It's no secret that France has created some of the world's most talented artists, but they apparently also know something the rest of us don't about enjoying food and staying fit without effort.
The French Diet is not a fad diet like Atkins or The Zone, but rather a balanced lifestyle that has been developed and perfected by a nation of real food lovers.
Mireille Guiliano's latest book "The French Women Don't Get Fat, The Secret Of Eating For pleasure" reveals the reasons why French woman can eat delicious foods, indulge in wine and still stay trim and beautiful.
Eating is one of life's greatest pleasures - creating a healthy relationship with food will do wonders for your senses and your waistline. The French Diet is very appealing as there are no restrictions on carbs or fat and no calorie counting, just good quality food eaten in moderation. The key here really is quality not quantity.
The French are very particular about what they eat. Their diet contains all fresh whole foods and avoids processed foods, junk foods, and sugary drinks. Back-to-basics, natural food is the key. When cooking for themselves or friends, the French go to great lengths to seek out the best produce and ingredients for their meal. This is usually done on foot by walking around the farmers' markets, boulangeries and fromageries, burning calories and contributing even more to a healthy lifestyle.
Importantly, French portions are a fraction of the size of those in the United States. While a French woman would be happy to savor a small plate of delicious quality food, the rest of us would rather wolf down a plate double the size, and often of lesser quality. That means at least double the calories.
Mireille Guiliano's advice is to sit down and eat as if it is a ritual, avoiding distractions such as TV, laptops and newspapers. Eat consciously and slowly, make sure you savor each mouthful. By stopping to enjoy your meal, you will feel satisfied faster and not overeat. Relax while eating and your body will metabolize food more efficiently, whereas hurriedly wolfing down your food will lead your body to secrete Cortisol and store excess fat.
French woman drink plenty of water too. As well as prolonging your life and keeping your internal organs (liver, kidney etc) clean and healthy, water speeds up your metabolism and aids weight loss.
Another important philosophy of the French Diet is to forgive your lapses. There will always be a time when you lack willpower and indulge, but the key is just to cut back on your next meal. Don't feel guilty, don't return to your old eating habits, just get back on track. If you do need a snack, follow the French way and keep some low fat yogurt in the fridge.
You can eat a huge variety of unprocessed meat, fish, poultry, grains, bread, dairy, veggies and fruit. A varied diet is essential, as each food contains different vitamins and minerals essential for long term health. It's really ALL about portions.
Keep in mind that your protein at each sitting shouldn't be much larger than a deck of cards, and should be eaten with salads and vegetables.
Desserts are allowed too. Instead of everybody ordering an individual piece of cheese cake though, order one for the table. Eat it slowly, let it linger on your tongue and you will be satisfied with less. Even better, opt for the fruit salad.
Croissants, pastries and even baguettes are fine, but in very small portions. Croissants in France are a mere 1 ounce! Not monster size as they are in many countries.
Real cheese is certainly allowed - the French love to go to the fromagerie. Eating a small portion of cheese will keep you full and satisfied and dissuade you from snacking. Processed cheesed is the most consumed cheese in the United States but is definitely NOT allowed. Examples of what not to eat include Cheez Whiz and Velveeta.
Red wine is packed with antioxidants and has recently been proven to be heart healthy. The French have a low incidence of heart disease and many cite red wine as the reason. Just 1-2 glasses a day remember, not a whole bottle.
Lastly, the French eat a large proportion of vegetables and fruits. These are low in calories and nutritionally dense. They also use heart healthy Olive Oil, rather than artery-clogging hydrogenated cooking oils.
All processed snack food like potato or corn chips, pork rinds and snack bars. All snacks are out, besides perhaps a low calorie snack to get you through to the next meal. If you have to, opt for a bit of fruit or a low fat yogurt.
Soda and other sugary drinks, high calorie cocktails, Frappucinos (a Starbucks 20-ounce Frappuccino with added whipped contains a whopping 650 calories and 25 grams of fat!).
Stay off the fast food and turn your back on McDonalds and KFC. The French would turn their nose up at this low quality junk food in a second, and for good reason. Fast food is unnatural and packed with preservatives. Not on the French diet!
Pre-packaged meals and Frozen meals. The French like to prepare their meals carefully from only the freshest ingredients. You know the big aisle with the frozen dinners in your local market? That aisle is much, much smaller in a French supermarket.
Easy Goat Cheese Salad
Tomato, sliced in half
Cut tomato in half and place on a bed of rocket. Drizzle some pesto sauce on it, then add a slice of goat cheese. Put in the oven for a few minutes until cheese softens.
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