The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook: How to eat and stay slimTelegraph, May 2010
By Xanthe Clay
If you want to be slim and healthy, get cooking. That's the philosophy of Mireille Guiliano, the New York-based author of the best-selling French Women Don't Get Fat and a new companion cookbook.
We already know that cooking allows us to control our intake of fat, sugar and salt, which are often hidden in ready made foods. But it's more than that. As Guiliano explains over the phone from her Manhattan home, it changes your relationship with food, making it "not your enemy but your friend".
Another benefit is pointed out by Michael Pollan, the campaigning American food journalist, in his recent book Food Rules. "If you bake dessert yourself, you won't go to that much trouble every day," Pollan advises. Fattening ready-made treats are just too easy.
Guiliano admires Pollan, but says: "He has a scientific approach. I'm more common sense." She is full of good tips and, although she is former president of a champagne house (Veuve Clicquot), her recipes don't demand a champagne lifestyle, as she is quick to point out. "Lots of great things are relatively inexpensive. Work with them," she says.
To boost the flavour of food without piling on the calories, she recommends adding herbs and spices, lemon juice and vinegar which is "very good for your skin, hair and how you feel". Use honey rather than sugar, because as well as sweetness "you can choose from so many flavours".
The British, Guiliano says, are ahead of the Americans who "watch food programmes on television but can't boil an egg". She should know, having lived in the Cotswolds, Sussex and the Lake District while her husband, an expert on Victorian British literature, did research.
"I love British food!'' she exclaims. ''You have wonderful restaurants and amazing produce."
She occasionally allows herself a spoonful or two of sticky toffee pudding and still maintains her neat size-six figure. The yin and yang of her recipes are pleasure and moderation –portion control and "balancing the books" calorie-wise at the end of the day and the week.
Best of all, a glass of wine is positively encouraged. One of Guiliano's chapters is even entitled Once in a while a little Champagne. Now that's a diet anyone can stick to.
HOW TO EAT LIKE A FRENCH WOMAN
According to Mireille Guiliano, the rules of healthy, delicious eating come in threes:
* Eat three proper meals – breakfast, lunch and supper – but don't snack in between. Limit carbohydrates and sugar (including fructose-laden fruit juice) at breakfast and don't skip lunch or you'll overeat at supper.
* Make dinner a three course affair. Changing plates helps the meal last longer and feel more special, and the first and last course can be no more than a chopped tomato and a sliced pear.
* Make sure the main course has three colours on the plate. It makes nutritional sense and "food should be enjoyed visually too", Guiliano says.
* Include some protein, fat and carbohydrate in every meal.
* Consider the three Ps – Pleasure, Portion and Plan. Enjoy your food, eating slowly, keep portion size sensible, bearing in mind that the first three mouthfuls are the most pleasurable. Exercise regularly and drink plenty of water.