French youths have good food info and bad habits

Ann Törnkvist
Ann Törnkvist - [email protected]
French youths have good food info and bad habits
Young French people may know more than their older counterparts about nutrition and healthy diets, but their eating habits are still far worse. File photo: Maurice Svay

Young people in France have worse eating habits than their older counterparts, it has been reported, despite having access to more information about nutrition and diet. Some 18 percent of French children are now classed as overweight.


French citizens in their teens and twenties may be well informed about the dietary guidelines issued by the National Programme for Nutrition and Health, but they are less likely to put their mouth where their brain is, says a report published this week.

Statistics compiled for 2011, and revealed this week, show that while only 57 percent of people in their sixties and seventies knew that one should eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a week, one in four French citizens aged 61-75 actually manage to fill their daily quota.

On paper, their younger peers were far more clued -in to the five-a-day guidelines.

As many as 71 percent said they were aware of the guideline, but only six percent actually managed to fill their plates up with the right amounts of fruit and veg. 

The eating-habit divide between generations was also visible when it came to eating fish.

About 82 percent of the older generation knew what was recommended for fish consumption, while 69 percent of the younger generation were aware of this guideline.

The French are recommended to have two portions of fish in their weekly diet, and 60 percent of seniors implement that advice. 

Only 38 percent, however, of those aged between 12 and 30 did the same. 

The only thing the young appeared to be better at was making sure they ate enough dairy products.

Among those younger than 20, an average French person was getting 2.32 portions of dairy every day - whether through cheese, milk or youghurt.

By contrast, their older compatriots averaged about 2.14 daily. 

It's not the first time the French have raised a red flag when it comes to shifts in eating habits, in a country that prides itself on its culinary heritage.

In July 2012 The Local reported how France almost topped the list of European countries who had taken to heart a US import - the burger.

The average French person is now eating 14 burgers per person per year, almost reaching the burger-munching heights of the Brits, who manage to get 17 of them down the hatch every year, according to a comparative study from the market research firm NPD. 

In March, The Local reported that junk food had also moved from fast food chains into school canteens, especially at primary and secondary level.

“Junk food has installed itself in primary and secondary schools, and is developing,” said a statement from consumer group UFC-Que Choisir (UFC What to choose) 

In light of the fact that 18 percent of French children are obese or overweight, the organization said it was “a disturbing discovery” to find that school cafeterias were increasingly offering pizza, waffles and fizzy drinks next to traditional lunch items.

The organization also looked at the lunch menus of 600 school cafeterias around France, looking for a balance between seven different types of food; raw vegetables, desserts containing raw fruit, cooked vegetables, starchy foods, dairy products, red meat (not minced), and fish.

In 48 of the 600 schools traditional canteens were found to be competing with rival stalls offering fast-food.


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