"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Paleo in Paris!

I recently came back from an amazing trip with my family to Paris. This was my first time in the city, and I absolutely loved it-- it was everything I had hoped and imagined it would be, and I would definitely love to go back there one day.

When you think of French food, chances are bread/baguettes and pastries (croissants, eclairs, palmiers, macarons, madeleines...) are on your list. I was amazed at just how many patisseries (pastry shops) and boulangeries (bakeries) were in Paris-- I'm pretty sure you can't go a block without seeing one! Everything looked and smelled delicious, and I guarantee you if I weren't Paleo/Primal, I would've eaten everything in sight. Paris is a carb-lover's heaven!
It's also a cheese-lover's heaven-- I absolutely love French cheese (I've always been a huge fan of Brie and Munster; but after trying Camembert this week, that might be my new favorite), and I'm pretty sure I ate more cheese in those five days in France than I have in the last few months. I think it's fantastic that you can order cheese for dessert-- the plate usually comes with a few little slices of cheese and some lettuce. Nom! (Okay, so cheese isn't technically Paleo, but it falls into what Mark Sisson calls the "Primal gray area." For more information on this lifestyle and cheese, check out some of Mark's links: The Definitive Guide to Dairy, Would Grok Chow the Cheese Plate?, and Is Cheese Unhealthy?)

Bakeries and pastry shops aren't frequent in Edinburgh or my area of Philadelphia (NYC is a different story... my childhood was black & white cookies from Hot & Crusty, and now those cupcake stores are all the rage), and it's actually quite difficult for me to find real butter and full-fat cheese here in Scotland... so how is it that the French are so much healthier than the Americans and Scottish? How is it that the French can live on heavy cream, butter, and cheese (because, y'know, fat is so bad for you, and low-fat soy products are the way to go) and still have lower rates of heart disease than many other countries who eat less fat?

It's the French paradox... which really isn't a paradox if you know that fat doesn't make you fat or cause heart disease. And although we know that bread products are bad (and actually do make you sick and fat), the French have a totally different food culture than the US or UK. In French Women Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano explains all of this-- after spending a year in the US for high school, she went back to France much heavier after experiencing the American food culture (or lack thereof...). Her book explains how she lost the weight by following traditional French food values (such as small portions, no snacking, fresh ingredients, sitting down and savoring your meal, and drinking a lot of water), which will keep you [relatively] healthy for life. The French aren't low-fat obsessed, they don't super-size (despite the amount of McDonald's around... check out this NPR article about McDonald's in France), they don't go for second or third helpings, and they don't rush (or stand) through their meals.

Hmm... fresh ingredients, water, no snacking, full-fat, and savoring your meals? Sounds pretty Paleo/Primal to me! Actually, I didn't have to modify a single meal I ate in France! Not one! In the US and UK, I modify everything to make it fit with the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, so it was so nice to order straight off the menu without having to change a thing. The salads were some of the most beautiful and delicious I'd ever had; the proteins were all perfectly cooked and seasoned; the wine, cheese, and coffee were amazing. Did you know you can order hard-boiled eggs as an appetizer? How awesome-- and Paleo!-- is that?

I went to Paris and didn't have a single baguette or pastry... and no, I'm not crazy. Instead, I enjoyed cheese, beef, fresh vegetables, my family, and a beautiful city-- so who needs a croissant when you have all of that?

Quote of the Day:
"In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport." -Julia Child


  1. I am dealing with a "Dutch Paradox", we eat lots of whole-wheat bread & cheese too and consume huge amounts of milk. We are tall & thin.
    I am not(and never have been) fat, but still decided to stop eating grains anyway, which is almost unheard of here. I think the fact that Dutch are active people (riding a bike) might have something to do with the paradox, but not sure yet!

  2. I just stumbled upon your blog and I just cant to comment because your name is my middle and maiden name (Im Jessica Leigh Garcia Starnes) AND Im obsessed with healthy eating! I just started the Paleo lifestyle about a month ago. Crazy, huh?! Im a follower now! I have a blog as well but Im revamping it currently.

    1. That's so crazy!! Thanks for commenting and following-- let me know when your blog is revamped, and I'll definitely check it out!

  3. This is awesome! :) My fiance and I are planning on going to Paris next year and I was worried about the food.

    My sister recently went and told me, "You're not going to be able to keep your diet in Paris." I didn't really believe her, but of course I have no real idea of what it will be like!

    We are going to rent an apartment for a month, so I will do a lot of cooking myself, but I was just worried about eating out.

    One question: Is it super expensive to eat the right foods while in Paris? My mom and sisters lived on filled baguettes and other cheaper foods while in Paris, and I have been told the food there is very pricey. We will probably have 12k saved up for the month (minus 2k for flights, approx. 2k for apartment), will we be able to eat in restaurants comfortably for most of those days if we are eschewing non-paleo foods?

    1. If you have an apartment, I'd definitely recommend cooking a lot-- it's much cheaper! Food in restaurants wasn't terribly priced, for the most part; in fact, a lot of restaurants we found had awesome three-course dinners for relatively cheap (in the 10-15 euro range). I think you should be okay given your budget, but cooking in your apartment will definitely save you money (and allow you to have whatever Paleo foods you want without the temptations of baguettes and other pastries!). Have fun!

  4. I live in Paris and believe me it is hard to start low carb here never mind paleo. It may be easier for someone who has already put in some time eating either way, but every time I try to go low carb, someone asks me to go for dinner. Try eating canard au confit with garlic potatoes or a steak with potatoes au gratin and not eating the potatoes. They are too delicious so it is almost impossible to do.

    At least, I have managed to refrain from bread and pasta 90% of the time and eat my cheese with my hands much to the shock of my Parisian friends who can't imagine eating it without bread. BTW my new favorite cheese which you can buy at Monoprix is PiƩ d'Angloys. I just discovered it last week. It's like camembert only much creamier. Though I am not a big fan of French pastries, there are some that are difficult to resist. The best I can say is since I have become aware of low carb and paleo thanks to Jimmy Moore, I eat less of these foods.

    I really need to find a support group here, but so far have not be able to.

    As for eating in Paris, Alexandra. Yes it is expensive especially if you are on the dollar as I am. However, you can buy rotisserie chickens at almost every boucherie--I love chicken, fortunately. And the bio (organic, supposedly) eggs are much better than what we have in the U.S. So between those two and a good salad, you can eat pretty well. You can also get grass fed beef in the out door markets. However it is pretty expensive.

    I know you will love it here and if you should want to ge together, let me know.

    1. Great post! I live in Paris and am finding avoiding baguettes soo difficult!

      Francesca - are you still in Paris? I think a support group is a wonderful idea - not many of my friends here care for paleo which makes dining out rather difficult... :/


  5. Seelou, Yes I am still in Paris. I have joined an online support group for $30/month. It's called Real Food Challenge http://www.eat-real-food-paleodietitian.com/realfoodchallenge.html. It helps me to stay on track.

    I am not a purist. It would be extremely difficult to be that in Paris, but I do avoid wheat and sugar almost 100%, but that's mainly because I am convinced not eating both has helped my digestion immensely and has also diminished the pain I suffer from arthritis.

    Where do you live. I live in the 14th. Do you want to meet me for coffee or tea.