Croissants, café au lait, baguettes, cheese, and wine. Eating well is undoubtedly one of the highlights of culture in France. Unfortunately, this can make for quite a challenge when you have food allergies or intolerances. As someone who just recently joined those ranks, I’m pleased to share that it doesn’t have to mean deprivation and “sitting out” a fully satisfying culinary experience.
I learned a few months ago that I would need to cut out a pretty significant list of foods from my diet, at least temporarily, due to some digestive issues. My first reaction was severe dismay. I’d gotten accustomed to the mouthwatering crunch of a perfectly crusty French baguette, and the endless variety of cheeses to accompany or follow just about any meal imaginable. I’d become addicted to the smooth sensation of a café au lait as I sat on the terrace of a cafe.
How on earth was I going to remove all of the ingredients that made life in France so….French?
I’m now about a couple of months into this set of dietary changes. Things started out pretty rough, I’ll admit – the sugar cravings and the amount of “off-limits” foods threw me for a loop. But eventually things started turning around. Although difficult, it has proven to be quite possible and even fun to change my eating habits with the right attitude and motivation.
As time went on, I realized that it’s more than just cutting things out of my diet; it’s an opportunity to add in new, delicious, nourishing ingredients and to discover original restaurants.
There are actually a ton of things I can have that I would never have thought to try before, including lots of alternatives specifically made for people like me who can’t have the “original” versions. Gluten-free croissants. Coconut milk-based yogurt. A whole new set of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other foods that I’d never thought to explore but which now provide variety and discovery to my daily meals. In addition, I’ve started to feel my energy levels increase thanks to avoiding the problem-causers, and incorporating foods and medicine that are healing to my digestive system.
There are some absolutely awesome places that cater specifically to food intolerances and allergies in Paris, lucky for us “high maintenance” eaters (which is really not a thing, by the way…your health needs are a priority, and don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise).
Here are some healthy and creative restaurants I’ve been thrilled to find recently, and a few that I plan to discover very soon!
The Hood (currently at Le Citizen Hotel in the 10th arrondissement and re-opening in the 11th on Oct. 18)
This community-focused cafe is all about meaningful connections, creation, and cultivation of good times. I stopped by their Asian Summer BBQ party at Le Citizen Hotel, where they set up shop for Summer 2019 during renovations of their original space. Despite not being able to have any gluten, dairy, peanuts, rice, eggs, and a plethora of other ingredients, their head chef whipped me up a delightful sampler platter that met my dietary needs perfectly.
The best way to discover their world of Asian-French fusion is to check out their menu, but I’ll just say that it’s the first dinner I’ve found in awhile that didn’t feel like my meal was a compromise, but a true masterpiece.
Maison Nomade (10th arrondissement, near Gare de l’Est)
The first impression you get upon walking into this light-filled space is one of both energy and zen, and the menu options reflect that very same vibe. Offering plenty of gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, and other specialty options, this place is definitely a spot to check out. More than just a cafe, they also have an entire team of instructors for yoga, meditation, and other healthful practices for mind and body. The towering plants scattered around the room, combined with soothing and energizing tunes that reverberate all around as you enjoy your dish of choice make for an experience that engages all the senses – taste, sound, sight, and more.
NoGlu (11th arrondissement)
The name gives you a pretty good idea of what you won’t find here, and you’ll be pleased to know that the subtraction of gluten doesn’t mean any kind of subtraction of flavor or pleasure. I decided to check out this place for a working afternoon, and had the best café au lait I’ve found in Paris, hands-down – without any actual dairy milk involved. They have a great selection of cakes, cookies, croissants, and other goodies that replace gluten with other options like almond flour, as well as avoiding other common problem ingredients like eggs and dairy. They have a handy binder that lists the ingredients of every item so that you can be sure you’re eating what’s good for your body.
Big Love (3rd arrondissement)
Gluten-free pizza. Need I say more? This restaurant is a more mainstream option, with most of the menu items catering to a non-food-sensitive crowd (traditional pasta, pizzas, etc.), which means if gluten is your only problem ingredient, you can sneak in this suggestion without your friends rolling their eyes about it being all “alternative” ingredients.
And finally, some apps to help you find or make your own favorites:
This is just a small (but recommended!) sampling of the options around Paris for eating around food intolerances. Because the possibilities are ever-evolving, with new restaurants always popping up and trying their hand at the market, I’ll end with a couple great tools to find more options for your own needs.
- Etiquettable (site in French) points you to restaurants, cafes, and markets who adhere to a variety of honorable and responsible food standards such as organic, local, in-season, low-carbon, and more. With it, you’ll keep your belly full and your conscious clean with delicious meals from conscientious businesses.
- PlantJammer is not specific to Paris, but rather a great tool for building recipes around the ingredients that you can find (and that you have on hand). I’ve discovered a few new favorite dishes to make at home thanks to this app. It’s also a great way to use up ingredients that have been hanging around for awhile. Bonus points for avoiding food waste!