Discover the 4 Traditional Meals of the Day in France

French cuisine is renowned worldwide for its delicious and sophisticated dishes. The country has a rich culinary tradition, and one of the most intriguing aspects of French food culture is the four traditional meals of the day. In this article, we will explore the different meals that make up the French daily diet, their historical origins, and the reasons why they have remained so popular. Whether you’re a foodie or simply curious about French culture, this article will provide you with a fascinating insight into the heart of French cuisine.

Breakfast: A French Touch

When it comes to breakfast, the French tend to keep things simple and traditional. Here are some of the most popular breakfast options in France:

A Classic French Breakfast

A classic French breakfast usually consists of a croissant or a baguette, along with a piece of cheese and a cup of coffee or tea. The croissant is a buttery, flaky pastry that is typically served warm and is a staple of French breakfast culture. The baguette is a long, thin loaf of bread that is often used to make sandwiches for lunch or dinner. The cheese can be a soft, melt-in-your-mouth brie or a harder, nutty-flavored cheese like cheddar.

The Yogurt and Fruit Breakfast

Another popular breakfast option in France is yogurt with fruit. Yogurt is a staple of the French diet and is often served as a snack or dessert. It is typically plain and unsweetened, and is served with a variety of fresh fruits like berries, melons, and peaches. This breakfast option is a healthy and refreshing way to start the day.

The Cereal Breakfast

In recent years, cereal has become a popular breakfast option in France. It is often served with milk or yogurt and can be either sweet or savory. Sweet cereals like corn flakes and puffed rice are popular, as are savory cereals like bran flakes and muesli. Some people also add fresh fruit or nuts to their cereal for added flavor and nutrition.

The Egg Breakfast

Finally, the egg breakfast is a classic French breakfast option that is both hearty and filling. It typically consists of a fried or boiled egg, along with a piece of toast or a baguette. The egg can be seasoned with salt and pepper, or it can be cooked with herbs and spices for added flavor. This breakfast option is a great way to start the day with a protein-packed meal.

A Typical French Breakfast

  • Croissants and pain au chocolat
    • Croissants are a popular breakfast pastry in France, typically made with a light, flaky dough and often served with butter or jam.
    • Pain au chocolat, on the other hand, is a sweet bread roll filled with chocolate and covered in powdered sugar.
  • Yogurt and granola
    • Yogurt is a common breakfast item in France, often served with a variety of toppings such as fresh fruit, nuts, and honey.
    • Granola is also popular, typically made with oats, nuts, and dried fruit and served with yogurt or on its own.
  • Fresh fruits and cheese
    • Fresh fruits, such as berries, melons, and peaches, are commonly enjoyed for breakfast in France, often served with a slice of cheese or a piece of baguette.
    • Cheese, such as brie or camembert, is also a popular breakfast item, often served with fruit or on its own.

Healthy Alternatives

When it comes to breakfast in France, the traditional options may be a bit heavy on the carbs and light on the nutrients. However, there are plenty of healthy alternatives that will give you the energy you need to start your day off right. Here are a few ideas:

  • Smoothies with fruit and yogurt: This is a classic combination that is easy to make and packed with nutrients. Simply blend together fresh or frozen fruit with Greek yogurt and add a little honey or agave nectar for sweetness. You can also add spinach or kale for an extra boost of vitamins and minerals.
  • Whole grain bread and peanut butter: Instead of opting for white bread, choose a whole grain option for more fiber and nutrients. Spread peanut butter on top for a delicious and protein-rich snack.
  • Scrambled eggs with vegetables: Eggs are a great source of protein and can be easily incorporated into a healthy breakfast. Try scrambling them with diced vegetables like bell peppers, spinach, and mushrooms for a nutrient-packed meal. You can also add a sprinkle of cheese for extra flavor and calcium.

Lunch: Le déjeuner

In France, lunch is considered the most important meal of the day. It is typically served between 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm, and is often a three-course meal.

