Friday, May 13, 2011

Is Eating Like the French a Good Idea?

The image that often comes to mind when we think of French women is that they are high-fashion, ultra stylish and, of course, thin. There are even books out there to help explain the phenomenon of how French women stay slim and how we can all do the same by following their examples. The odd part about all this is that French cuisine is some of the most rich and indulgent fare out there. Staples of French cooking include everything ‘real’ and from the earth – heavy cream, eggs, butter, bread, cheese and meats including duck and foie gras. And don’t forget about wine – there’s plenty of that too. And the sweets; Oh my! French pastries are some of the most simple yet decadent and indulgent in the world. So even though they look slim and vibrant on the exterior – what’s going on inside? Are they really healthy?

French researchers were curious to know exactly how and what the French eat, and how this relates to their risk of developing chronic diseases. The study called Nutrinet- Santé is following the eating habits of 500,000 people over a 5 year time span. So far, what has been found is that 61% of the participants are regular snackers. While that is actually great, since eating in smaller amounts of food in regular intervals is good for the metabolism, it isn’t so great if the snack choices are not healthy ones. In this case, it turns out that the French have got a mean sweet tooth! According to the study, close to a quarter of the calories consumed by the French on a daily basis come from carbohydrate-rich sweets, cakes and pastries. I won’t lie – if I lived there, I would most likely do the same.

The study is still unfinished, so we’ll have to sit tight and wait to find out what all this sweet snacking means for our health. In the meantime, as I mentioned, healthy snacking is a great way to stay lean and trim if we make the right choices. Some excellent high-protein choices include egg whites, cottage cheese with fruit, tuna and even low-sodium beef jerky! In addition, there are plenty of lower-calorie protein bars and low sugar granola bars, in addition to low-cal protein shakes for people who need something nutritious on the go. A tablespoon of peanut butter spread over apple, pear or banana slices is a sweet and salty snack that is sure to keep you full and satisfied in between meals.

You can also pack some light string cheese, low-sodium and calorie popcorn, or tuna and crackers on the go. Fruit or veggie sticks on their own or with a little bit of hummus or peanut butter are a no-fail fan favourite. And lastly, since May long weekend and summer are just around the corner, you might find yourself on a patio enjoying a drink or two in the sunshine. In those scenarios, reach for a Molson 67 at only 67 calories per bottle of light beer like Bud, Coors or Corona light at just about 100 calories per 12 oz bottle.

Healthy snacking doesn’t have to be hard, even if you’ve got a sweet tooth. It’s amazing how quickly that sweet tooth disappears once you start making healthier choices and eating a little bit more protein in your diet. Even if we don’t eat like the French, we can look just as good (or better) if we make the right choices!