“It happened to me; I did get fat,” admits Mireille Guiliano.
“So I knew, I had experience of what it felt like – and it wasn’t a nice feeling,” she explains about the events that lead to her pen the now world-renowned book French Women Don’t Get Fat.
“In those days no one knew about calories and nutrition and all that,” the author says of her struggle to lose weight while living in the US. “Fortunately we had a little family doctor who helped me out, very sensitively and sensibly, by basically putting me back on track to the way my mother brought us up and eating the French lifestyle.”
What exactly that meant is a question that puzzled many women around the world at first.
“Eat well, don’t deprive yourself but eat small portions. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, drink a lot of water, eat lots of dairy products, do some walking and movement everyday and try to cook so that you learn about what you’re putting into your body,” the writer explains about her French-inspired diet.
But what about all the notorious French pastries, sauces and cheeses, aren’t they full of saturated fats and sugars?
“People have this misconception that we eat like three croissant everyday. We don’t! We pick our moments. For breakfast, most of my French female friends – the French women who don’t get fat – will have yoghurt, half a banana or a piece of toast with a sliver of butter and some jam and that’s it,” argues Guiliano.
“It’s changed a lot actually! If anything French chefs are trained in nutrition and are working much more with juices and using very little butter and very little sugar, even in the pastry shops,” explaining that the croissant of today’s differs greatly from what we’re used to.
“You can eat a French pastry and compare it to the same pastry in 10 different countries and it’s like a third of the sugar that you’re used to. A croissant in New York weighs about twice as a much, they look greasy and you can tell they are not using the best ingredients like good quality butter,” she attests.
Good, fresh quality ingredients in their purest form are at the heart of eating the French lifestyle the author believes, but that needn’t mean blowing the grocery budget.
“It’s a fallacy that people think you have to buy only expensive ingredients, No! Just use fresh ingredients. When you see the pieces of all this junk food and coffee for $8 in the shops, you don’t need all that,” says the author, adding that the emphasis should simply be on consuming more greens, more wholefoods and most importantly including more colour on your plate.
“The dish for the French people is a very sensual thing, because we are very sensual people and the way it looks before we taste or eat anything is very important. It’s always struck me about the Anglo-Saxon world is you don’t have any colour; it’s all either white or beige or brown but not enough greens, that has to change. It’s starting but slowly, too slowly for me! We have a major, major problem in the developed world with obesity and it’s not getting better” says the passionate foodie.
Sourcing food from local markets or farmers, or growing your ingredients and knowing where they come from, is also part and parcel with the French lifestyle, Guiliano couldn’t live without her local market – only frequenting her local supermarket for non-essentials like toilet paper. “If you buy quality products there’s very little you need to do to them to make them taste good, I use very little oil or butter when cooking, you don’t need it,” Guiliano says arguing that the better the quality ingredient the better the taste and all the more better for you.
“You need to know what you’re putting in to your body. When you buy prepared food you have no idea… even when you read the label. In France, now they even put numbers like E207 what ‘s that supposed to mean? Like artificial flavour? A chemical? Then they wonder why people are getting so many diseases like allergies and asthma or cancer – all of this is coming form the junk food that we put in our bodies,” Guiliano maintains.
So what foods couldn’t this French woman live without?
“If I had to promote three things in life to eat it would be yoghurt, oysters and chocolate – good quality of course. They are all high in protein, have little fat and they are the healthiest foods on the planet,” Guilliano says adding that the only natural yoghurt is that which contains two ingredients: milk and culture.
“There’s not a day when I don’t eat cheese. Yoghurt? I simply couldn’t live without yoghurt. Dairy is a part of our culture, we are cheese country, and we have more cheese than days in the year in France,” says the Dairy Australia ambassador who maintains French women eat up to two serves of yoghurt or cheese a day adding that it’s a great way to stave off hunger.
Mirelle’s magical breakfast recipe:
Place ½ cup Greek yoghurt in a bowl; add to that 1-teaspoon of flaxseed oil (or any other flavour you like), 1-2 tablespoons of lemon or citrus juice, 1-teaspoon honey.
In a food processor, grind together 2-tabelspoons finely ground cereal (that contains 0 sugar and 0 salt) 2 teaspoons of nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans), lightly toasted.
Sprinkle the mixture on top of the yoghurt and serve with some in season fruit like a handful of blueberries or half banana etc.
TIP: The cereal, nut mixture can be made in larger batches and stored in an airtight container for use over the next few days.