Popular Diets of the World: The French Diet
Forget low-fat, low-carb, low-taste, and low-calorie -- the French diet is
full of flavor and high in satisfaction. Here's how eating la manière Française
(the French way) can keep you slim and healthy.
Portion control. The French diet can be summed up in one sentence:
eat small portions of high-quality foods less often. "American-sized
servings are substantially larger than their Parisian counterparts," says
Paul Rozin, PhD, a psychologist with the University of Pennsylvania. In one
study, Rozin and colleagues found that a carton of yogurt in Philadelphia was
82% larger than a Paris yogurt; a soft drink was 52% larger, a hot dog 63%
larger, and a candy bar 41% larger. Does size matter? Yes, say University of
Pennsylvania researchers, who found that when given individual servings of
snack foods, subjects tended to eat the same number of servings, no matter how
big they were.
Think quality, not quantity. How is it that French dieters are
satisfied with less? The difference is in how they regard food and eating, says
Will Clower, PhD, CEO of Mediterranean Wellness, director of The PATH Healthy
Eating Curriculum, and author of The French Don't Diet Plan: 10 Simple Steps
to Stay Thin for Life. The French
love their food, he says, but not the way Americans love food. "In America,
we confuse enjoyment of food with over-consumption." The result: only 39%
of Americans claim to greatly enjoy eating, compared to 90% of people in
Savor the flavor. The French sit down to three leisurely meals each
day. Even their fast-food meals are lengthy compared to the typical American's.
A study in Psychological Science found that Parisians who dined at
McDonald's spent an average of 22 minutes eating, while Philadelphian
McDonald's-goers were in and out in just 14 minutes. Our culture reinforces
speed-eating, just as it encourages rushing through everything else. The
problem is that faster eating leads to eating more. It takes an average of 15
minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full, which
means that eating slowly makes it more likely you'll stop at a point where
you're "satisfied" as opposed to "stuffed."
Get real. It's easier to eat slowly when your meal actually tastes
good, so the French diet shuns processed foods in favor of anything fresh and
real. Breakfast is small: bread, cereal, or yogurt with fruit and granola, and
coffee. Lunch and dinner include small portions of meat, vegetables, and some
type of starch, with a piece of cheese and coffee to finish off the meal. Foods
that are a staple of the French diet include full-fat cheese and yogurt,
butter, bread, fresh fruits and vegetables (often
grilled or sautéed), small portions of meat (more often fish or chicken than
red meat), wine, and dark chocolate.