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Popular Diets of the World: The French Diet

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Make meals a priority. An important element of the French diet is eating meals at the table as a family, Clower tells WebMD. In a recent study of 766 men and women in France, researchers found that nearly two-thirds reported eating together as a household on a daily basis. American families who eat dinner together tend to eat more vegetables and fruits, and less fried foods, soda, and foods containing trans fats than those who rarely or never dine together, studies show. Conversing with family or friends keeps your mouth busy talking instead of chewing, allowing you time to realize you're full. To reap the benefits for yourself, set a regular time for dinner where you turn off the TV and the computer. If you're dining alone, enjoy the company of a good book or beautiful music -- both will help you relax and slow down.

Plan on seconds. The French typically eat in courses -- appetizer, entree, salad, dessert, cheese, and coffee. But they don't pig out. They have no reason to, because they know another course is coming. At home, Clower suggests serving yourself an amount that looks like not quite enough, while planning to go back for seconds. Eat slowly, giving your brain time to feel full, and you'll often find you've had enough. If not, you can have seconds guilt-free, since that's what you intended to do from the start.

Take studies with a grain of salt. With new research emerging every day, it's easy to get caught in a cycle of bad food versus good, Clower says, whether the food in question is eggs, chocolate, or carbohydrates. But food is neither good nor bad for you -- what matters is the amount you eat. Because we've focused on making food the bad guy, we've become afraid of food, he says. The French, on the other hand, aren't swayed by conflicting media reports. Their knowledge of food comes from their traditions -- what their parents and grandparents ate. And because they don't fear "bad" food, they are less likely to deprive themselves, so it's easier to eat just a little without feeling guilty or binging and eating too much.

Enjoy your vin ... Red wine, a staple of the French diet, is bursting with health benefits. Besides being good for your heart, it may also aid in the fight against gum disease, a Canadian study reports. And according to Danish researchers, people who buy wine tend to buy healthier food than those who purchase beer. Searching for a way to stay svelte? Research shows that light to moderate drinking may help. The scientists looked at over 8,000 subjects, and found that those who consumed one or two drinks a few times a week were less likely to be obese than those who didn't drink. Over-imbibing didn't help, however -- having four or more drinks per day increased the risk of obesity by 46%. The French enjoy small portions of alcohol, as well as food. (One to two glasses per day, says Clower -- not one to two bottles.)

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