Let me start by saying that there is no French paradox. Red wine will not unclog your arteries. Plenty of real fats — including the animal fats — minus an abundance of refined sugars will.
The French start the day with coffee (no cream or milk usually), yogurt, cheese, pâté, butter and baguette for breakfast. A piece of fruit (some berries, an apple, orange or pear) is also common, but rarely eaten alone. Occasionally a soft boiled egg is eaten time permitting. More recently, people will eat Muesli type cereals.
For lunch, a salad with meat, egg, tuna, etc is common as are things like steak frites (steak with fries) or an omelette with cheese, ham and fries. If you can’t sit down, you’ll probably get this served on half a baguette (but your waistline will pay for it!) or stop at a baker to pick up a quiche, pizza or croissant sandwich. But these bakery items are usually an accompaniment to a big salad. Sausages are eaten in some locations as well popular in some areas as well.
Dinner will likely depend on your schedule. If you work a 9-5 job, you’ll make dinner the biggest meal of the day. Otherwise, lunch is. If you eat in a restaurant, you might start with a nourishing soup, then move on to a slice of fish, frog legs, another steak or a chicken preparation. One of my favorite soups I enjoyed in Paris many years ago was made from pâté. Yum! At home, you may also begin with a soup followed by a simple chicken or fish dish or swap them both for a hearty stew and a salad. Mashed potatoes made with real butter and cream are also favorites on the French dinner table. When bread is eaten, it is usually a very small piece used to sop up the gravies on your plate or soup left in the bowl. In essence it is a way to get more fat soluble vitamins into your body.
Fruit is a typical dessert. Sometimes served with a little cheese. Sometimes cheese instead of fruit. Cakes and pies are generally reserved for the special occasions. A birthday party, anniversary, holiday, out-of-town visitor…. Not everyday and not as snacks.
The last time I was in France 5 years ago, I found that there are far more obese people. Many of these people seemed to believe what the Americans do which is that obesity is controlled by exercise alone. Meanwhile, many of them were eating lots of empty carbs including desserts whether it was in a restaurant or on a street, while their skinnier friends were eating salads, meat, cheese or nothing at all. So in effect, as the French (Italians, Spaniards, Germans etc) begin to follow our lead, little by little they too begin fighting the battle of the bulge. In effect it was indeed the presence of these delicious fats and animal foods that made the French live long as well. But in this too, we sadly begin to see a rapid decline. The take home message is that exercise is good, but it cannot replace real food.