Key takeaway:
In France, breakfast is simple and traditional, often consisting of croissants, yogurt with fruit, cereal, eggs, or a combination of these options. Lunch is considered the most important meal of the day and typically a three-course affair, with a starter, main course, and cheese course. Popular lunch dishes include salad Nicoise, coq au vin, and quiche Lorraine. For dinner, a multi-course menu is common, with appetizers, main courses, and desserts. Snacks, or *collations*, are also an important part of French culture and include options like baguette and cheese, fromage blanc, mini croque-monsieurs, and galette des Rois. Popular drinks in France include wine, coffee, pastis, and hot chocolate.

The Traditional French Lunch Menu

  • Entrée: This course consists of a starter or appetizer, such as a salad, soup, or charcuterie.
  • Plat principal: This is the main course, which usually includes a protein, such as meat, fish, or poultry, accompanied by vegetables and/or potatoes.
  • Fromage: This course features a selection of cheeses, accompanied by fruit or dessert.

Popular French Lunch Dishes

  • Salade Nicoise: A salad composed of green leaves, tomatoes, eggs, olives, and tuna or chicken.
  • Coq au Vin: A traditional dish made with chicken cooked in red wine, mushrooms, and onions.
  • Quiche Lorraine: A savory tart made with pastry crust, filled with eggs, cheese, and bacon.

Lunch Etiquette in France

  • Lunch is considered a formal affair, and it is common to dress up for the occasion.
  • It is customary to begin the meal by making a toast with a glass of wine or sparkling water.
  • Table manners are important, and it is considered impolite to speak with your hands in your pockets or to put your elbows on the table.
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Overall, lunch in France is a leisurely and enjoyable experience, with an emphasis on quality food and conversation.

A Traditional French Lunch

When it comes to lunch in France, the traditional meal consists of a simple yet satisfying spread that often includes a variety of dishes.

  • Salad with mixed greens, vegetables, and protein:
    • The salad is usually made with a mix of lettuce, arugula, and other greens, topped with a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers.
    • Protein is often added in the form of grilled chicken, fish, or cheese.
  • Quiche or tarte:
    • Quiche is a classic French dish that is made with a custard-based pastry crust and filled with cheese, eggs, and vegetables.
    • Tarte, on the other hand, is a savory tart made with a shortcrust pastry and filled with various ingredients such as cheese, spinach, and onions.
  • Baguette or other bread:
    • A fresh baguette or other bread is typically served alongside the salad and quiche or tarte.
    • It is often sliced and spread with butter or topped with a variety of toppings such as cheese or ham.

Overall, a traditional French lunch is a balanced and satisfying meal that includes a variety of flavors and textures.

Healthy Lunch Options

  • Salad Niçoise
    • A traditional French salad that originated in Nice, made with a mix of fresh vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions, and protein like tuna, eggs, and olives, all dressed with a simple vinaigrette.
    • A great option for a light and refreshing lunch, this salad is high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats, making it a satisfying and filling meal.
    • The traditional Niçoise salad is low in calories and can be enjoyed as a standalone meal or as a side dish.
  • Grilled chicken or fish with vegetables
    • A classic French lunch option, grilled chicken or fish is a healthy and delicious choice that can be paired with a variety of vegetables.
    • Vegetables like asparagus, bell peppers, and zucchini can be grilled alongside the protein for a well-rounded and balanced meal.
    • Grilled chicken or fish with vegetables is a versatile and flavorful option that is high in protein and low in fat.
  • Lentil soup
    • A hearty and comforting French lunch option, lentil soup is made with slow-cooked lentils, vegetables, and spices.
    • This soup is a great source of protein, fiber, and vitamins, making it a nutritious and satisfying meal.
    • Lentil soup is a classic French lunch option that can be enjoyed hot or cold, and is perfect for a chilly day.

Dinner: Le dîner

In France, dinner, or “le dîner,” is the main meal of the day, typically eaten in the evening. It is a significant part of French culture and gastronomy, and often involves a multi-course menu, including an appetizer, main course, and dessert.

Appetizer: L’amuse-bouche

L’amuse-bouche is a small, bite-sized dish served before the main meal. It is usually served on a small plate and is meant to whet the appetite. It can be a variety of dishes, such as a slice of toast topped with tapenade, a mini quiche, or a piece of sashimi.

