French women are known for their slim figures, despite their fondness for cheese, croissants and wine, and the secret to their trim waistlines has long been a subject of fascination.
Now, a new diet meal delivery service aims to prove that you can dine on crêpes for breakfast, pasta for lunch and beef bourguignon followed by chocolate mousse for dinner, and lose weight at the same time.
As well as bread and pasta, even cheese and alcohol is on the menu – as long as you stick to the recommended portion sizes.
Busy mother-of-three Natalie Brown, 38, from Hove, East Sussex, put Dietbon to the test to see if it could help her shift her ‘mum tum’ ahead of slipping into a bikini on holiday.
Natalie Brown, 38, (pictured after) gave her verdict on the Dietbon weightloss plan which has been praised by dieters in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain
Natalie, pictured before she started the Dietbon plan (left), wanted to get rid of her ‘mum tum’ ahead of going on holiday. Right: After four weeks on the Dietbon plan, Natalie had lost 9lbs and inches off her waist
Since having my third child and returning to work in 2017, it’s fair to say life has been hectic.
In our house, it’s the adults’ main meal of the day that’s often the last thing that gets thought about at the end of a busy working day.
Having fallen into a cycle of eating the kids’ leftovers or ordering takeaway, piling on the pounds on top of my three-times mum tum in the process, it was high time to get back on track. Could Dietbon be the answer?
As a busy mum, the concept appealed to me on a number of levels: no food is restricted, as long as you stick to your quota of calories each day; and the microwave meals are ready in just two minutes, so there’s barely any meal prep involved.
Created in 2014, the Dietbon programme is customised to each dieter following a phone consultation with a Dietbon dietician based in France.
A typical day on the Dietbon plan
Breakfast: 1 Dietbon breakfast product + 1 low-fat or natural yoghurt + 1 portion of fresh fruit (+ 50g of bread on the men’s programme)
Lunch: 1 Dietbon slimming meal + 1 Dietbon fruit compote or dessert
Snack: 1 Dietbon snack product + 1 low-fat or natural yoghurt
Dinner: 1 Dietbon slimming meal + 1 portion of raw or lightly cooked vegetables (+ 1 portion of fresh fruit on the men’s programme)
‘The theory is it’s all about helping you rebalance – in French we say “rééquilibrage”, Dietbon nutritionist Charlotte Debeugny told me.
It’s all about balancing your food intake in a healthy and nourishing way.
The meals contain all the food groups so it’s not like it’s low carb, and it’s not like it’s a protein shake. It’s based on the pleasure of eating real meals created and designed by French chefs.’
You can choose from one month, two month, three month and four month plans from £44 a week.
To put it in context, that’s from £7 a day for three Dietbon meals and a snack, delivery and your dietary consultation.
During the consultation they will talk through your lifestyle and weight loss goals with you, tailoring the plan to suit your needs – in my case 1,200 calories a day.
Following my phone consultation with Charlotte – who’s also on hand to offer dietary support with a 30-minute phone call for each month you’re on the plan – I could log on to the Dietbon website and pick my meals.
There are 80 to choose from, so it’s easy to avoid anything you don’t like.
I opted for crêpes for breakfast, which I could supplement with one yoghurt and a portion of fresh fruit each day; pasta dishes including pesto & goats’ cheese raviolini for lunch, and beef bourguignon or Sauté de Poulet rôti (roast chicken) for dinner.
All the meals are 100 per cent natural – so no additives, preservatives or artificial colourings – and no GM ingredients, artificial sweeteners or palm oil is used either.
Natalie, pictured before trying the diet plan, had got into the bad habit of finishing off her children’s leftovers and ordering takeaways (left). After eating Dietbon meals for a month, Natalie was a dress size smaller (right)
You can add as many raw and lightly cooked vegetables to your meals as you like.
And I was pleased to see a whole host of pouched snacks and desserts too, from chocolate covered cereal bars and linseed & poppy seed shortbread, to apple compote, and chocolate mousse too.
‘What we’re doing is portion control, which is an issue for so many people,’ explained Charlotte.
‘The average woman needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain her weight, and the programme comes in at around 1,200 calories a day. In theory that’s enough for more than a pound in weight loss a week.
‘We’ve invested a lot of resources in coming up with food that tastes good,’ said Charlotte. ‘It should already be perfectly seasoned and we’ve got a three-star Michelin chef involved.’
Everything you need for the month arrives in one delivery and it’s all ambient, so there’s no need to worry about clearing fridge space, and you can leave it all in a box in the corner of the kitchen.
Be prepared to cast your mind back to French lessons at school though – all the packaging is in French, including the cooking instructions.
Dietbon nutritionist Charlotte Debeugny, told Natalie that Dietbon teaches portion control, this boeuf bourguignon (pictured) was one of Natalie’s dinner choices
For breakfast Natalie indulged in crepes with yoghurt and kiwi (pictured), a three-star Michelin chef was involved in crafting Dietbon meals
Natalie (pictured after) revealed the hardest part of following Dietbon is being only allowed one small glass of wine each week
As well as the speed with which the Dietbon meals are ready, the other thing that appealed – and intrigued me – is the fact you only actually follow the plan for six days a week.
The seventh day is a ‘free’ day where you can make your own choices, designed to help you get to grips with the management of meals.
‘We try to give you a free day off so you’ve got some flexibility around your social life,’ says Charlotte.
‘Other plans are quite fixed, but we also try not to tell you when to eat. You’ve got your four products and you add your yoghurt and fruits and vegetables, but you can eat them according to your appetite.’
For me the hardest part of the diet was only being allowed one (small) glass of wine a week (you can have two if you’re a man).
I decided to use my ‘free’ day half way through my plan in order to break the week up, which helped make it seem more manageable and meant I was only actually ‘dieting’ for three days before having the opportunity to be a little less strict.
Natalie (pictured before) decided to have a free day half way through the week to feel as if she was only dieting for three days at a time
Natalie (pictured after with her daughter Marigold) lost 9.7lbs and dropped from a UK size 12 to a UK size 10 within 28 days
Natalie (pictured after) believes reducing the amount of bread she eats was key to her weightloss and feeling less bloated
So how did I get on? After four weeks on the Dietbon plan I lost 4.4 kilos – that’s 9.7lbs – in weight, which is actually more than the 2lbs a week they say you can.
What surprised me most, though, was the inch loss. I lost a whole two inches from around my waist in just 28 days, dropping from a dress size 12 to a dress size 10, and I put that inch loss down to one thing: bread – or lack of it.
Although bread does feature on the Dietbon plan – you can choose organic bread rolls as a breakfast option, for example, I didn’t opt for bread with any of my meals.
This meant I didn’t eat any bread for a whole month, and what was interesting was that within just a few days I felt lighter and less bloated.
I genuinely think the removal of bread from my diet contributed to, if not accounted for, the inch loss while I was on the plan.
Would I do it again? Oui! If you’ve got an event or holiday to slim down for I think the Dietbon plan is a healthy quick fix option that doesn’t involve replacing meals or cutting whole food groups out.
And if you’ve got more weight to lose – or a mum tum like mine – over a longer period of time I think it’s a healthy, enjoyable and flexible way to go about shedding any extra pounds. After all, there’s a reason why they say French women don’t get fat.