Is it possible to follow a special diet in France? I tried, and I’ll share my successes and failures with you. I was able to eat vegetarian (no meat). Pescatarians will have no problems visiting France, as there are many fresh seafood options. Enjoy these delicious Lebanese green beans that we had in Paris.
Here’s my post on eating vegan or raw in France. I’ve written before about eating special diets while traveling, and eating with allergies at fine dining restaurants, so all those tips apply here. When visiting another country, I’d add the following tips:
Research the cuisine to understand your options
I had no idea that they don’t use butter (or cow’s milk) in Provence, because there aren’t any cows there! While they could easily bring in those products via truck or train, the regional nature of French cuisine prevails. The food in Lyon is renowned for its richness, so it was tough to find many choices that weren’t loaded with dairy. And Paris, being a capital city, offers the widest variety of choices.
Decide what you’re willing to concede on, and what is absolutely a must for you
Obviously, if you are celiac, you must eat gluten-free. If you have been a vegan for twenty years, then you won’t be willing to eat veggies cooked in butter. I’ll give you more tips on eating stricter diets in my future posts, but thinking this through in advance is key.
Enjoy your visit and don’t stress out about it
Since I’d wanted to visit France since the 5th grade, I wasn’t going to skip tasting a real croissant. I knew that I’d have some side effects, and that I would need to do a detox when I got home. But for me it was worth it.
Bring special items with you
When I travel to foreign countries, I bring along a supplement that’s supposed to help you digest gluten (not suitable for celiacs), acidophilus pearls, and an ayurvedic supplement called triphala, which keeps the ol’ GI tract happy. Neither of us got sick or even slight indigestion, so that was great. Vegans will need to bring protein bars. Celiacs might want to bring Lara bars or GF crackers.
As you’ll see in my other posts, eating vegan, raw, or gluten-free is much more difficult in France, and I wasn’t able to do it. I felt pretty good, although my face was puffy and I broke out on the second day and that lasted the whole trip.
We figured out towards the end of the trip that Lebanese restaurants were far more plentiful in Paris than “vegetarian” restaurants, and it’s easy to eat gluten-free and vegetarian in Middle Eastern restaurants. After visiting the Louvre, we thoroughly enjoyed lunch at Damouri: Restaurant Traiteur Libanaise, 41 Rue de Richelieu in the 1st arrondissement.
I liked this dish so much I spent some time with the staff trying to figure out the recipe, thoroughly challenging my high school French!
Lebanese Green Beans (Haricots verts libanaise)
1 C. (110 g) yellow or white onions
3 garlic cloves
8 oz. (225 g) tomatoes
1 lb. (450 g) french green beans
1/4 t. (.5 g) white pepper
1/4 t. (.5 g) black pepper
1/2-1 t. (1-2 g) sea salt
1/8 t. (pinch) cinnamon
Wash the vegetables. Slice the onions very thinly.
Peel and finely mince the garlic.
Core and then chop the tomatoes.
Remove the tips and ends of the beans.
Heat 1 T. (15 ml) olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Saute for one minute and then turn the heat down to medium. Add the garlic and sauté for about 6 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and spices and cook for 5 minutes more.
Add the beans and cook for about 3 minutes, until they are softened but not mushy. If you are using regular green beans, taste test them after 5 minutes.
The beans are best served cold the next day, after the flavors have developed.
Notes: If you want a smooth sauce, puree the mixture using a blender or an immersion blender before adding the beans. I used frozen French haricots verts from Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find them, you can use fresh or frozen regular green beans.