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Best and Worst French Foods

by Andy Bellatti  

French cuisine is renowned for its carbohydrate-laden baguettes, buttery croissants, and steak frites (steak with French fries). But French food also offers seafood-rich dishes and healthful herbs like thyme, basil, and parsley. With a few tips, you can keep your French bistro experience light and healthful.

Watch out for processed meats such as ham and bacon, which research has linked to an increased risk of heart failure and several types of cancer. (In fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends avoiding processed meats altogether.) Aside from those risks, ham and bacon tend to be included in dishes that also contain refined carbohydrates, butter, cream, and cheese. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and millet are not common in French cuisine, so be sure to order some vegetables with your meal to up the fiber quotient.

Unlike other cuisines, overly sugary sauces are not a problem in French food. If anything, French cuisine is renowned for its simple accompaniments such as high-quality olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice for salad dressing. Another bonus to French cuisine? Portions tend to be on the smaller side. Here are some specific dishes to look for and avoid.

Five worst French dishes:

1. Quiche: This savory tart with a pastry crust does not skimp on cream. Popular varieties add on cheese and meat. Even a vegetable quiche delivers plenty of calories from flour and rich dairy products. Quiche is best eaten in small portions.

2. Cordon bleu: The combination of cheese, processed meat (oftentimes ham), flour breading, and oil—cordon bleu is pan-fried or deep-fried—adds up to a seriously unhealthful dish.

3. Paté: Commonly made from goose liver, this spreadable paste is also known as "foie gras." Humane concerns aside (geese are force-fed to fatten them up), organ meats are a type of fatty meat the American Heart Association recommends people limit or avoid.

4. Fondue: Think of this dish as an upscale grilled cheese sandwich. After all, fondue consists of a large heated pot of melted cheese in which you dip bread and a variety of meats. And there’s absolutely no fiber in this dish.

5. French Onion Soup: The onions are healthy, but the beef stock, large portion of melted cheese, and bread turn this popular starter into a sodium and calorie disaster.

Five best French dishes:

1. Nicoise salad: Nicoise salad packs lean protein thanks to the fresh tuna, and also offers a nice portion of vegetables, including green and yellow beans, as well as potatoes, which are high in potassium. The simple olive oil dressing provides heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.

2.Ratatouille:Eggplant, peppers, zucchini squash, and onions are stir-fried in heart-healthy olive oil and combined with healthful herbs like thyme, basil, and parsley for a nutrient-packed dish.

3. Moule/Mussels: Served in a white wine broth, mussels offer hefty amounts of protein, potassium, and vitamin B12. Since most of the broth is left behind, rather than drunk as a soup, the sodium load is relatively low.

4. Bouillabaisse: A variety of lean fish are served in a soup base that contains tomatoes, garlic, onions, fennel, saffron, and thyme. The sodium content is not too high, and the inclusion of potassium-rich fish is good news from a blood pressure standpoint.

5. Oysters with mignonette sauce: Oysters pack a lot of zinc, copper, protein, and vitamin D. In fact, fortified milk pales in comparison to oysters’ vitamin D levels. Paired up with mignonette—a vinegar and shallot-based sauce—oysters make a healthful start to any meal. (Note that some people, including pregnant women and people with compromised immunity, should avoid raw or undercooked oysters.)

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