Main Course: Le plat principal

Le plat principal is the main course of the meal, which is usually served after the appetizer. It can be a variety of dishes, such as meat, fish, or vegetables, and is often accompanied by a side dish, such as a salad or potatoes.

Dessert: Le dessert

Le dessert is the final course of the meal, and is usually served after the main course. It can be a variety of dishes, such as a fruit tart, a chocolate mousse, or a crème brûlée. In France, desserts are often considered a separate course from coffee, which is served afterwards.

Overall, dinner in France is a formal and elegant affair, with an emphasis on the quality and taste of the food. The multi-course menu allows for a wide variety of flavors and textures, and the attention to detail in each dish reflects the French appreciation for good food and wine.

A Classic French Dinner

A typical French dinner, or “le dîner,” is a multi-course meal that consists of an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. This meal is usually served in the evening, and it is the most formal meal of the day.

  • Appetizer (amuse-bouche)
    The appetizer, or “amuse-bouche,” is a small, bite-sized dish that is served before the main course. It is meant to whet the appetite and prepare the palate for the meal to come. Appetizers can be a variety of dishes, such as cold or hot hors d’oeuvres, soups, or pastries.
  • Main course (plat principal)
    The main course, or “plat principal,” is the heart of the French dinner. It is usually a hot, savory dish that is served with a side of vegetables or salad. Meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb, are popular choices for the main course, as are fish and seafood. Vegetarian options are also available, such as vegetable or mushroom-based dishes.
  • Dessert (dessert)
    The dessert, or “dessert,” is the final course of the French dinner. It is a sweet dish that is meant to satisfy the sweet tooth and conclude the meal on a pleasant note. Desserts can be a variety of dishes, such as cakes, tarts, pies, ice cream, or sorbet. Fruit-based desserts, such as fruit salads or tarts, are also popular choices.

Gourmet Dinner Ideas

  • Escargots with garlic butter
    • A traditional French dish that consists of snails cooked in garlic and herb butter, served in their shells.
    • A popular starter or appetizer, it’s often accompanied by a crusty baguette for dipping in the flavorful sauce.
  • Beef bourguignon with potatoes
    • A hearty and flavorful beef stew made with red wine, vegetables, and spices, slow-cooked to perfection.
    • Served with tender chunks of beef and soft potatoes, it’s a comforting and satisfying meal that’s perfect for cooler evenings.
  • Crème brûlée
    • A classic French dessert that consists of a rich and creamy custard topped with a caramelized sugar crust.
    • The perfect end to a delicious meal, it’s sure to impress your guests with its elegant presentation and delightful flavors.

Snacks: Les collations

A Delightful Dive into French Snack Culture

When it comes to snacks, the French have a certain flair for flavorful, yet simple, indulgences. These snacks, or collations, are perfect for when you need a quick bite between meals or to satisfy a craving. Here’s a closer look at some popular French snacks:

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Baguette and Cheese

A classic French snack that’s easy to make and delicious is the baguette and cheese combination. The crispy, crusty baguette is the perfect vessel for melting a variety of French cheeses, such as Camembert, Brie, or even the iconic Roquefort. Simply slice the baguette, toast it, and place the cheese on top. The cheese will melt and ooze, creating a savory, creamy, and flavorful snack.

Fromage Blanc

Fromage blanc is another French snack that’s both simple and satisfying. This fresh cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a creamy, mild flavor that pairs well with a variety of fruits and bread. To enjoy fromage blanc as a snack, simply slice a baguette or some fruit, like pears or apples, and spread the fromage blanc on top. This snack is perfect for a light, refreshing bite between meals.

Mini Croque-Monsieurs

For a more substantial snack, consider making mini croque-monsieurs. These little sandwiches are made with a layer of ham, a slice of cheese, and a sprinkle of grated cheese, all nestled between two slices of baguette. The baguette is then grilled or toasted until golden brown, creating a crispy exterior and a gooey, cheesy interior.

Galette des Rois

If you’re looking for a sweet snack, the Galette des Rois is a popular French treat during the holiday season. This pastry consists of a puff pastry crust filled with frangipane, a sweet almond cream, and topped with sugar. On the inside, there’s often a small charm or figurine, known as a fève, that’s traditionally made of porcelain or ceramic. Whoever finds the fève in their slice is crowned the roi (king) or reine (queen) of the gathering.

