Enriching the Western Diet, French Style
If you’ve been to French Lunch’s “About” page, you’ll see that we’re very interested in helping people emulate French eating habits — our goal is to leave our customers with better food knowledge, and we aim to do this by providing everyone with fresh lunches and dinners that can be prepared any time of the week. Hence, our food is frozen, because freezing meals is the best way to retain their nutritional value.
We could have chosen any type of cuisine for our project. But we stuck with French and European foods because we want to promote a healthy Western diet. These days, people tend to scorn Western foods. They’re all seen as high in fat, sodium, sugar, carbs, and cholesterol, and sometimes, rightfully so. But nowadays, even traditional European foods get lumped in with modern day junk foods, and you’re often warned by the media to avoid them or face obesity, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and other horrors. But if Western dishes are so dangerous for the body, how do those who eat them for every meal manage their health?
As with all things, moderation is key.
In the U.S. and Canada, obesity rates are steadily increasing. We human beings (especially us North Americans) have access to more food than ever before, and just don’t know how, or just don’t have the time to wade through the plethora of choices we’re presented with. This is no surprise, considering that, on average, Americans work 316 more hours than their French counterparts.
Sadly, we can’t offer a solution for the disparity in work hours, but we can explore ways to be healthy when leading a busy lifestyle. As well, the fact that nearly 7 in 10 Americans are overmedicated and overdiagnosed means that nutrition is something that needs to be taken a lot more seriously than it currently is. We feel that good nutrition may help offset the trend of overmedication in North America, and relieve some ailments permanently. A well-moderated diet can minimize vitamin deficiencies, blood pressure issues, type II diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and other common health problems that our ancestors rarely faced.
So what are the keys to good health? As mentioned above, moderation and portion size. We need to start paying attention to what we eat, and how much we eat. Like any fitness magazine will tell you, cut down your intake of processed foods. Eat them occasionally, and if you are going to eat them on a regular basis, choose something with as little salt and sugar and with as many fresh ingredients as possible.
For example, instead of eating chocolate chip cookies, eat almond and nut cookies. Or have coconut macaroons sweetened with maple syrup. Even though macaroons are typically considered unhealthy, they’re still healthier than chocolate chip cookies with nothing but bleached flour, chocolate chips, and high fructose corn syrup — and virtually no fibre. However, having a couple of cookies after dinner or for a light snack (if you’re not planning to eat anything for a while) is fine. What we advise is for you to choose products made with whole ingredients, including vegetables, fruits, saps, syrups, eggs, and meats, rather than ones with preservatives and overly refined ingredients. The more whole ingredients, the more nutritional value.
Tied to whole ingredients is the consumption of more produce. The majority of North Americans simply don’t eat enough vegetables. We love our meat and dairy, but not our vegetables! If you look at French Lunch’s lunch and dinner menu, you’ll see that almost all of our dishes involve a common group of produce: onions, celery, potatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes. We cook produce with olive oil and wines for more flavour, and both have various health benefits. Altogether, these ingredients, when paired with herbs and spices, create a smorgasbord of flavour and nutrition.
It seems rather strange that the French have no qualms about the fattiness of their foods. They also don’t eat as many vegetables as you’d expect, and love their wine and chocolate. To foreigners, the French seem downright sloppy with their food habits. Yet the French have some of the strictest food traditions in the world, and can be inflexible when it comes to food. This inflexibility often works out in their favour.
When it comes to breakfast, the French eat very little. Black coffee and a croissant. That’s it. Compare this to the traditional English breakfast of sausages, eggs, toast, orange juice, and coffee. Animal products aren’t healthy by themselves in large quantities, and Americans tend to overeat them. Plus the strict French diet is enforced across society, from schools to workplaces.
When it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat, no buts and no distractions. You’re not allowed to snack from childhood onwards, and the three meals you do eat cover a range of different food groups. Pizza isn’t a vegetable in France, but it can be a healthy way to cover a few food groups at once: add on broccoli, asparagus, black olives, bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and perhaps, a bit of pepper to a pan pizza and pair it with roasted zucchini, and it turns into a nutritious lunch. Sides. Sides are what make French meals healthy.
At French Lunch, we do sides, and we encourage customers to consider pairing our dishes with vegetable sides. We understand that French food isn’t perfect. Some main courses certainly aren’t nutrient-rich on their own. So whatever you pick, eat it with stir-fried or grilled vegetables. You can enrich your diet, one veggie at a time. Don’t worry about ruining the dish’s taste, either — French meals are meant to be complemented by other foods, which are often side dishes that highlight sauces, broths, stock, and gravy.
You can have your cake and eat it too — as long as you eat it in moderate portions within a diverse diet. After all, why limit yourself? Traditional western diets are healthy when fresh, whole ingredients are thrown into the mix.
- Nina Zaitseva