Book Review: “French Women Don’t Get Fat”

Well…of course some of them do! But that’s not really the point. Mireille Guiliano, a vivacious French women, offers in this charming 2005 classic a safe and sane way to enjoy your food while maintaining both weight and health.

A little about the author: At the time of publication, Ms. Guiliano was the CEO of Clicquot, Inc., an American branch of the French champagne maker. A large part of French Women describes her odyssey as a young woman to the United States in the 1960’s as an exchange student. There, she encountered the largess of American eating: Huge portions, unlimited amounts of carb-rich foods, etc. She ended up gaining about 25 lbs. before returning to France. Ms. Guiliano credits her family doctor with getting her back to a reasonable weight by applying time-honored French dietary principles to her daily menu. I will describe some of these later in this post.

But let me be clear: French Women is not a diet book. Instead, it provides an enjoyable education on how to savor and appreciate food instead of just downing it. Here are some eating tips from Guiliano’s book, and I will provide some examples regarding how I have incorporated them into my life. Yes, I’m a real believer in Ms. Guiliano’s lifestyle.

Portion control. Guiliano points out that the word “menu,” which is of French derivation, actually means “little.” She explains that the typical French menu offers small amounts of various items, rather than one large main dish plopped down in the middle of the plate. This approach to food preparation limits calories while providing satiety through variety.

In my July 26th article entitled “Meze: Mediterranean Appetizers for Lunch,” I provided a photograph of a “menu” style meal, using lunch containers one can easily purchase at the local Walmart.

All of the ingredients in this brown bag lunch are easy to obtain, prepare and pack. The portions are not big, but note the variety in color and texture. From upper left clockwise: Stuffed grape leaves, fresh grape tomatoes, pita chips, low-fat cheddar cheese (Trader Joe’s has the best), hummus.

Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and buy seasonally. Buying seasonally will ensure that your produce items will be at the peak of flavor. For example, summer is the best time for peaches, nectarines, and plums. Some of the tastiest apple varieties come out in autumn and winter. Late spring is a great time for cherries and strawberries.

Display your produce on the kitchen counter. If you purchase apples, don’t just throw them into the frig. I tend to forget all about them unless I can see them in front of me. And refrigeration kills flavor. Instead, consider displaying apples, melons, tomatoes, peaches, pears etc. on your kitchen counter in an attractive bowl. It’ll pretty up your kitchen, and you won’t forget to eat what you spent your hard-earned money on.

Apples I purchased yesterday at Trader Joes

Get the best that money can buy. In French Women, Guiliano emphasizes that bread, chocolate, wine and other delightful carbs are part of the French diet. However, she strongly recommends that if you’re going to consume such items, get the highest quality possible and consume small portions. How do I translate this bit of advice to my life? Well, as much as I like chocolate, I can’t tell you the last time I ate a Snicker’s Bar or Hershey’s Bar. Instead, I prefer the pricier dark chocolate brands like Godiva or Ghirardelli; they just taste better. I get the bags of 70+% dark cocoa chocolate packaged in separately wrapped 1 oz. portions. A couple of bites really satisfy me, because the flavor is so intense. So all I need is one square and I’m done.

Ditto for other foods. When I buy salmon, I get the expensive but tasty wild Pacific species. When I buy chicken, I prefer Empire kosher because the flavor and texture is superior to other brands. Yes, I’m spending more money on food….but I eat less of it because the quality and flavor is more satisfying. If you can afford to go this route, do so.

Try alternatives to salt and pepper. For example, take a good look at the fresh herb section of your produce store and experiment a little. I for one love fresh dill. It adds a delicate grassy flavor to microwave steamed fish. I also enjoy it in tomato and squash stew (see recipe for the latter item in my “Recipes” section, entitled “Squash and Tomato Saute.”) And when I roast a weekend chicken, I always stuff it full of fresh rosemary and lemon slices; it adds so much to the flavor.

Sit down when you eat. To Ms. Guiliano, standing while eating is a HUGE no-no. Make a point of honoring your mealtime by sitting down and savoring the food.


