10 Diet Lessons From the French
1. Petite isn't just a dress size. One of the reasons France has an 11 percent obesity rate (as compared to America's 33 percent) is portion control. "A croissant in Paris is one ounce, while in Pittsburgh it's two," notes Chris Rosenbloom, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at Georgia State University. Buy one and share it with your beau.
2. Never say diet. The French don't get involved in the carbs versus protein debate, nor do they label food groups like dairy or beef "bad." "There's an emphasis on eating a wide variety of foods—fruits, vegetables, beef, poultry, fish, bread and cheese— without overdoing any one thing," explains Susan Herrmann Loomis, a cooking teacher in Louviers, France, and author of the cooking memoir On Rue Tatin (Broadway Books, 2001).
3. There's no French equivalent of Butter Buds. Most French regard processed foods with the utter disdain they usually reserve for instant coffee. In other words, they'd rather have a small piece of "real" chocolate than a big slab of some low-fat chocolate dessert. The fact is, the sugar calories in low-fat sweets probably negate any fat grams saved— which won't get you any closer to fitting into those YSL jeans.
4. Snacking is a faux pas. They rarely snack, and they eat meals only while sitting at a table. Americans, on the other hand, eat everywhere-in our cars, at our desks, in the checkout line at the grocery store. In fact, the average calorie consumption in the United States is 3,642 a day, versus 3,551 in France— a small difference that can add up to a five-pound weight gain in six months. Quelle horreur!
5. Soak up the color. French women fill up on bright-colored vegetables, whether they're in zucchini soup or a beet, lettuce and cabbage salad before their entrée. Good thing, too, since the antioxidants in these foods help stave off the free radicals produced by cigarette smoke.
6. Make the most of meals. The French space out their courses and eat them at a leisurely pace— generally with friends and family, reports Loomis. In addition to cutting down on indigestion, this practice makes them less likely to overindulge, because the sensation of fullness has time to develop.
7. Wine and dine. Bordeaux and Beaujolais are staples, but French women usually drink them with their meal— no guzzling one or two glasses at the bar before dinner. Plus, glasses in France are only partially filled-the better to taste the wine and cut down on calories.
8. C'est cheese. They love cheese, but treat it as if it were a delicacy— eating it only after meals and stopping after just a slice or two, says Loomis. And although French cheeses seem rich, many (like Brie and chèvre) are actually lower in calories than American favorites.
9. Park your car. Thirty-five percent of the time, the French get where they're going by walking or biking. Americans don't leave home without their cars a whopping 84 percent of the time.
10. Boycott the buffet. In France, you won't find many all-you-can-eat fests, such as brunch buffets, tailgate parties and unlimited pasta and dessert bars, where it's easy for the calories to add up quickly. The French realize that they will get to eat again in a few hours.
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