Calories in French Food - Healthy Choices for French Dishes, Recipes

French meals at restaurants, outside of France, and French dishes made at home generally have a poor reputation for having high calorie and fat contents. This may be unfounded with reference to traditional foods in France, but may apply to many foreign restaurants that cook very rich meals with large servings because that is what most of the customers want.

If you want to make healthy low calorie choices at French restaurants, it pays to study the menus carefully and the ingredients list for a home cooked dish before deciding what to eat. Some good first choices are of seafood dishes (with 25-30 calories per ounce) and chicken dishes (50 calories per ounce), as opposed to duck, steak and roast beef dishes (100 calories or more per ounce with traditional sauces).

This article aims to help you make healthy choices for French foods by including a list of 'foods to choose' as alternatives to 'foods to avoid'. It also includes a calorie chart as a guide, but note users should always be aware of the servings size when comparing foods in the table.

Some French restaurants have low-calorie menus ('la cuisine allegee'), to help you choose. You can choose delightful meal under 600 calories. For example by selecting: six oysters (55 calories), poached sole with vegetables(212 calories), fricassee of lobster and tomatoes (160 calories) and for dessert fruit and sherbet (160 calories). Simply avoiding those heavenly French sauces ('make heaven wait!') or having them served on the side so you can choose the amount you eat, without overdoing it, can really cut down on the calories. For example broiled turbot fish dish that begins with only 250 calories per serve, can quickly climb to 800-1,000 calories when a half cup of rich sauce is added. As applies to many restaurants and home cooked meals, much depends on the way food is cooked. For example potatoes when steamed, dry roasted or boiled have only a quarter or half the calories of fried potatoes, or those roasted in oil and or piled with heavy cream and cheese sauces. So shown below are some phrases to look for when making healthy choices on menus or recipes.

The French people at home, really savour their food and to take a lot of time over a meal, and consume good home cooked food for pleasure. The French national heritage showcases food, and is built on the reputation of some outstanding French chefs such as Paul Bocuse and George Auguste Escoffier. Surveys by France's Committee for Health Education (CFES) found that about 75% of meals in France are prepared at home and eaten at the family table, three times a day at regular intervals. French tend not to eat front of the television, or eat on the run. They mostly eat slowly, savoring the food, the company and the conversation at every meal. Food is neither fast nor regarded as fuel.

Eating in France is a social activity with many small courses, and lots of time between courses and few snacks. In the US and England, people eat lots of pre-prepared foods, fast-foods and ready-to-eat meals, both in and outside the home. Studies have shown that the French spend more time eating even at McDonalds.

The French also rank quality over quantity and tend to eat smaller portions. Most village in France boasts a bustling local produce markets featuring patties of farm-made chevre, locally made sausages, figs, fennel, vegetables and herbs in season, and local truffles. The French traditionally focus on careful prepared fresh whole foods and unprocessed foods. Research has shown that despite their long meals, they tend to eat less because their portion sizes are much smaller. This applies to meals served in restaurants, portions or supermarket goods, portions specified in cookbooks. One study found that mean portion size in Philadelphia was about 25 % bigger than in Paris. Soft drinks sold in supermarkets in the US was 50 % larger, a hotdog about 65% larger, a carton of yoghurt was 80% bigger and even a croissant is twice the size in Pittsburgh as it is in Paris. 'Upsize me' is a real problem in the US and UK. America and UK are land of giant burgers, buns and pastries. Because people tend to eat what is put in front of them bigger portion sizes mean they will tend to eat more.

The French, in contrast to people in the UK and US, tend to eat fewer snacks between meals. Ironically one reason for this may be their fat-rich diet and foods, eaten in smaller portions may help them feel less hungry between meals.

Things to Avoid to make Healthy Choices


Avoid creamy and cheese based sauces like bernaise, béchamel, veloutee, hollandaise, beurre blanc and mornay, which are all very high in fat and calories.

Look for these warning signs on the menu

  • Au Gratin (cooked with cheese)
  • Au Berre (cooked with butter)
  • Graisse (fat or greased)
  • En Croute (wrapped in pastry and cooked)

Instead look for these words on the menu

  • Au Jus (cooked in pan juices)
  • Au Fines Herbs (coated with herbs)
  • Au Natural (cooked simply with no additives or coatings)
  • En Papillote (steamed in a paper envelope)
  • Rotisserie
  • Poached

More details about foods to avoid and others to choose as alternatives are shown below, along with a calorie chart for common French Foods.

