While living in France, and in the process of writing my book, The Bordeaux Kitchen, I learned seven key tenets of the French lifestyle. Here’s the cheat sheet.
Cook Your Food and Source it Locally
Ideally, you should be able to get your food via bicycle or on foot. It’s important to have control over the ingredients we put into our meals by cooking food ourselves. Sourcing food is also a key strategy, as you can support local farms with your purchase and be aware of the agricultural origin and sustainability of your food. The French traditionally have supported local artisans this way by visiting outdoor markets and specialty shops and getting to know vendors and farmers, while also getting movement!
Embrace Healthy Animal Fats
Toxins collect in fat, which is why it is critical to source organic meats and fats. Source your meats and fats from farmers and butchers who support regenerative agriculture (soil regeneration using herbivores humanely). These animals are raised outdoors on their natural, pesticide-free food sources: grass, grubs, and vegetation. Organic “pastured” or “grass-fed” animal meats and fats top the charts in terms of nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, they are flavorful, don’t oxidize during cooking (like “vegetable” oils do), and satisfy you so that you won’t go running for a snack an hour after your meal.
Eat the Whole Animal
Research shows the most nutrient dense food for humans is liver. Following close behind would be other organ meats, oysters, fish roe, and chicken or duck eggs. Looking back, our great grandparents ate the entire animal. Wasting food was not an option. Organ meats in general have the highest nutrient density that is also the most bio-available to us. B12 is just one of the many essential nutrients we can only get from food, and liver is the best and easiest source. What’s more, one bite of liver goes a long way, so eating it once a week should suffice, unless you are recovering from malnutrition and need more!
Ditch the Processed Stuff
Do away with all industrially processed foods, grains, and oils to break free from their toxicity and addictiveness. Breaking up is hard to do, but let’s face it, these “foods” are very low on the nutrient density scale. In fact, I would consider them a contributing factor to malnutrition in any society, as they displace the more nutrient dense, whole foods of meats, fish, and vegetables.
This means eating fresh, seasonal, and organic foods, increasing your movement and your access to sunlight in the day, and getting more sleep at night. The French are masters at celebrating each season as it happens, and every French kid knows that eating the fruits of the season is the way to go.
Don’t Put Foods in Meal Categories
Get over taboos about what constitutes “breakfast” or a “snack,” and feed your family with intention. Basing your meals on their nutrient density value will make it easy to decide whether the healthier and more satisfying option for breakfast is sugary cereal in skim milk or eggs and bacon. Dinner leftovers can make for a perfectly acceptable breakfast, especially if it’s liver and onions! Take a hint from the Japanese, they eat fish and soup for breakfast. Why not?
Slow Down and Consider Your Company
Pair your meals with the right wine, and savor your food slowly with family and friends. The key word here (besides “wine”) is slowly. Chewing your food with intention after preparing it yourself helps you not only digest it well, but savor it and feel a healthy gratitude for it. While very French, wine can set a nice tone to a special occasion among family and friends.
Discovering these tenets brought me closer to understanding that the French Paradox (eat richly, stay slim) is really the “French Advantage!” We, too, can live by these tenets, and feel healthier in the process.
Tania Teschke is a writer and photographer who is passionate about French food and wine and is the author of The Bordeaux Kitchen,: An Immersion into French Food and Wine, Inspired by Ancestral Traditions. Tania has learned from cooks, butchers, chefs, and winemakers in France and holds a diploma in wine science and tasting from the University of Bordeaux. Tania continues to explore the deep connection the French have to their land, their cultural heritage, and to the nutritional density of their foods.