Popular Diets of the World: The French Diet
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.
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.