Jenny Craig est arrivée in France! Can you believe it! America has triumphed at last. I have a BETTER diet solution for you today, but first, this just in:
Yes, some of the French are overweight--call it American Creep. And yes, a few of them are actually signing up for pre-packaged food, an anathema to the French diet. It may not sound like a fun read, but it is: last week in the NY Times Susan Dominus wrote about Jenny Craig's French debut, and she interviews the French marketing exec charged with selling this totally un-French way of eating to the French. It’s entertaining, if you're a student of the French character as I am, to hear Madame the exec get her tongue all tangled up trying to justify this distinctly American plan while haughtily defending the superior French diet.
Which got us thinking about les regimes, since that same American Creep has slipped in chez nous, after a few rounds of visitors and trips lately. Alors, time for a tune-up!
When I need a diet tune-up, I loosely follow the diet that I’ve stolen from my dear friend Sandi. It worked well for her, and it works great for me also. While it isn’t French per se, it happens to have many elements of the French way of eating: a French breakfast, no snacking, lots of fruit, and no suffering. The French, as you know, don’t do suffering, especially when it comes to food. PHOTO, from a beach at Nice: Time to play the diet card.
Here is the very simple plan. Do le petit déjeuner the French way: coffee or tea, plus a tartine (baguette split lengthwise) or toast with jam. The main trick is lunch: you fix yourself a huge, delicious fresh fruit smoothie, recipe below. Fun AND filling! (Being a gourmand, I confess I sometimes have a small salad, some good whole wheat bread, or raw veggies at lunch with my smoothie). Then you eat a generous but healthy dinner, with lean meat or fish with a couple of veggies, maybe a lightly dressed salad, perhaps a whole grain starch that’s not too loaded with fat. Here we're talking whole grain pasta, grains, grits, potatoes, etc. (I often skip the meat and go with several veggies). And that’s it. Dessert should be a special event, like when you go out for a nice dinner, but that yummy smoothie is going to help with sugar cravings. Snack if you must, only once in the afternoon or with your apperos,. Snacks should be healthy, like a handful of nuts or some crudités. Cheese is off the menu for a while, except occasionally (Note that the French seldom use cheese in cooking as we do, and when they eat it, always after a meal, the portions are small. Also they eat it not on a fattening cracker but on a low-fat baguette. So go with that plan if you get cheese-obcessed). PHOTO: "I'm not fat, I'm fluffy!" Painting spotted at a Burgundy flea market.
My other very favorite French diet trick is to drink my coffee/tea on a schedule, the way the natives do. LIke this: a cup with breakfast, then at the end of lunch, and one 4-ish if you like, and maybe one after dinner, especially if you’re trying to resist dessert. Not only is it a filling way to round out a meal, but also if you take coffee on a schedule it also becomes a psychological signal to your mind and body. It says to you, "OK, You are done eating until the next time!" This works SO well, especially if you make not just any old watered down coffee but an excellent, rich expresso (we are totally addicted to our Nespresso machine) with just a touch of sugar.
Now, here is how to make Sandi’s smoothies that are good enough to be Lunch. And we'd love to hear your summer diet tips!
RECIPE: Sublime Smoothies
To make a “lunch” smoothie, do the following: Your main ingredient is going to be lots of fresh fruit. Then add a carton of lowfat yougurt, a little fruit juice or milk (just enough to get the blender whirring away), flavoring if desired (e.g. vanilla or almond extract), and a handful of ice cubes to make it cold and a little bit slushy. I find that adding some banana to a smoothie will give it a thicker, milkshake-like texture. Throw it all in the blender and you’re done. Anybody lurking around is likely to steal a slurp or three, so you may as well make a big one.
My favorite smoothis this week is a take on pina coladas.
Fill blender half full of fresh pineapple. Add some light coconut milk and coconut yogurt, and a splash of lime juice. Add half a banana or a handful of strawberries, and ice cubes.
There are a zillion other good combos. Summer peaches are out and they make the best smoothies ever. Try cantaloupe with blueberries; watermelon and banana; strawberries with kiwi and orange juice; coffee or caramel yogurt with bananas, and so on. Add lemon yogurt for a zing, or Greek yogurt for richness. Happy, healthy dieting!
Favorite Reads/Films: Also in the NY Times this week, food guru Mark Bittman talks about the lastest diet research in his excellent article Which Diet Works? In movie news, I'm sure I'm the last person still standing who hasn't seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is out on DVD in Europe and available for pre-order in the US. I'm waiting for Apple to offer it, but in the meantime I've ordered the book the movie was based on, which was originally called These Foolish Things. Can anyone recommend it?
Meanwhile in our corner of the world we're all excited about seeing The Vintner's Luck, a New Zealand movie, obviously with a major wine theme, which will be at our little theater in Cluny next week-end. It was filmed in part at the magnificant château Berzé-le-Chatel, which is just down the road from us. Note to US buyers: you can order it, but you have to have a multi-region DVD player to watch it. You can see the trailer, with a peek at the châteu, here.