While studying abroad in Paris this month, of course I've been taking advantage of all the incredible food that France has to offer. From escargot to fois gras to crepes, my food baby and I have been lounging around at cafés and taking in the unique culture of the city. I was quick to realize how much my eating habits here differ from my usual system in the United States, where I'm always rushing my meals, rarely savoring them. Here are 5 lessons I've learned about my relationship with food while in Paris that I'll definitely take back to the states with me.

1. Stop eating while on the move

It's all too easy to forget about breakfast, or to consolidate eating time and traveling time when you're running late to class or a meeting. In the US, it's almost fashionable to be running around a big city with your coffee—the Venti Starbucks Latte, big sunnies and cute trench coat... an aesthetic I truly aspire to pull off one day. No one bats an eye if you're eating an energy bar on the New York Subway or D.C. metro, but after some uncomfortable glares I quickly learned that in Paris this is pretty taboo. 

Somehow most Parisians seem to have perfected time management skills in a way that I can only dream of. Not only have I never seen a local on the run with coffee or an energy bar, but the alternative is chic business women and men lounging at cafés, eating breakfast or lunch leisurely during the work day.

How do they have the time for it? I may never know, but in an attempt to embrace the culture, I've worked on moving up my wake up time to actually fit in breakfast, and organize my afternoons around a sit-down lunch. My mood is infinitely better when I make time for a real meal (read: no one likes that friend who's always hangry), so I'd certainly say the French are on to something.

2. There's a healthier way to include espresso in your everyday diet

I had completely sworn off coffee/espresso drinks this year—that is, until I arrived in France. I was hesitant to have my first espresso after several months, and was surprised that my stomach didn't immediately cramp up. I figured my aversion to high-levels of caffeine had simply worn off, however I noticed a trend.

When I went about my usual routine at home—down a coffee while on the run between classes—my stomach was always on fire. When I embraced the Parisian lifestyle of sitting down and slowly sipping on my espresso, my digestive track just kept on doing what it was doing and I am eternally grateful for a caffeine boost without the usual consequences. 

3. Grocery shop for less ingredients at a time

Full disclosure, I have an intense love for House Hunters International on HGTV, so I already knew coming into this trip that Europeans tend to have smaller refrigerators. Americans moving to Paris on the show are constantly complaining about not having enough storage, but I've switched over to supporting the small kitchen train. 

A smaller refrigerator means that there is less space to forget about a half-eaten tomato that becomes an unfortunate surprise in a few weeks and an argument with your roommates about who's food is stinking up the apartment. It means grocery shopping strategically, because you're forced to resist those impulse buys in the name of space.

I oftentimes see Parisians walking the streets with a fresh baguette or a grocery bag of fresh veggies, and when I asked a friend that lives here about it she said that she usually buys groceries for four to five days at a time. The stores don't have to put as many preservatives in the food, so it's a win-win—no one has gross, over-stuffed refrigerators and all of the ingredients are fresher. Less groceries at a time just might lead to healthier eating habits. 

4. Don't underestimate the value of free ice water 

One thing that I will give the US the upper hand on is staying hydrated. Maybe I haven't discovered the secret in Paris yet, but wine and coffee are so integral to the dining culture that oftentimes I forget to order water at all. And yes, water has to be ordered. In the US we have tap water infused with minerals, but in France mineral water has to be purchased and water from the sink has to be requested. 

I haven't been a big fan of spending five euro on a bottle of water, and I also have not been a fan of water arriving with small glasses and no ice. For the most part, here was where I embraced my role as an American tourist, ignoring the stares on the metro as I chugged my water bottle no matter what. In the name of clearer skin and higher energy levels, I will definitely have to kick the wine and coffee habits when I get back home and opt for my usual goal of 8 glasses of water a day.

5. Don't rush the waiter to bring the check

The theme of Parisian dining overall has been to slow down—eat slower, sip your drink slower, live slower. My favorite thing to do in Paris is simply sit at a table in a restaurant for hours enjoying my food and socializing more than I ever do at restaurants at home. While it was frustrating at first, I adjusted to the fact that waiters are very hands off and disappear after they've brought out the meal. There are subtle signals to let a waiter know you need something, but only in the last week or so of our month abroad have I perfected the hand signal to request a check. 

Conversations get more interesting, and meals become more enjoyable when you're not constantly trying to move things along and rush to the next destination. If you truly are in a hurry, a trick is to place your fork and knife in the 4:20 position on your plate (blaze it, I know), and your waiter should take the hint. 

As my month abroad winds down, I'm sad to leave a city with such an incredible culture and just as amazing food. While I'm sure my new eating habits are going to wear off the longer I'm back home, I will try to consciously slow down, shop for less food at a time, and make time for longer meals. And honestly, who doesn't want to be more conscious about food in their day anyways? Food is important, and France knows it.