5 Healthy Habits I Learned Living in France

Beautiful French woman on street corner


When it comes to the French we tend to think of good food, good wine and beautiful architecture. And this is all true. They certainly have a beautiful country with distinct regions in which you can find delicious regional dishes and a gold mine of architecture and history. 


I have so many amazing take aways from my 12 years living there. The interesting part is that the length of my stay had a profound effect on how I eat, spend time and organize my day.


Some of the best habits I took away from living in France are:


Anything can be made from scratch


I arrived in France in my early twenties and was missing home terribly. With this came cravings for food that reminded me of a familiar place.  


So I headed out to the grocery store only to be extremely disappointed at what I found and did not find. This country has a million different types of cheese but no one thought to make macaroni and cheese?! My biggest challenge came when I was invited to make Thanksgiving dinner with friends. How do you make green bean casserole with no cream of mushroom soup? In disbelief I set out on a google search to find out how to make some of my favorite meals. 


After getting over the initial shock I realized I could make my sauces, my mayonnaise, pie crusts and you name it all from scratch. Over the years I have perfected many recipes and if I see a box item today in the grocery store I look at the basic ingredients and go home and make it from scratch. My creativity in the kitchen has exploded thanks to these moments of inconvenience. 


This habit has also helped me and my family cut out a lot of unnecessary ingredients, sugars and preservatives from our diet. A total win win!


Look for the ugly fruit


Living in the south of France, I went to the market weekly. Our Sundays included a walk to the market and a late morning cappuccino at our favorite café: Café Concorde. We lived in a tiny apartment with a dorm-sized refrigerator so I bought everything fresh. 

French coffee shop


My husband would coach me at the market to look for the imperfect fruits and veggies. These tended to be  a sign that they were grown locally and with little chemicals. 


I certainly won’t discriminate against a beautiful melon at the market, but it has taught me to look around for local markets and vendors and to buy in season. Which brings me to my next healthy habit.


Eat in season


Yes, everyone loves a strawberry shortcake any day of the week, but French people are adamant about buying local, in season fruits and vegetables. And I believe our bodies are designed to process certain foods within its season. 


Not only is it fun to look forward to certain dishes in the fall and salads in the summer, but the French also have fun activities around these foods that you can look forward to year after year. A fond memory I have is picking mushrooms in the forests outside of Toulouse in September.  (coming soon: Favorite In Season Dishes for Fall)




Walk, walk, walk and walk some more. The health benefits are amazing and it gives some time to organize thoughts and appreciate nature.


The list goes on for the benefits of walking: lower blood pressure, stronger bones, better balance. It is a great activity to do with family. In France, I found myself walking everywhere. Living in a bustling city it was often faster to walk somewhere than to drive. 


The French also love a stroll after dinner for good digestion. 


Take your time


In everything from eating to cooking to how the work week is organized, the French prioritize taking time for themselves and family. 


My first Christmas eating with my in-laws was a crash course in French dining which is even more elaborate during the holidays. Without going into too much detail (I will save that for another post) it is truly a marathon of eating that takes stamina. I believe this dinner in question lasted upwards of 5 hours. 


The French love to take time to enjoy all the fine things in life. Contrary to what some clichés saying they enjoy relaxing a bit too much, they are quite the productive society. But they certainly don’t have a “live to work” mentality. I learned this early on and grew to appreciate the healing power of relaxation. 


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