This post was last updated on March 26th, 2015 at 09:22 pm

French Nutrition Label Vocabulary

So, you travel to France and you wanted to have a piece of chocolate… Mmmm Esprit Noir à la Menthe! You take a gander at Les Informations Nutritionnelles. No surprise, it’s in French, and what does 2190KJ pour 100g mean? I will first discuss the vocabulary associated with food packaging, nutrition, and basic ingredients. Then I’ll explain how to spot allergic information, and how the French portion food.

French Nutrition Vocabulary
Valeur énergétique: Calories (energetic value)
Protéines: Protein
Lipides: Fats
Lipides dont acids gras saturés: Saturated Fats
Glucides: Carbohydrates
Glucides dont sucre: Sugar
Fibres allimentaire: Dietary Fiber
Sodium: Salt
Poids Net: Total Weight
Un Portion: A serving
Contient: Contains
Conserver: Store
RNJ: Repères Nutritionnels Journaliers: Recommended Daily Allowance. 

Common French Ingredients:
Arôme: Flavoring (arôme pomme/cannelle means: cinnamon apple flavoring)
Avoine: Oats
Bicarbonate de soude: Baking soda
Blé (complète): Wheat (whole wheat)
Beurre (pâtissier): Butter (concentrated)
Colorant: Artificial coloring
Eau: Water
Farine (de blé complète): Flour (whole wheat flour)
Huile (d’olive, tournesol, végétale): Oil (olive oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil)
Lait (en poudre, écrémé): Milk (powdered milk, skimmed-milk)
Matière grasse (végétale): Fat, Lard (Vegetable fat)
Noix: Nuts
Oeuf: Egg
Sel: Salt
Sirop de glucose: Glucose syrup (corn syrup)
Vinaigre (balsamique, de vin rouge): Vinegar (balsamic…, red wine…)

Luckily some words resemble their English counterparts. Now, when I read the label of the chocolate, it says that 1 portion (10g) contains 220kJ (55kcal). If you paid attention during chemistry or physics, you would realize that roughly 4.4 kilojoules is equivalent to 1 kilocalorie. One kcal is equal to 1 Calorie. Thus, 55kcals is equal to 55 Calories!

Not bad for a sinful piece of chocolate
Usually the French packaging will include the nutritional information for one serving and for the entire packet. So when you notice that eating your morning cereal will add 1,995kcals to your belly, you’re probably looking at the wrong side.

Reading French nutrition labels are also annoying if you’re unfamiliar with the Metric System, so if you aren’t American you should be fine! An easy way to estimate what makes a portion is to take the Poids Net, or total weight, and then divide that by the indicated portion size. So, if a box of cereal says a portion is 45 grams, and the whole box contains 500 grams, then you would have approx. 11 portions. Eye out one-eleventh of the container and enjoy your French food. You could also weigh your cereal on a scale, but who really does that?

I just have a little note for allergic people. A statement that identifies allergies would go something like this:
 Ce produit contient de la poudre de lait et est fabriqué sur une ligne de production utilisant différents types de noix. That long, daunting french sentence is essentially saying that the product contains powdered milk, and is made in a factory that uses different types of nut products. Reading these sentences become imperative if you are allergic to anything…

I hope this guide on How to Read French Nutrition Labels was helpful. Please comment below if you need anything, or want to add more vocabulary to my list above.

(P.S, have you ever wondered how the French could always eat this stuff and not get fat? Check out my article: The French Paradox).

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