France gastronomy is listed as a UNESCO world heritage.
Does it means France eat real and healthy food?
Well, yes and no. Let’s check together.
French are fitter... but get bigger
Obesity prevalence in France is one of the lowest of OECD. Amazing point for France.
Our food heritage has a lot to do with it, for sure. Taking time to eat, always eat sit down with family, no snacking habits, love of local food, Sunday markets in every cities, we have great basis.
However, about 30% of French are overweight (as a comparison, in the US it’s about 70%). But the trend is not as good: French men are 68% bigger and women are 89% bigger than 15 years ago.
It definitely shows that unhealthy habits are rising, even in France.
Need a proof? What’s the second most profitable country for McDonald's after US? France!
Yes, people who have a UNESCO blessed gastronomy consume processed food in fast foods and even in classic restaurants! French government created in 2014 an “home made” (fait maison in French) label to help restaurants using raw, fresh and homemade food differentiate from others. Different sources mention that 70% or 80% (links in French) of restaurant use processed foods, without mentioning it of course. According to the government it was too much! This label is far from being perfect but it’s definitely a great way to raise awareness of consumers on the importance of eating real food.
French awareness on healthy food practice increase
As we just saw, French heritage is endangered but French are also paying more and more attention to what they eat. Google search trends for “no sugar”, “gluten free”, “vegan” and “vegetarian” in France is a good way to visualize it. It’s definitely rising, slowly but surely.
Moreover, organic food sales show a 10% increase (link in French) last year. In the UK, organic food sales growth rate is “only” 4%.
Other proof of awareness rising: The bestseller of nutrition books for the last 10 months (!) on Amazon.fr is “Eat”. It’s a 320 pages book costing 28 euros written by Gilles Lartigot (see below) on healthy food. Here is the pitch: “We live in a toxic society. The food we eat is making us sick. Pollution, stress, and chemical contaminants are a part of our everyday lives. These facts, we cannot deny. Fortunately, it's not too late…” The media coverage of the book is big.
A star journalist from Elle magazine, Danièle Gerkens, wrote a book about her 1 year experience of a “no sugar” life. It also raised a lot of awareness on the impact of refined sugar on health.
Finally, even if French government is not very vocal on nutrition habits as obesity is not an issue here, they recently proposed to impose a vegetarian menu in school canteens, which would be kind a revolution in the country of “pot of feu” and “blanquette de veau”!