From a French Perspective: Dietary guidelines in France and the USA

Over the next few months we will present a series of posts titled “From a French Perspective”. This series will feature posts from our new intern, Clara Lerond, a Food and Health student from Institut LaSalle Beauvais. During this series she’ll discuss different food and health issues, such as dietary guidelines and eating habits- from a French perspective. She’ll even share some authentic French recipes! Check out her first post below:

Eating is a vital activity for the body, but eating healthy can be really difficult. New scientific discoveries show that nutritious food is crucial to be in good health and we now know that our diet influences diabetes, obesity, and cardio-vascular diseases.

It’s possible to find a lot of information to know how you can eat healthy and limit the risk of disease. This information can be created for the world, but each country has created its own recommendations. What are the differences between the guidelines in France and in the USA?



There are many similarities between these two countries. For instance, both recommend increasing physical activity and drinking water instead of sugary beverages.

The differences can be found in the proportion of each group of food. France recommends eating more lipids than the USA, but the contrary for proteins. When it comes to carbohydrate consumption the two countries relatively agree.

This difference can be explained with another vision of food and health risks. When you go to a French supermarket you can find a bakery, a stand with cheese, and a fresh fish section. In the USA you can also find these products, but they are already packaged and ready for purchase.

The USA is a leader and is ahead of many countries regarding research about food and health. They are also in advance for special food for pathologies like gluten free. These products have just arrived in France and it’s not easy to find them.

The French government established a health and nutrition national plan (PNNS) and the guidelines are based on a pyramid construction. At the top you can find products with a lot of sugar, which aren’t recommended to be eaten frequently, but at the bottom you can find the grain products, which are recommended to be eaten frequently. The PNNS is looking to decrease the consumption of simple carbohydrates in exchange for complex carbohydrates, like with bread or cereals. You can also find TV commercials with funny characters to explain to kids and adults that they need to reduce fat and salt consumption, eat fruits and vegetables and less sugar. Check out this link as an example:

Some French guidelines have been created and are now being modified because people are having trouble with following them. For example, PNNS recommended eating 5 fruits and vegetables per day. This message wasn’t clear enough. People didn’t know what kind of portion they needed and it was considered to be a message for the rich because fruits and vegetables are expensive.

The French pyramid has a lot of similarities with what the USA recommended with their previous food guide pyramid.

The American guidelines continue to evolve in order to better adapt to the needs of the population and to have a better impact on people.

In 2011, the government introduced MyPlate to show what kinds of portion people need each meal.

Harvard University has also done some research about American dietary guidelines. They suggest using The Healthy Pyramid and the Healthy Eating Plate. Both offer more precision about what kind of foods you should eat, along with many other recommendations.


Written by Clara Lerond 


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