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European Health Secrets

Boulder author Layne Lieberman dishes on Swiss, French, and Italian diet tips

Beyond the Mediterranean

Paleo. Gluten-free. Raw foods. Which of these dietary trends have you or someone you know tested in the recent past? Award-winning culinary nutritionist and Boulder-based author Layne Lieberman, RD, believes the key to a healthy lifestyle is simpler than these passing fads. While living in Switzerland, she discovered the eating habits that allow the Swiss to enjoy the second longest lifespan worldwide after the Japanese. Now back in Boulder, she has shared the lifestyle secrets she learned abroad in her self-published book, “Beyond The Mediterranean Diet: European Secrets Of The Super-Healthy,” a finalist in the Health/Wellness category of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Layne Lieberman

Author Layne Lieberman

The European Lifestyle

All of these “secrets” revolve around a very different lifestyle than we’re accustomed to in the U.S. During her time in Switzerland, Lieberman befriended the locals, dined with them, and observed how they lived their lives firsthand. She found many core differences, including the way they shopped, exercised, and ate. Instead of doing one big shop a week, Europeans went to the store on nearly a daily basis to pick up fresh ingredients. They source high-quality local ingredients, because largely, that’s what’s available to them. And for the most part, she found that Europeans don’t go to gyms. Instead, they’re getting exercise by walking around pedestrian-friendly cities and towns, and exploring the mountains.

A Different Way of Eating

On the culinary side, Lieberman discovered that Europeans cook at home much more frequently than Americans, in part because of the expense. They build their meals around produce, with smaller portions of pasta and meat, and they’re not eating dessert every night.

But it’s also about ingredient quality. Rather than load up on processed foods, Europeans seek out high-quality ingredients. The Slow Food movement bloomed in Rome, and Italians are one of the largest producers of organic produce in the world. At bars there, greasy food isn’t what prevails–rather, patrons can enjoy spreads of vegetables and salads.

So What’s the Secret?

The question Lieberman sets out to answer in her book, is: “How is it that these cultures can be slim without going gluten-free or not eating cheese—without depriving themselves?” However, she does more than just document how the Swiss, Italians, and French eat and live. She recontextualizes the secrets she learned in American culture. “It’s really about how we bring it home,” Lieberman says. Luckily, for Coloradans, our lifestyle is already a little more similar than other regions of the U.S. to that of Europe thanks to our proximity to the Rockies. “Their culture is based on weekends hiking in the mountains,” Lieberman says of the Swiss. “They’re oriented much like people in Colorado.”

“Beyond the Mediterranean Diet” is a rich tapestry of reflections, tips, and 50 recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, and dessert that empowers readers to be healthy all while enjoying bread, cheese, pasta, and chocolate. Lieberman shared a few of her secrets with fellow Coloradans, and a recipe from the book.

Smoked Salmon Spread

4 Secrets of “Beyond The Mediterranean Diet”

1. The Swiss eat one to two servings of dairy or protein daily. One serving might be an egg, an ounce of reduced fat cheese, or a quarter cup of fresh cheese, like ricotta or farmer’s. “A lot of their cheeses are fresh and lower in fat,” Lieberman says.

2. Italians learn to count carbs by instinct. “If they eat a bowl of pasta, they’ll only eat a little bit of bread to sop up the sauce at the end of their meal,” explains Lieberman. Learn to include about four to six servings of carbs per day. What’s a serving? A half cup of cooked pasta, a slice of bread, or three ounces of potato, for example.

3. French chefs have a technique of spooning the sauce on the bottom of the plate, rather than on top of the food. This allows you to control how much sauce you eat—and sauce can often be glutted with salt, butter, and sugar. “You can do it with salads or desserts, too,” Lieberman suggests.

4. Got a sweet tooth? Before reaching for cookies or cake, try to satisfy your craving with organic, seasonal fruit or chocolate. “Indulge in pure organic cocoa, which is low in calories and fat and highly nutritious,” Lieberman says, “or have a small square of dark chocolate with at least 70-percent cocoa content once a day.”

Chocolate Tofu Banana Mousse

Photo Credit: Layne Lieberman (All Rights Reserved)

Beyond Mediterranean Recipes

Lieberman shared with us a couple of her favorite recipes from the book. Here are a few to try at home:

Smoked Salmon Spread

Chocolate Tofu Banana Mousse


For more “Beyond The Mediterranean Diet” wisdom and recipes, order Lieberman’s book online, or visit her website for more information.

By Maya Silver | Editor