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.