French sterotypes busted

This new paper in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (coauthored by French and American agricultural economists)  is likely to bust a few sterotypes many Americans have about French eating patterns.  The abstract starts by tackling the first sterotype: that if we Americans would all just eat like the French, we'd be thin and healthy.

Limited access to healthy food is commonly regarded as a contributing factor to poor dietary choices. The objective of this article is to test this hypothesis in a French context given France’s increasing obesity rates and incidence of poor dietary habits.

Poor dietary habits among the French? Surely not!  Joking aside, i tis true that French obesity rates are below that in the US, but the trends are similar.  Actually, in the US, the upward trend has leveled off.  But the fact remains, there isn't that much difference between what French and American consumers like to eat.

Secondly, the French must be better eaters because of their frequent trips to all those quaint shops and farmers markets - right?  The paper:   

our results, which indicate that fewer but larger retail outlets increase the odds of consuming the recommended level of fruit and vegetables.

So, it seems that that Frechmen and Frenchwomen who eat recommended levels of fruits and vegetables are more likely to do so by getting them in large retail outlets like supermarkets.  

All in all, I think many Americans conflate the images they see on vacations to touristy spots in Paris or Nice for what is typical of everyday living in France.  But, even when I vacation within the US, I tend to eat and shop much differently than I do when living "regularly" back home.  That's why its important to augment our anecdote experiences with data.