two quick things first: thanksgiving week (how did that happen so fast?). it’s one of my favorite holidays (because of the food), but can also be hard to navigate if you’re working in weight loss or weight maintenance (because of the food…). Check out Miranda’s recent post on The Crunchy Radish for tips from six wonderful RDs (including yours truly) on having a healthy holiday. And also make all of her recipes because they are amazing. second: thanks for reading my last post
the beauty of paris is like something I’ve never experienced before – it even overshadowed the food, which is a pretty hard thing to do!
taken on an early morning run (11/16/15)
But oh my goodness, the food.
now, I love a good kale salad as much as the next RD, but I definitely didn’t go to paris for the leafy greens. I wanted to experience the cheese, meats, pastries, and wine while observing how the French ate and structured their meals. I could almost call this “work,” as the eating habits of other cultures fascinates me and there is so much research on different diets and their affect on our health. The “French paradox” – or, the finding of a low incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) in the French despite high intake of saturated fat (think butter, cheese, higher fat meats) – was at the top of my mind for a lot of my eating adventures here. The term was conceptualized in the 1980’s, but now, thanks to media and some non-scientific literature, I think may also be associated with glamorous French women who consume rich foods and regular wine but remain thin (and of course, glamorous). I’ve always hypothesized some of the reasons for these phenomenons are due to smaller portions (even if the food is rich), less processed foods and red wine. But, as most things, more specific research would be helpful to clarify current findings and inform any big changes in my recommendation to patients and clients.
Scientific research aside, though, I definitely fulfilled my goal to see (and taste!) what this idea is all about.
cafes: le nemrod, bar de le croix rouge, boulangerie famille delattre
I went out and got a pan au chocolat pretty much as soon as my plane landed, and ate it on the go as I was too excited to sit still and not walk around. Like new york, paris is definitely a walking city, and it bustled with people heading to work, running errands and going about their days. After roaming around for a few hours, my stomach was growling (hi, no sleep and total body confusion), so I sat at a cafe near the eiffel tower and ordered my first french meal – croque madame, salade and a cafe creme. A croque madame, I learned, was basically a grilled ham sandwich with a very generous amount of gruyere cheese and a sunny side up egg on top.
after an insane amount of more walking along the champs-elysees (this was the day of the attack but before it happened, so the holiday shops were open and it was quite magical) and a short nap at my hotel, I had a dinner of roast chicken, salade and french fries. Kind of simple but it really hit the spot. I also had a glass of wine (a bordeaux, I think) and another with some chocolate cake at a different cafe before heading back to my hotel for some sleep (but not really, because then everything happened later that night).
cafes: le flores, le trait d’union
as I mentioned in my other post, this was definitely a strange day. After walking (cautiously) around outside for a bit, I stopped for lunch at a random cafe and had another croque madame – these may be my new favorite thing ever. Here I learned that if you don’t ask for the check (l’addition, s’il vous plait), the servers won’t bring it automatically because that is considered rude. It was weird (in a good way) to not have servers breathing down your neck with the check and to almost be encouraged to relax and enjoy meals. For dinner, I wanted to stick fairly close to my hotel and was in the mood for something a little lighter after having all the cheese for lunch.
salade with smoked salmon, tuna, veggies and poached egg
cafes: robert et louise, les deux magots
after having breakfast in my hotel and wandering around the cathedral de notre dame (so, so beautiful!), I ended up in the marais district on a really cute street called rue vieille du temple. A friend had recommended a restaurant in the area that grilled meat on an old fireplace right in the middle of the restaurant, and I hit it up for lunch to refuel from my walking adventures.
rib eye, fried potatoes, salade and a glass of red
this place was super cute and rustic inside, and i literally watched my meat being cooked. A perfect meal and atmosphere – I was a happy camper after this one. Since this lunch was a bit on the heavy side, I went for another salade with grilled chicken and green beans for dinner (and more wine, because… wine) at les deux magots, a very historic cafe near my hotel.
cafes: cafe de flore, le rousseau
cafe de flore is right next door to les deux magots, and I really wanted to check it out as well (partly because my sister said it was one of ina garten’s favorites). I planned to go for a late breakfast after a run, and once again couldn’t resist the melted cheesy deliciousness of the croque madame. This by far was the best I had had (total count being a respectable three), and the coffee was also superb – very strong and flavorful. I loved the atmosphere here and the morning vibe of the city just waking up.
there is so much cheese under that egg
after this meal, I once again walked around the city for hours, meandering my way through the marais and the bastille, les halles, jardin du palace royal, place vendome, the jardin des tuileries and back to saint germain. I didn’t really have a lunch but rather a nutella and banana crepe from a street cart, followed by a cappuccino and some macarons, which were all delicious and probably satisfied my sweet tooth for the next decade. For my last night in paris, I wanted dinner to be something I like but usually don’t eat – one last indulgence. I ended up at le rousseau, a super cute and very classic french cafe and paired duck breast fillet with some bread, salad and a great (big) glass of cotes du rhone. It was perfect and the best way to end my trip, which again was everything I had no idea it would be (and more).
aside from a new but deep love for paris, I think I got what I came for in the whole “learning about the food and culture” category. Some things really stood out as compared to my observations and experiences eating as a dietitian and new yorker. People in Paris eat and drink outside a lot, even in the cold (every cafe has heat lamps!), facing out onto the streets to enjoy the scenery and people watch. This paired with slower service conveyed more of a “relax and enjoy your meal” kind of vibe, and once this crazy new yorker got acclimated, I really dug it. I’ve talked a little bit about mindful eating before, and I think that may come into play here as people may take the time to be a bit more in tuned with hunger levels and therefore less likely to overeat.
le deux magots (morning, 11/15/15)
portions were never enormous at the cafes (aside from my giant rib eye), which differs greatly from the typical western diet (think cheesecake factory here). So, even though a lot of french meals are fairly rich and higher in saturated fat, they’re also simple, small and satisfying without a lot of processed crap. Meals around me consisted largely of bread, cheese, meat and some vegetables like my salads above. Wine was on almost every table – a combination of red and white, but mostly red, which has been linked to a lower incidence of CHD and packs a very potent antioxidant punch.
so while I will always be a big proponent for a plant-based diet (both for myself and my patients), paris gave me a new appreciation for cheese, meat, good bread and red wine*, and reinforced my nutrition philosophy that indulging every now and then is an important part of a generally healthy diet.
*wine in moderation! the current recommendation remains no more than one glass per day for women and two for men