These are just a few examples of the delicious snacks you can find in France. Whether you’re in need of a quick bite or a dessert, there’s a collation to suit every taste.

Traditional French Snacks

When it comes to traditional French snacks, there are a few staples that you will find almost everywhere. These snacks are perfect for when you need a quick bite between meals or for a light snack throughout the day.

Baguette with cheese or ham

One of the most classic French snacks is a simple baguette with cheese or ham. The baguette is a long, thin loaf of bread that is typically made from wheat flour, yeast, water, and salt. It is usually served fresh and has a crispy crust on the outside and a soft, airy texture on the inside.

To make this snack, you simply slice the baguette in half and spread a layer of butter on each half. Then, you can add a slice of cheese or a few slices of ham in between the slices of bread. This snack is perfect for when you need something quick and easy, and it is also very affordable.

Croissants or pain au chocolat

Another classic French snack is the croissant or pain au chocolat. The croissant is a flaky, crescent-shaped pastry that is made from layers of puff pastry and butter. It is typically served fresh and has a golden-brown color on the outside and a soft, flaky texture on the inside.

The pain au chocolat is a smaller version of the croissant and is typically shaped like a small loaf. It is made from the same dough as the croissant, but it is filled with chocolate instead of meat or cheese. This snack is perfect for when you need something sweet and indulgent, and it is also very popular among children.


Fruit is another classic French snack that is perfect for when you need something healthy and refreshing. France is known for its abundance of fresh fruit, including berries, apples, pears, and citrus fruits. You can find fruit at almost any market or grocery store, and it is often served as a dessert or snack.

When it comes to fruit as a snack, you can eat it on its own or pair it with cheese or yogurt. You can also make a fruit salad or a fruit smoothie to enjoy as a snack on the go. This snack is perfect for when you need something quick and easy, and it is also very affordable.

Healthy Snack Ideas

  • Apple slices with almond butter
    • Slice an apple into thin rounds
    • Spread almond butter on top of each slice
    • Enjoy a delicious and healthy snack
  • Carrot sticks with hummus
    • Cut carrots into thin sticks
    • Serve with a bowl of hummus for dipping
    • A crunchy and tasty snack option
  • Greek yogurt with honey and nuts
    • Scoop a few ounces of Greek yogurt into a bowl
    • Add a drizzle of honey
    • Sprinkle a handful of nuts on top
    • Enjoy a protein-packed and satisfying snack.

Drinks: Les boissons

France is renowned for its delicious and diverse cuisine, and its drinks are no exception. The French have a rich tradition of drinking a variety of beverages, from the classic aperitif to the post-dinner digestif. Here are some of the most popular drinks in France:


The aperitif is a pre-dinner drink that is served to stimulate the appetite. It is usually a light, refreshing drink that is served with small bites of food. Some popular aperitifs include pastis, anise-flavored liqueurs, and champagne.


Wine is a staple of French cuisine, and it is enjoyed at all meals, from breakfast to dinner. The French have a long history of wine-making, and they are known for their high-quality wines. Some of the most famous French wine regions include Bordeaux, Champagne, and Burgundy.


Coffee is a popular drink in France, and it is often served after dinner as a digestif. French coffee is known for its rich, strong flavor, and it is often served in small cups. Some popular coffee drinks in France include espresso, cappuccino, and cafe au lait.

Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate is a popular drink in France, especially during the winter months. It is often served with a pastry or croissant, and it is a great way to warm up on a cold day. French hot chocolate is known for its rich, creamy flavor, and it is often made with high-quality chocolate.

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Other Drinks

In addition to these popular drinks, the French also enjoy a variety of other beverages, including tea, beer, and soft drinks. However, it is the aperitif, wine, coffee, and hot chocolate that are most closely associated with French cuisine and culture.

Popular French Drinks

Coffee or tea

Coffee or tea are the most popular hot drinks in France. Coffee is typically served in small cups with a spoon on the side. The French like their coffee strong and dark, often with a hint of caramel. Tea is also widely consumed, with the most popular being black tea.

