Our relationship with our Gallic allies waxes and wanes (remember the Freedom Fries episode), but we Americans could learn a thing or two from the French and their relationship to food.
The adult obesity rate in France is only 11% compared to the U.S. rate of 32%. Well folks at Penn State University and Cornell University decided to turn this statistic into a learning opportunity. Researchers from both institutions compared portion sizes in the two countries. They measured portions in many restaurants, from elegant dining to fast food chains, and overall the French portions were about 25% smaller. Home cooked meals were reviewed by measuring portions used in popular cookbooks in both nations. Once again the French portions were smaller, especially in the meat department. Portion size of recipes overall was 25% larger in the U.S. and portions in meat dishes were a whopping 53% larger. The only part of the meal where the U.S. cookbook had smaller portions was, sad to say, vegetables - they were 24% smaller in the American cookbook than the French.
The research also revealed that the French eat at a more leisurely pace than Americans, taking an average of 22 minutes to finish a meal at a fast food restaurant. While Americans averaged eating a meal in just under 15 minutes. The French also eat their meals in courses giving the body more time to achieve satiation.
So what have we learned from this study? Well it basically reinforces things we already know. Eating slower and savoring your food is a healthier way to eat since it makes less food seem like more and gives the body time to achieve satiation. It also reinforces the well know fact that smaller portions are better, because if there is less on the plate there is less for you to eat.