Is The French Diet Still A Good Diet?


Mcdonald's Bag by a Garbage Can, Nantes, March 2012

French are quick to make fun of the “American diet” and they like to claim how much healthier they are compared to their American counterparts. A decade ago, José Bové, the farmer syndicalist, was fighting against junk food (he famously sacked a McDonald’s franchise to make his point) and French would rather have some baguette with stinky cheese than a hamburger.

But the more I walk in Nantes, the more I wonder whether the French diet is still a good diet.

To be honest, traditional French food isn’t exactly light and easy to digest. From the fondue (melted cheese eaten with bread) to blood sausage, from elaborated sugary pastries to cooked pork meats, these regional dishes are best not eaten daily.

But these days, French (or at least people in Nantes) seem to love French fast food restaurants too. For instance, there are shawarma joints at every street corner and French happily lunch on seasoned meat cuttings served in a baguette with French fries and garnished with a yogurt sauce. American fast food franchises, such as Subway, Mcdonald’s and KFC are as popular as ever. And there are tons of franchised bakeries, such as La mie câline and Paul, which offer greasy pizza and buttery pastries on-the-go.

Sure, portions are less impressive than in the U.S. (where portions are still noticeably bigger than in Canada), and people do walk a lot. That probably explain why French don’t seem to get fat.

Another thing I notice is that a lot of French can’t conceive any kind of meal without alcohol. Canadians are addicted to Starbucks, Second Cup or Tim Horton’s and a lot of them drink soda. Yet, I can’t remember when I last saw someone drinking alcohol at noon in Canada (maybe I’m not around drinkers as well!). In France, drinking is supposedly cultural and that excuse alone seems to be a reason to indulge more than necessary. It feels strange to see people downing beer eating Mcdonald’s (yes, Pulp Fiction didn’t lie—you can buy beer at Mcdonald’s!). Drinking in the street isn’t taboo (or illegal) like in Canada, and you can buy alcohol just about anywhere.

I can understand why people seem to be favouring fast food options: food is expensive in France, and like in North America, eating healthy can be pricey and more difficult. People are in a hurry and may not have the traditional two-hour long French break at noon as they used to.

Yet it feels strange to see so much “junk food” in France!



About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I’m surprised to hear there’s so much junk food in France, I always thought it was more of a North American thing. I know that I would prefer tasty French food over a cardboard tasting hamburger any day.

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