In the US, we typically celebrate New Year’s with an abundance of gourmet food and drink to symbolize prosperity in the coming year. I’m not about to get between you and your coming prosperity so let’s gourmet it up! Bet you never thought a dietitian would be telling you to do that, right? Few know gourmet as well as the French. Ironically, France also has one of the lowest cardiovascular disease and obesity rates of any industrialized nation. There it is, the catch. This really is a healthy food blog! You might as well keep reading, though, because what follows are great ideas, taken from the French, on how to make your gourmet New Year’s both delicious and healthy.
- Eat real food – You won’t find many highly processed, ready-to-eat foods in most French shopping carts. Gourmet is fresh. Shop primarily around the perimeter of the store where you’ll find fresh produce, breads, dairy, and meats. Your fresh New Year’s dinner can be as simple as pot roast, potatoes, and a greens salad or as fancy as stuffed mushrooms, butternut squash soup, chicken florentine, and hand-dipped chocolate strawberries.
- Spend more time eating – On average, we spend about two thirds (2/3) as long as the French at each meal. Take smaller bites and enjoy more conversation while you eat this New Year’s. You’ll be surprised that you don’t need as much food when you take the time to savor it. Dividing your meal into courses can also help slow your pace and prevent the food from getting cold.
- Reduce portion sizes – Traditional French meals feature more types of food but smaller portions of those foods than most American meals. Make an assortment of dishes for your New Year’s dinner and serve a small portion of each on salad plates. You’ll experience more sensory pleasure from the variety of flavors and consume fewer calories overall from the smaller portion sizes.
- Cut snacking and soda – The French primarily stick to three balanced meals each day and avoid snacking. Sugar-laden soda can be an even greater calorie burden than snack foods. This New Year’s, eat your gourmet dinner and then call it a night. Leave a pitcher of lemon infused water for guests to drink instead of soda. If you do snack, snack on real food. Vegetables and hummus, nuts, or fresh fruit make great snacks.
- Stick to your resolutions – Balance is something the French do very well. There’s nothing wrong with an exquisite and indulgent meal provided you are more prudent the next. Celebrate the passing of a year with good food and start the beginning of the next with resolve to eat healthier.
This New Year’s Eve, and in the year to come, make your food about quality, not quantity. Seek for fresh foods and eating environments that promote maximum enjoyment and moderate intake. Wishing you a healthy and prosperous New Year.