© janderson99-HubPages

Making Healthy Choices

Choose These
Avoid These
Chicken
Duck
Poached Fruit 
Chocolate Mousse
Red Wine
Blush or White Wine
Ratatouille
Pate Ratatouille
 French Bread
Croissants
Bordelaise Sauce
Hollandaise Sauce
Flambeed Cherries
Crème Caramel
Broth-based soups
Cream soups
Plain vegetables
Cream or cheese sauces: au gratin, hollandaise, béarnaise, béchamel
Vegetable salads with light vinegar-based dressing
Caesar salads or any with creamy dressings
Wine or mustard sauces without cream
Anything fried or seasoned with breadcrumbs
Roasted or grilled lean meats, poultry, and fish
Pate, fatty meats, duck, and sausages
Au Fines Herbs (coated with herbs)
Au Berre (with butter)
Au Jus (pan juices)
Au Gratin (with cheese)
Au Natural (plainly cooked)
En Croute (wrapped in pastry)
Poached
Graisse (fat or greased)
Rotisserie
Escargot smothered in a garlic butter sauce. Just 3 ounces carries 450 calories
En Papillote (steamed in paper envelope)
Goose or Duck Liver Pate: 130 calories per ounce
Quenelles (steamed fish dumplings)
Roasted Duck Breast: 1,500 calories, 25g fat
Pot-Au-Feu (stewed chicken)
Quiche Lorraine: 817 calories
Coq-Au-Vin (chicken in wine)
Cassoulet: 640 calories
Steamed Mussels
Steak Frites: 1,546 calories, 66g fat
1 cup of Bouillabaisse (fish soup): 150 calories and less than 10g fat
Brandade de Morue (salt cod and potato puree): 1,316 calories, 75g fat
Coquilles St. Jacques: 264 calories, 12g fat
Steak Bernaise: 1,744 calories, 132g fat
Halibut Amandine: 383 calories
 
Artichoke Vinaigrette: 230 calories, 18g fat
 

Calories in French Foods and Dishes

Food / Dish
Serving
Calories
Artichoke Vinaigrette
1 serve
230
Baguette Roll
63 g
96
Baguette-Bread
2 slice
130
Beef bourguignon
1 serve
635
Blueberry Muffin
1 medium size
400
Bouchon Roll
1 roll
130
Bouillabaisse (fish soup)
1 cup
150
Brandade de Morue (salt cod and potato puree)
1 serve
1,316
Cassoulet
1 serve
610
Cassoulet
1 serve
640
Chicken chasseur
1 serve
480
Chocolate gateau
1 serve
435
Chocolate mousse
1 serve
250
Coq au vin
1 serve
585
Coquilles St. Jacques
1 serve
264
Crème brûlée
1 serve
350
Crème caramel
1 serve
215
Crêpe Suzette
1 serve
400
Crudités with garlic mayonnaise
1 serve
240
Double Chocolate Muffin
102 g
440
Duck in orange sauce
1 serve
840
Escargot with butter sauce
3 oz
450
French Baguette
1/5 loaf
140
French onion soup
1 serve
375
Fricassee of Lobster and tomatoes for 160
1 serve
160
Fruit and sherbet dessert added only 160.
1 serve
160
Fruit Danish Pastry
100 g
382
Goose or Duck Liver Pate has 260 calories and 20g fat.
2 oz
260
Grilled Dover sole
1 serve
220
Grilled goat’s cheese salad
1 serve
240
Grilled trout
1 serve
250
Halibut Amandine
1 serve
383
Ham and Cheese Jambon
1 serving
358
Maple Pecan Plait
1/2 cup cooked
380
Mini Cinnamin Roll
1 mini roll (18.6g / 0.7oz)
60
Moules mariniere with pommes frites
1 serve
580
Multigrain French Bread
1/6 Loaf (57g/2oz)
130
Multigrain Petit Pain
80 g
120
Mussels
1 serve
190
Oysters
1 serve of 6
55
Parisian Bread
2 inch slice
120
Parisien Baguette
100 g
245
Pâté de campagne
1 serve
260
Petit Pain
100 g
240
Petits Pains (Bake at Home)
1 roll
120
Poached sole with vegetables for 212
1 serve
212
Profiteroles
1 serve
600
Quiche Lorraine
1 serve
817
Roasted Duck Breast
1 serve
1,500
Shellfish bisque
1 serve
500
Snails
1 serve
300
Steak au poivre
1 serve
490
Steak Bernaise
1 serve
1,744
Steak Frites
1 serve
1,546
Steak with béarnaise sauce
1 serve
575
Tarte au citron
1 serve
445
Tarte Tatin
1 serve
525
Triple Grain Demi Baguette 175g
100 g
239
White Demi Baguette
1 roll
240
Wholemeal Parisien
1 portion
241

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson

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