“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream” – Julia Child
I’ve just returned from an amazing work trip and holiday to Paris. It’s been on my bucket list for years; the architecture, the men, the food – who wouldn’t want to go?
But, if I’m being honest, the real reason I was excited to visit was for the food… it’s always about the food.
French cuisine has always been a fave of mine. However, after recently losing weight, I was worried I’d have to slip out one morning and buy new jeans after consuming too many baguettes.
Then I remembered the teachings in one of the best books of all time: French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. It’s a commonsense book that focuses on the French principals of eating. Despite the wine, pastries and butter they consume on the daily, the author wholeheartedly believes French women are healthy and have a balanced approach to food.
I thought this trip would be a nice experiment on the French way of eating, but I was still worried that having bread and butter with every meal would have a detrimental effect on my waistline.
My findings were, in fact, the opposite to my original thoughts. I felt completely relaxed while eating in Paris and, surprisingly, returned home without gaining even one pound. Here’s how to do France right…
1. Don’t feel obliged to finish your meal
I didn’t finish most meals because I didn’t go into every meal with a ‘feast or famine’ mindset. I knew we had a delicious main, dessert and wine to come, so I felt satisfied with just a few bites of my entrée.
2. Enjoy the light seasonal produce
Browsing the menus, I noticed all of the dishes contained seasonal produce, with vegetables being one of the main stars. Every meal was prepared to perfection, and I found myself raving about vegetables I don’t usually enjoy. In short, consuming local in-season produce is the healthiest way to eat.
3. Walk to lunch – it’ll be your cardio
French women walk everywhere, even if it’s 2 miles to lunch. Maybe that’s why they don’t feel guilty about grabbing an extra bread roll. We walked to and from every meal, mostly in five-inch heels, along cobblestone paths – talk about working up an appetite!
4. Never rush your meal; it is a social occasion, after all
I was surprised to find a dinner out could last more than four hours. In France, food is a great accompaniment to who you’re with, not the other way around.
5. No milk, no worries
When you order a coffee, you don’t have to specify ‘no milk’. A double-shot long black is my poison; I have a few a day. Although I’m not a calorie counter, I know it all adds up, and by adding milk I’d have to cut down the amount I drink. Given the option, I’d rather have my coffee black and dessert with every meal.
6. Course offerings are incredibly balanced, so don’t stress
The first few meals, I noticed that those who had a heavier dinner would opt for a lighter, often fruit-based, dessert, while those who had the fish and vegetable option would choose a dessert that was heavier. By the end of my stay, I found myself doing the same, and have continued this way of eating now I’m back home – and I feel so much better for it.
7. Indulge without fear in a world where no-one judges your food choices
Feel like creamy pasta for lunch? You may as well order it, because no-one will bat an eyelid. I’m used to ordering a dish and having my friends make comments about it – but in France there are never any comments about the hours you’ll need to spend in the gym to burn it off, they’ll simply ask if you enjoyed your meal.
8. Let water and wine become your best friends
Wine is had with every meal except breakfast, but to every sip of wine there are at least two sips of water. I found myself having one good glass with every meal and really enjoying it – I didn’t notice that, in that time, I also had three glasses of water.
I think the French have many good lessons when it comes to food and healthy eating. Even though I was eating butter and bread on the daily, there’s something to be said about how a healthy mindset contributes to a healthy diet. And, of course, having wine with every meal could never be a bad thing.
Comment: What’s your ‘healthy eating’ secret?