Sodium in French Food
by Cory P.
(Nashvillle, TN, USA)
Is French Food Salty?
We will be traveling to France mid-June. I'm on a very low sodium diet, almost no salt. Is French cuisine heavily salted? Are French chefs open to special requests from diet-restricted people? I would very much appreciate any help. Thank you.
Mrs. Cory P.
Bonjour Mrs. P.,
Thanks for writing with your question. That's great that you are planning well in advance for your trip to France.
I can tell you that in general good French cuisine does not rely on a lot of salt to be flavorful. Instead flavor is sought after in using the very freshest and highest quality ingredients.
Of course, a lot of places you will visit in France may not have such an elevated notion of cooking. We have more than our fair share of fast food joints, pizza parlors, and opportunities for salt laden dining. And even some of the best food, like the incredible cheeses and charcuterie that are everywhere, will be ones you will want to avoid.
The good news is that you will always be able to find wonderful in-season produce at the open air markets that happen on different days of the week all over France. Most grocery stores will have good produce as well. So for snacking and light meals, head to these places.
As for packaged food, here are some of the labels you will find that can help guide you:
sans sodium - sodium free
faible en sodium - low in sodium
teneur réduite en sodium - reduced sodium
sans sel ajouté - without added salt
When dining out, you will find that many restaurants will be sympathetic to your needs. In France it would not be considered outrageous to ask for special attention to be paid in how a food is prepared or served in a restaurant. Stick to restaurants that have simply prepared menu items and you should have no problem being served without the salt. Asking that any sauce be served on the side should be fine as well.
Finally, here is a wonderful resource for anyone wishing to find a restaurant in France catering to a low sodium diet: Resto sans sel is a directory of restaurants that are committed to making at least some menu items available without added salt. I looked up Paris and there were over 100 listings, so I am sure you can find a few good addresses.
Hope you have a most wonderful visit to France!