There’s so much more in French Women to talk about, but at this point I would suggest that you purchase the book and enjoy. And I promise that you will. Ms. Guiliano’s writing style is casual, chatty, and fun. French Women Don’t Get Fat can be purchased from in hardcover and Kindle format.

Book Review: “31 Paleo Brown Bag Lunches to Go” by Mary Scott

Many of my FaceBook friends have asked about low carb and paleo recipes for brown bagging. With this in mind, I am recommending 31 Paleo Brown Bag Lunches To Go as an easy way to access recipes for lunch.

Before we go any further, let’s define “paleo diet.” According to

A paleo diet is a dietary plan based on foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, which dates from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago.

A paleo diet typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds–foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering. A paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago. These foods include dairy products, legumes and grains.

“Paleo Diet: What is it and Why is it so Popular?”
Author: Mayo Clinic Staff

Adherence to this diet means no breads or pastas made of grain or legumes; and no dairy items like cows milk, yogurt, or cheese. Also, honey is used as a sweetener instead of cane sugar. Because of the absence of these food groups, the paleo diet will tend to be lower in simple carbohydrates and sugars than other meal plans.

Scott’s book includes paleo versions of sandwiches, salads and hot main dish meals such as chili without beans and taco salad without tortillas. Sandwiches are to be wrapped in lettuce, and at least one recipe for enchiladas substitutes collard greens for the traditional corn tortilla wrap.

Here are some examples of recipes listed:

  • Sandwiches: “Beef Lettuce Wraps,” “Ham Wrap,” Thai Chicken Wraps.”
  • Salads: “Kale Crunch Salad,” “Lemon Salmon Salad,” “Sweet Chicken Salad,” “Stuffed Tomatoes,” “Orange Salad.”
  • Hot main dishes: “Chicken Enchiladas,” “Beef Curry,” “Bacon and Beef Chili.”

While the hot main dishes will require the availability of an office microwave or Hot Logic device, there are also plenty of cold dishes that require less prep. I would strongly recommend that fillings for sandwiches be packed separately from lettuce wraps, to avoid unnecessary sogginess and mess.

Big plus: The author lists detailed nutritional info for each of the recipes.

You can purchase this book on in Kindle ($5.99) or paperback ($7.99) form.

Book Review: “Beating the Lunch Box Blues”

I found Beating the Lunch Box Blues by J.M. Hirsch several years ago while looking for interesting ways to change up my brown bag lunches. I must say that this collection of recipes is quite a gem.

At the time of publication, Mr. Hirsch was the food editor for the Associated Press. He was also dealing with a picky nine-year old son who refused to accept PB&J’s every day for lunch. While acknowledging the limitations that most parents/full-time workers have in preparing lunches for themselves and their children, Hirsch came up with some innovative ways to make meals interesting and easy to prepare.

Pluses: Beating meets my primary requisite for a good cookbook: Lots.Of.Photos. Even better, Hirsch bubbles in useful comments and directions amid his artfully staged pics:

Another plus: Hirsch includes examples of dinner time meals that can be packed for lunch the next day. He is careful to describe # of servings for each recipe. Below, you can see Hirsch’s recipe for Roasted Chicken Thighs with Garlicky White Beans. Easy to make, and interesting ways to use the leftovers. I cooked this dish myself; it’s not bad.

Finally, I love Hirsch’s innovation in deconstructing classic sandwiches and remaking them into salads. Below is just one example of many:

Minus. Hirsch recommends using a heated Thermos for meats, pastas, and other relatively dry dishes listed elsewhere in his book. In my experience, even the most effective Thermos works best with liquidy foods like soup, stew, and brothy noodles. Otherwise, the food just doesn’t stay warm over a long period of time. I would suggest using a Crockpot Lunch Warmer to heat meats, pastas, pizzas, sandwiches, rice dishes, etc. in this book. Please see “Gadgets” under my Category section for information re: the Crockpot Warmer.

If you are interested in purchasing Beating the Lunch Box Blues, it is sold hardcopy on