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French eat less

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Secret's Out! How the French Stay Slim

It's not fair. The French eat food that is bathed in thick, creamy sauces and then top it off with rich, buttery desserts. We Americans scarf down steaks on the grill and super-sized baked potatoes. The French definitely consume more fat than Americans, but just 7 percent of the French are obese, compared with 30 percent of Americans.

Question: It's called the "French paradox." Why are Americans so fat and the French so slim?
Answer: The French eat less. A lot less. And they have some lessons to teach Americans on how to eat very well and not gain weight while doing it.

How much less the French eat is actually eye-popping. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania compared typical portion sizes in Paris and Philadelphia on everything from candy bars to take-out food to soft drinks, reports Science Daily. Put a fork in this:

* The average portion size in Paris is 25 percent smaller than in Philadelphia.
* Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia serve meals that are 72 percent larger than Chinese restaurants in Paris.
* A candy bar in Philadelphia is 41 percent larger than the same candy bar sold in Paris.
* A soft drink is 52 percent larger in Philadelphia than in Paris, while a hot dog is 63 percent larger and a carton of yogurt is a whopping 82 percent larger.
* Even the American version of the cookbook "The Joy of Cooking" produced larger meat and soup portions than the French version, "Je Sais Cuisiner." Only vegetable dishes were smaller in the English-language edition.

The French also take a longer time to eat and savor their food, which is a known way to actually eat less. On average, Parisians spent 22 minutes eating their meals at McDonald's, compared to the 14 minutes Philadelphians took to scarf down their Big Macs. (Remember, kids, it's not a race.)

"The results suggest...that if served somewhat less than they would normally eat, people may be satisfied," lead researcher Paul Rozin reported in the journal Psychological Science. But here's the catch. The portions McDonald's and other restaurants serve in France are much smaller than in the United States--so much smaller that most Americans wouldn't buy them. They would think it wasn't a good value for their buck.

What can you do? Cook at home more and when you do go out, eat less by taking half of the meal home for tomorrow's lunch.

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