Wine (red or white)

Wine is a staple of French cuisine and is enjoyed during meals. Red wine is often served with beef and lamb dishes, while white wine is typically paired with fish and poultry. French wine is known for its complexity and subtlety, with different regions producing different varieties.

Pastis or aperitif

Pastis is a type of anise-flavored liqueur that is popular in the south of France. It is typically served as an aperitif, or before a meal, and is often mixed with water to reduce the alcohol content. Aperitif is a general term for pre-dinner drinks, and can include other options such as champagne or a kir (a mix of crème de cassis and white wine).

Healthy Drink Options

When it comes to choosing healthy drink options in France, there are several options available that are both delicious and refreshing. Here are some of the most popular healthy drink options that you can enjoy:

Fresh fruit juice

Fresh fruit juice is a popular drink option in France, and for good reason. It’s a great way to get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals, and it’s also a great way to quench your thirst. You can find fresh fruit juice at many cafes and juice bars, and it’s often made with locally sourced fruits. Some of the most popular fruit juices in France include orange juice, grapefruit juice, and pomegranate juice.

Water with lemon or lime

Water with lemon or lime is a simple yet effective way to stay hydrated while also adding some flavor to your water. It’s a popular drink option in France, and you can find it at many cafes and restaurants. Adding a slice of lemon or lime to your water can help to boost your immune system, and it can also help to improve your digestion.

Herbal tea with mint or chamomile

Herbal tea with mint or chamomile is a popular drink option in France, and it’s a great way to relax and unwind after a long day. Mint tea is a refreshing and invigorating drink that’s perfect for hot summer days, while chamomile tea is a soothing and calming drink that’s perfect for nighttime. Both mint and chamomile teas are easy to make at home, and they’re also available at many cafes and tea shops.


1. What are the four traditional meals of the day in France?

France is known for its delicious and sophisticated cuisine, and its traditional meals are an important part of the country’s culture and heritage. The four traditional meals of the day in France are:
* Petit déjeuner (Breakfast): This typically includes a croissant or baguette with cheese or jam, and a hot beverage such as coffee or tea.
* Déjeuner (Lunch): This meal is usually a three-course affair, with a starter, main course, and dessert. Common dishes include salads, soups, and sandwiches.
* Dîner (Dinner): This is the main meal of the day, and is often a four-course affair, with a starter, main course, cheese course, and dessert. Classic French dishes such as Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon are often served at dinner.
* Dessert (Dessert): This is a sweet course that is served after the main meal. Common desserts include crème brûlée, tarte Tatin, and chocolate mousse.

2. Are there any regional variations in French cuisine?

Yes, there are many regional variations in French cuisine. Different regions of France have their own unique ingredients and cooking styles, which have contributed to the development of distinctive local dishes. For example, the south of France is known for its use of olive oil, while the north is known for its butter and cream-based sauces.

3. What are some common ingredients used in French cuisine?

French cuisine is known for its use of fresh, high-quality ingredients. Some common ingredients used in French cooking include:
* Fruits et légumes (Fruits and vegetables): France is known for its fresh produce, and fruits and vegetables are often used in salads, soups, and other dishes.
* Viande (Meat): Beef, pork, and poultry are all popular in French cuisine, and are often used in hearty stews and roasts.
* Poisson (Fish): Fresh seafood is a staple of French cuisine, and is often used in dishes such as Bouillabaisse and Salade Nicoise.
* Fromage (Cheese): France is famous for its cheese, and there are hundreds of different types of cheese produced in the country. Fromage is often served as a course on its own, or used in dishes such as quiches and gratins.
* Sauces: Rich, flavorful sauces are a key component of French cuisine. Beurre blanc, Hollandaise, and Béarnaise are just a few examples of the many different types of sauce used in French cooking.

4. How can I learn more about French cuisine?

There are many resources available for those who want to learn more about French cuisine. You can try taking a cooking class, reading cookbooks and food blogs, or watching cooking shows and documentaries. There are also many French restaurants and cafes where you can try traditional dishes and learn more about the country’s culinary traditions.

French Lesson 24 – MEALS OF THE DAY Food Vocabulary – LES REPAS de la journée Comidas del día






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