With the recent popularity of French-themed books and movies, such as French Women Don’t Get Fat, French Women Don’t Sleep Alone, and the newly released Julie & Julia, Americans are becoming more and more curious about French traditions, French culture, French food, and French fashion. Now, in an ironic twist, new research indicates that the French, particularly the younger generation, are embracing a culture shift, where they are actually adopting a more Americanized lifestyle.
For decades, the French and many other Mediterranean cultures have been somewhat of an anomaly. The French could eat high fat and utterly indulgent food, not gain an ounce, and still have lower rates of heart disease than Americans. The arguments surrounding this French Paradox have been debated for decades. Some say the French eat smaller portions, others say they drink more wine. And, for the most part, both arguments are grounded in quantitative research. However, one argument – that the French each much less processed and fast food than Americans – is beginning to unravel faster than you can say McDonald’s.
Researchers from the French food agency, AFSSA, surveyed 2,624 adults (18 to 74 years old) and 1,455 children (3 to 17) regarding their eating habits. What they found was a little startling. The surveyed showed that adults age 18 to 34 tended to eat more processed foods and foods that required little preparation, like breakfast cereals, pizza, and sandwiches. And, among the same group, only 44 percent admitted to eating the French standard of three meals a day, many reporting that they skip breakfast altogether.
But not everyone in France is throwing tradition out the window. The over 55 crowd can be found cherishing quintessential French fare and remaining steadfast in the old eating habits. In fact, the survey found that 55 to 79 year-olds reported cooking more and eating more unprocessed foods like eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables – as well as continuing to eat more traditional foods like bread, cheese, soup, sugar and confectionery and alcoholic beverages.
But, looking beyond this apparent age gap, there seems to be an overall shift away from more traditional French foods, like bread and potatoes, and and increased consumption of pasta and rice. Similarly, the French as a whole are consuming fewer croissants and pastries, and replacing them with ice cream and chocolate.
So, on your next trip to France, you may be surprised to see teens sipping Starbucks on the corner or a young family grabbing a quick meal at the local Wendy’s. But, not to worry, you’ll feel right at home.