and Sweden as well, and the people there tend to eat “units” just as we do in Italy). Do the French eat “units” as well, or do they still eat complete meals all the time?

    • mbrighton February 7, 2013 at 23:57 #

      Buongiorno! thanks for your comment! French like their complete meals: entree, main meal, cheese, bread, dessert. Voila….! Where are you living now?

  4. Joe January 11, 2012 at 18:33 #

    Excellent Post.
    Very good site with interesting information.
    I always come to this site and I’m stuck for hours reading all this information.
    All you have to do with health care interests me in particular as regards juvenile arthritis disease.

    • mbrighton January 11, 2012 at 22:30 #

      Hi Joe! What in particular do you want to see in regards to juvenile arthritis disease? Any questions you would like to ask? Thanks for your comment.

  5. David January 10, 2012 at 13:00 #

    Bonjour Mary!

    I’m liking your regular meals at regular time guidelines and I’m trying to adopt such eating lifestyle but it is different in this society where everything is fast-paced…

    • mbrighton January 11, 2012 at 22:34 #

      Hi David…I understand your dilemma. Got to make regular meals a priority and just ignore the snacking or grabbing a drink in between. Easier said than done. Your body will appreciate your diligence! Good luck!

  6. Nac January 25, 2011 at 21:46 #

    Your blog is really interesting!

    I am french and I have spent 6 weeks in France with several american girls, 4 chinese persons and other french boys and girls (for an archeological stuff) and I observed that americans was always the first to leave the table. Chinese really liked dessert because apparently they didn’t have the habit to eat dessert in China.

    • mbrighton January 25, 2011 at 22:28 #

      Hi Nac, Thanks so much for your comment and observations! Je le bien apprecie! Please keep reading and if you see something interesting from your interactions with foreigners in any further articles, do not hesitate to add your opinion. Yes, Americans like to do things “fast”, but let an American live 10 years in France and see how things slow down 🙂 in a good way of course.
      Merci encore 🙂


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