Oh, France (sigh). It’s such a beautiful country, with such a rich culture, idolized around the world, admired for how much unabashed veneration it places on the arts, social camaraderie and, most notably, food and alcohol.

In regard to food and alcohol (yeah, our favorite), France is easily a world leader. The French have always been proud of the sophistication of their cuisine. And foreigners have been constantly shocked at how good, how shockingly good, even the most basic French food tastes. Cheese, baguettes, croissants, butter, wine, all of it tastes magically different than what you can get at your local ShopRite, Krueger’s, BJ’s, or where the heck ever. You get the deal; it’s easy to eat really, really well in France.

And there’s the question. If its cuisine is so fantastic, rich, and reasonably cited as “indulgent,” then why is it that only 24% of the French population is obese while 34% of Americans are so … ample? Second next most important question, how can we get like the French? The answer is actually quite simple: eat healthier. But what does that mean? Even if we keep hearing that advice over and over, it means different things to different people (especially the authors of fad diet books). But there’s good, possibly clarifying news: a team of researchers from the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety conducted a recent study aimed at revealing the magic of French eating patterns.

According their research, only 13% of the French follow a diet considered to be classically western, which includes convenience foods such as skim milk, fruit juice, breakfast cereal, chocolate and quiche. The other 87% follow alternative dietary patterns, which is arguably the source of their slenderness.

The researchers found eight distinct eating trends among those 87%, some of which will likely surprise you:

  1. They eat less food in individual sittings
  2. They eat foods with full fat content, most notably cheese (what whaaaaat?)
  3. 71% do not eat fried food
  4. 70% eat fish at least once a week
  5. 68% drink alcohol at least once a week – most notably, of course, wine
  6. They eat a diverse range of healthy foods
  7. When they eat fatty foods, it comes from wine, salami, cheese, bread, red meat, grains and desserts. Not fast food.
  8. They eat simple dishes with not too much going on.

The research seems to suggest that you can eat rich, indulgent foods and drink wine while remaining slim.