Compared to a 1994 survey conducted by the French government's Committee for Health Education (CFES) on French food and health, the results of its latest survey demonstrate that French eating habits are still very closely linked to their national heritage of eating good food for pleasure.

Although receptive to new ideas and trends, the French have changed their eating habits much more slowly than, say, the Americans. 76% of the French eat meals they have prepared at home, though the younger generation of singles between the ages of 18 and 29 buy convenience foods. This may be due to the fact that they live outside the structure of settled family life. Doctor Francois Baudier of the CFES says "it would be interesting to see in five years time, if the trend will continue once this age group has settled down".

Around the table

The favourite place to eat a meal both for lunch and dinner is in the home.

75% of the French eat at the family table. And although the media contend that there is some breakdown in the structure of family eating habits, in general the way the French eat remains structured around mealtimes. They enjoy eating red meat and sugar (40% of the population claimed to have eaten products with high sugar content the day before the survey). Dr. Baudier adds "despite the reduction of fats and sugars and the introduction of lighter food products, the French continue to eat traditional products and the results are not that serious from a health point of view."

It would seem that without any great effort, the typical French meal is well balanced. It comprises the essentials: a starter and main dish with vegetables and meat followed by cheese and fruit for dessert. However, breakfast time in France is less balanced with only 8% of the population (mostly young children) eating a cereal, a fruit and milk product. Dr. Baudier thinks the French diet is varied and balanced and notes that "the French, in contrast to Anglo-Saxons, hardly ever snack outside of meals."

The report is available from the CFES, 2 Rue Auguste Comte, 92170 Vanves, France.