General Health Friday September 4, 2015

What Can The French Teach Us About Healthy Eating?

Bonjour mes amis. J'aime le chocolat and les pains au chocolat.

I'm not sure that's exactly what French citizens would say, because they are a pretty healthy nation. Their levels of obesity are a good deal lower and diabetes is not so prevalent, despite the fact they eat real butter, cheese and other artery enemies. Why might this be? Is taking a two hour lunch break for a salad, crusty bread roll and glass of table wine the way to go, or is this not what the French do in reality?

Here's how the French deal with food and what we can learn from them.

They eat at mealtimes. That's three meals a day without snacking. Children may have an afterschool snack - either fruit or a pain au chocolat (I knew it) but they eat properly at mealtimes. When mealtimes come around everyone is hungry and eats all their food.

Good portion size. By skipping the snacks the French can eat more at mealtimes, a starter, main and dessert. Conversely, this helps them avoid snacking.

Although the French are well known for wine, at mealtimes they usually drink sparkling or still water. They don't drink their calories or indulge in fizzy drinks, beer or spirits that often.

Eating is done at the table. The French don't eat on the go, in their cars, in a lay-by or at their desk. Tasks are delineated. Eating is one of these. You eat at the table and don't use Facebook in the office. Everything has a place. That's just the way it is.

The main meal is lunchtime. Dinner is something light such as salad, soup or an omelette with fruit or yogurt as a dessert. This stops those calories piling up overnight, and helps them to sleep as well.

Food is not conjured up when the kitchen is closed.

Talking about food instils an interest in what they are eating. Even children join in with guessing the ingredients at mealtimes. If you talk about what you are eating it heightens the senses and you'll enjoy your food more. The French make time for food. This stops them obsessing like a stray cat outside KFC.

They cook! Cooking builds a sense of appreciation. The French cook well and their children join in, so cooking becomes fun and they learn how to make good tasty food. It's also healthier and often cheaper to put together your own dinner rather than relying on a processed meal with a can of fizzy something. French children learn about healthy food from an early age and carry it through their lives.

Eating is a pleasurable task, not a chore or a hobby. If you make like the French you'll eat good, whole food slowly, talk about the flavour and really enjoy it. Stuffing down a supermarket pizza as you look at your iPad is a short cut to eating too much because your brain won't realise it's full.

We can all take some tips from the French. Food is a pleasure. Appreciating food and eating slowly with your family at the table may be the only dietary tips we need.

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