During my first week in France, my friend said to me, “isn’t it weird how the French out-drink and out-smoke us but still live longer than us?” There are a few reasons for this that are obvious right off the bat, but spending more time around the locals revealed even more.

  1. The Obvious Reasons

The French, and Europeans and general, walk a lot more than we do in The U.S.. As much as some of us would like to, it isn’t always logistically possible here because everything is much more spread out. Only about half of the French people that I met even had cars because it was convenient for them to walk or take public transportation everywhere.

Generally speaking, their diets are also balanced better and built with healthier ingredients than ours, but why?

2. The Diet

The French government limits the use of plastic more than the American government (for example, disposable cutlery is rarely made of plastic, instead it is usually made of wood). Prepackaged snacks and meals are not nearly as common and almost always display, in addition to FDA-style required nutrition information, a letter grade A-F based on the impact it will have on the consumer’s health. French workers also usually work fewer hours per week (35 per week is considered full-time) than Americans, so they have a little bit more time at home.

Between these reasons and more, the French tend to cook more than Americans. Obviously, homemade meals will have higher quality ingredients than prepared meals the majority of them time, and in a culture so heavily influenced by cooking, high-quality ingredients are the easiest to find.

3. The Speed of Eating

One of the first thing that you’ll notice about The French is that whether they’re at home or at a restaurant, they eat the food a lot slower than Americans. The time between courses of a meal is longer, and more time is spent finishing each one individually. By eating slower they give the food time to settle while still at the table and therefore will still feel full at the end of the meal, even if it is smaller than its American counterpart.

One could probably fill a book with all the reasons the French stay healthier and in better shape than Americans. These three were just the most obvious to me. While the first two are not easily implemented in every American’s lifestyle, the third is worth considering if you’re looking for new and easy ways to improve your health.