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Public Health Nutr. 2006 Dec;9(8):1020-6.

Meal patterns and cooking practices in Southern France and Central England.

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  • 1School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.



To evaluate whether meal patterns and cooking practices in Central England and Mediterranean France conform to popular stereotypes, eating together as a household, preparation of meals, food purchasing patterns, cooking practices and eating out were investigated.


Cross-sectional studies conducted simultaneously in April 2001 using self-administered postal questionnaires.


England (Nottingham, East Midlands) and France (Montpellier, Languedoc-Roussillon).


A stratified random sample of 1000 males and 1000 females aged 18-65 years was generated from the electoral roll in each country. The final sample comprised 826 subjects in England (58% males, 42% females; mean age 44 years) and 766 subjects in France (42% males, 58% females; mean age 42 years). Analyses were conducted on samples standardised for sociodemographic differences.


The French cooked from raw ingredients most often (P<0.001), ate together as a household more regularly (P<0.001) and were most likely to follow a regular meal pattern of three meals a day. On the other hand, the English relied more on ready-prepared (P<0.001) and take-away (P<0.001) meals, as well as on energy-dense snack foods such as crisps (P<0.001). Females in both countries reported having most responsibility for preparing meals.


Some of the study's findings confirm popular stereotypes of French and English food cultures, as the importance of the convivial aspects of eating, as well as more traditional practices such as cooking meals from basic ingredients, structured mealtimes and less between-meal snacking, remain more prominent within the French population. This may contribute to the differences in prevalence of obesity seen between the two countries.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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