A Fork in the Road: European Eating Beyond the Mediterranean Diet

Americans love fad diets. There is a long history of attaching ourselves to the next fad, dating back to the Vinegar diet in 1820. (No wonder I am constantly being asked to find a quick fix to the growing obesity epidemic in our country.) However, this is not the case in Europe where food culture and traditions hold fast against the deep pockets of the weight loss industry. Europeans have an innate sense to diet sensibly without falling victim to the 40 billion dollar weight loss industry that we Americans buy into year after year.

Eiffel tower food

Luckily, the tide may be turning in the U.S. The Federal Trade Commission recently announced an initiative against deceptive claims made by marketers of fad weight loss products. From food additives to dietary supplements, the government is making a move to intervene and crack down on deceptive and misleading propaganda.

This may take years so to implement, so until then let’s turn to the diet and habits of Europe’s three healthiest countries: Switzerland, Italy, and France. These countries are leaders in longevity with low rates of heart disease obesity and other chronic illnesses. It’s easy to adapt a European style of eating beyond the Mediterranean diet, cutting back on sugar, breaking the habit of emotional eating, and putting an end to oversized portions without giving up our beloved chocolate!

Here are 4 ways to eat like a European:

  1. Cut back on sugar: Give up processed and packaged foods and opt for whole fruits to satisfy your sweet tooth. For example, juice two fresh oranges or slice an orange instead of pouring an 8-ounce glass of bottled orange juice. Bake an apple or poach a pear for dessert instead of digging into a store-bought cake full of refined sugar and white flour.
  2. Break the habit of emotional eating: Find new ways to soothe and calm yourself. Write down the non-caloric activities that make you feel better, like sipping herbal tea or connecting with a friend or family member over a relaxing cup of coffee (dodging the super-sized muffin).
  3. Put an end to oversized portions: Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, a teaspoon and salad fork to replace a tablespoon and dinner fork, and use narrow drinking glasses. Follow the rules of the super-healthy plate by filling half of your plate with lightly dressed vegetables and salads. This will make the plate look fuller when reducing portions of protein and starchy foods. If you’re in the mood for a breakfast croissant, choose quality over quantity. A true French croissant weighs about an ounce and measures 15 inches around, which works out to 115 calories. The American super-sized version measures 18.5 inches around, weighs almost two ounces and increases caloric load to about 300 calories.
  4. Don’t give up chocolate: Chocolate has been enjoyed since 1100 BC. Besides, cocoa contains iron, antioxidants for heart health and serotonin that reduces appetite and prevents depression. (However, keep in mind that not all chocolate is “good chocolate“.)Excerpted from Beyond The Mediterranean Diet:Indulge in as much pure (organic) cocoa as your heart desires, or have a small square of dark chocolate—at least 70 percent cocoa—once a day. When you choose one square of good quality dark chocolate, rather than one king-sized candy bar, your waistline will reflect your change in size, and your taste buds will be more satisfied too!

Bon appétit et une bonne santé



Layne Lieberman, RD, is a culinary nutritionist and author of Beyond The Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets Of The Super-Healthy.


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