Food Combining–Don’t the French Get It?!

Eating a Salad Nicoise for lunch today I was struck by an odd thing: This classic French salad features both tuna and potatoes—a protein and a carb. Don’t the French know about food combining—the eating approach that says proteins and carbs are never to be seen together on the same plate? Oh and by the way, my Nicoise, came with a hard-boiled egg, too!

I’m sure this isn’t the only nutritional faux pas the French have committed. Surely you’ve read about all the fat in their diets. And all that wine they drink. And the desserts—ooh lah lah. Calories, calories and more calories.

Despite these flagrant violations of the Laws of Good Nutrition, the fact remains that the French don’t have an obesity problem. So what gives?

A couple things come to mind: First, this salad (and French food in general) is made with real food: lettuce, olives, tomatoes, egg, tuna and potatoes. No factory formed foods to add cheap bulk, no chemical preservatives to keep the potatoes white, no artificial flavorings sprinkled over the top to titillate our taste buds—just foods straight from the earth.

What also comes to mind is the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. Although Ms. Guiliano is a high-powered businesswoman in the wine industry, she has taken it on herself to share the simple secrets followed by French women to maintain a healthy weight. Striking about the secrets is how down to earth and practical they are. There’s no fancy weighing of food portions, no calculating grams of protein, no body fat assessments, no obsession over vitamin counts, no reading food labels, and so on.

There’s simply eating—really high quality food (that is automatically rich in all the nutrients we need) eaten in small amounts (which automatically regulates calories) and that is enjoyed supremely (the coup de grace that allows French women to eat practically anything.)

No doubt this kind of talk sounds like heresy to American women (and men) who are steeped in nutrion-ese. How can we possibly just eat?

I joke about how ours is probably the first and only culture over the history of humans and the face of the earth that has to re-learn how to just eat:

  • foods that come straight from the earth—or as close as possible thereto,
  • without anxiety over fat content, sodium milligrams and so on,
  • without worrying about daily protein requirements, food combining, and so on,
  • with spectacular relish and gusto and enjoyment, and then
  • not eating when we are full and waiting until we are hungry to eat again.

Can you imagine engaging in such outrageously sacrilegious behavior? Flies smack dab in the face of the “Religion of Nutrition.” That’s what Michael Pollen (Omnivore’s Dilemma) calls the fervor that has corrupted the daily act of eating.

So here’s a thought:  Consider being a revolutionary. Eating real and simple is a mild form of revolution that could be pretty enjoyable to engage in!

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