Dealing with Dietary Restrictions in Paris
First, let me apologize for the lack of interesting blog posts. As the year draws to a close, I have been thinking of logistical topics that I wished someone had written about before me, but I will write something actually interesting to read soon!
However, here is another post on a (hopefully) helpful subject:
Dietary Restrictions in Paris!
Most Parisians seem to be thin and sleek, but it’s not due to the latest diet or fad. While talking to a friend about salad, I discovered that he had no idea what Kale was (Yes, I translated it AND showed them a photo...still nothing. Imagine a world that’s not Kale Krazy!!!). When I asked one woman about the idea of being a vegetarian or a vegan her response was “I understand why an American would do it because your meat is bad, but in France our food is actually good”.
Needless to say, coming into Paris with any dietary restrictions is no piece of cake (gluten free, of course). As a former vegetarian and a current lactose-free gal, I talked with one vegetarian pal, Susan, and one pescetarian pal, Moses, to see how they go about eating in a country that doesn’t seem to want to accept their diet:
Note: As usual, French people have it together more than Americans and don’t seem to have the same allergies as we do. Lactose pills are NOT available in France as nobody seems to be lactose-intolerant (I’m now known as that weird American who can’t handle French cheese). I haven’t met anyone with a peanut allergy or any other major allergies in general. As with all medication and supplements, it’s best to bring a large enough supply to last you the entire stay (I started my semester with zero lactaid pills and let’s just say it was a really rough time for all).
In the application you will be asked if you have any restrictions, but you should still talk about it with your family upon arrival. For the first two months my host mom thought I was dairy AND gluten free until I set the record straight. She, being the glorious and wonderful person that she is, was more than happy to work around my restrictions, but not every family is like mine. Nobody should be forcing you to eat a piece of chicken, but both Susan and Moses mentioned that neither of their families eat vegetarian. So, the two of them eat only veg-friendly side dishes or make their own food like they do back in America.
This one is complicated depending on your restrictions. It’s easier for me because I can more or less tell if their is going to be dairy in a dish and I just pop a Lactaid (shout-out to this glorious saviour of a dietary supplement), but it’s not always easy. If you happen to be hypoglycemic or diabetic and need to know sugar contents, you can try to ask but you may not achieve a reliable answer. Susan and Moses said they don’t tend to just try any restaurant because often times the only vegetarian option on the menu is a salad (which often time means a bowl of iceberg lettuce. Nothing else.) and going out to eat in Paris is no cheap ordeal. There are vegetarian restaurants scattered around Paris, but nothing like the U.S. See here for a list of good vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free and generally more healthy options: http://www.timeout.com/paris/en/restaurants/vegetarian-restaurants-in-paris:
It’s really easy to think that French people don’t “diet” because they just all naturally diet by eating enough food for a small mouse. Yes, the portions in France are smaller, but French people eat healthy and they eat often. You’re most likely going to be walking a LOT and unless you want to make yourself ill and spend your time in bed (see my previous post “Sick Nasty” for tips on dealing with sickness in Paris), you need to fuel your body. First semester I ate kebab (a glorious and horribly unhealthy fast food) at least once a week and I felt awful because I wouldn’t eat anything else all day and my body was getting no nutrients (my host mom swiftly told me this was a bad idea and re-introduced proper meals). I was basically living like the stereotypical college kid. The beautiful thing about living in Paris on a gap semester/year is that you can eat REAL FOOD before you head off to a dining hall.
So, it is a little more difficult to have a dietary restriction in Paris, but it is still very possible! Go out and try out as much good food as you can and bon appetit!
P.s. Some helpful vocab below
Vegetarian=végétarien(ne) (Pescetarian is the same as in english)
Lactose intolerant=Intolérant au lactose
Shellfish=Fruits de mer
And...because I know someone will want to know: