Is the French diet healthy? Do they really diet? Discover the first 5 tips how the slim French can still enjoy butter, cream, cheese, wine & pastries - maintaining healthy eating habits.
Meet my daughter, Julie. Brought up as a French girl near Paris, I couldn’t resist asking her to be my first guest to post in the new lifestyle feature, being both French and British. After living in London for the past three years as a student, and noticing major differences between both ways of living, she shares with us her 5 ways to eat like the French.
On y va, Julie! By the way, she's too shy to have her picture here. Yet. Just imagine a bubbly and positively smiley sweetheart to be around. I'm not just saying that because I'm her proud Mum.
Julie Colonna's 5 Ways to Eat Like the French
Bonjour. I'm Julie! A bilingual Franco-British, freshly graduated from UCL in English Literature. I'm also just starting out with a job in London and every French lifestyle hack I've learnt throughout my childhood in France, I've brought to the UK with me.
So how did I integrate our French, healthy eating habits, and how can you do the same? Here are my 5 tips.
Mindless grazing is so easily done. Snacking isn’t a French thing, even if the word is appearing on some new trendy storefronts in Paris. There’s no such thing as elevenses with tea and biscuits mid-morning in France. If you can't do without snacks, then have an apple and make your snack officially French!
This official snacking time is called le goûter (pronounced 'le gootay') or teatime between 4 and 5 o'clock. It's not a huge platter of sandwiches and cakes but literally one cake, a slice of lemon tart or one or two biscuits such as Palets Bretons with a cup of tea or other drink.
The key? Making sure it's just enough to keep you going and not a proper meal spread out in multiple instances throughout the day.
Looking for the perfect bitesized goûter? Try Mum's financiers or macarons from her books.
2. Drinking Calories
Ever wondered why you're putting on weight even though your meals are balanced and healthy? I've been there. Starbucks, Pret coffees… They're addictive because of excess sugar. Keep an eye on what you're drinking, including fruit juice.
So you would think I would be prepared for the UK's drinking culture. I was not. That bought 'healthy juice' with added sugar to beat your hangover isn't going to hide all your sins. The secret is to pace yourself and make sure you keep a close eye on your drinking habits. Oftentimes, less is more.
Mum recommends tea that goes with each of her Teatime In Paris treats: not only is this a healthier alternative, it's a healing one. Worth checking out the benefits of white, black, red and green tea.
3. Food Autonomy
In my first year at uni, I realised my appetite had surged. The more you eat, the more your capacity to eat augments.
Processed food and ready-made meals are culprits for an increased appetite.
When you're making things yourself, not only is it an opportunity to take a breather from your day, to pause and concentrate on something that isn't work or studying, it’s cheaper. Plus it also allows you to monitor what is going into your body, and take control of not adding too much sugar. If you loved your body unconditionally, flaws and all, what would you feed it?
4. Buying Quality Ingredients
Quality ingredients makes a world of a difference. Now, this does not mean shopping in a more expensive grocery store. As a student on a budget, I mean best value for money: understanding your produce and choosing the best ingredient for the recipe you're taking on.
For example, Mum specifies 'good quality dark chocolate' (minimum of 64% cocoa solids) in her healthy chocolate recipes. I've made her chocolate mousse and chocolate marble cake over and over (I've had friends beg me for it, it's wicked stuff). When you make it with Cadbury's chocolate, or other mass-market brands that prioritise sweetness over cacao content, it just doesn't hit you the same way. Not only is it the tastier alternative, it's the healthier one.
There's nothing to beat fresh over frozen or tinned too. Check out the market produce page for inspiration on seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, how to pick the best ones and ideas how to serve them.
5. Mindful Eating
This may be the best advice I've ever been given.
Take your time.
No matter how busy the workday ahead is, my dad (papa) always takes the time to sit for breakfast, sipping his coffee from a large bowl with a small bowl of homemade chocolate granola. Weekends we take even longer with a luxury of croissant, brioche or crêpes. We are encouraged not to have our phones at the table and TV dinners are a rare occasion. Likewise, we don't munch on packets of crisps in front of a screen.
We sit at the table together as much as possible, take time to enjoy our food and discuss our day, politics and the food! (OK, my Dad does take ridiculously long to eat but he says the more he enjoys it, the longer it takes him - even if it gets cold!)
This way it gives your brain more time to register that you are, in fact, eating - and eating well. It takes a whole 20 minutes for your brain to send out signals of fullness.
Think of the trending notion of intuitive eating and the growing recognition that mindfulness — the art of being present — makes us happier.
These are just the first 5 tips! More to come, as I know Mum wants to talk about walking everywhere and our portion sizes...