What to serve for supper?

US First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack introduce a new way to eat healthy every day.

Choose my plate 521 (photo credit: choosemyplate.gov)
Choose my plate 521
(photo credit: choosemyplate.gov)
It’s the question many of us ponder every day – how to prepare a meal that will be satisfying, nutritious and hopefully tasty as well.
To help people solve this daily dilemma, US First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, recently introduced a new food icon, MyPlate, which replaces the famous food pyramid.
“When Mom or Dad comes home from a long day of work, we’re already asked to be a chef, a referee, a cleaning crew,” said Obama. “So it’s tough to be a nutritionist, too. But we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. As long as they’re half full of fruits and vegetables, and paired with lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, we’re golden. That’s how easy it is.”
The plate is divided in four to represent the major food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins; a glass of milk next to the plate stands for the fifth group, dairy foods.
When you click on the plate at the site choosemyplate.gov, you get more details. Protein foods, for example, consist of meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, soy foods, nuts and seeds.
The simplified symbol seeks to help solve another problem: People “are bombarded by so many nutrition messages that it makes it difficult to focus on changes that are necessary to improve their diet,” said Vilsack.
Some key messages that MyPlate seeks to convey:
• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
• Make at least half your grains are whole grains.
• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
To plan each portion of your plate, you can find specific advice:
• Eat red, orange and dark-green vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
• Choose 100-percent whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice and pasta.
• Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate. Especially important are omega 3-rich fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines.
• Eat beans, which are a natural source of fiber and protein.
• Keep meat and poultry portions small and lean.
• Eat fruit, vegetables or unsalted nuts as snacks – they are nature’s original fast foods.
• Try calcium-fortified soy products as an alternative to dairy foods.
• To avoid over-eating, use a smaller plate!
I FIND these principles easy to put into practice. At home we like to eat a wide variety of foods to enjoy many tastes and to benefit from a broader selection of nutrients. We choose vegetarian proteins, such as beans, more often than meats because legumes have almost no saturated fat. Frequently we eat a hearty soup with plenty of vegetables as a main course; soups like this help us feel satisfied with fewer calories because of their high proportion of liquid. To make salads enticing, we use healthy fats in the form of nuts, avocados and olives, as well as modest amounts of olive oil or nut oils.
Barbara Rolls, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan, gives useful tips on how to sneak extra vegetables into your day:
• Practice preventative eating: Have cut-up veggies handy on a plate with low-fat dressing, salsa or humous, and munch on them while you’re making dinner, instead of reaching for a piece of cheese or chips. Both adults and kids are more likely to eat vegetables if they are already sliced.
• Learn to love your microwave – it cooks vegetables in just a few minutes.
• Snack on baby carrots, celery sticks or baby tomatoes at work.
• Add fresh, canned or frozen vegetables to dishes you like, such as pasta and pizza. Add vegetables to sandwiches, too – tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, sweet peppers, grated carrots and dark green lettuces like romaine. Add tomatoes, radishes, celery and sweet peppers to tuna or chicken salad.
Although some fats are beneficial, Jessie Price, author of The Simple Art of EatingWell Cookbook (with the EatingWell Test Kitchen), comments that all fats are best used in moderation because they are high in calories. To make this easy, use nonstick or cast-iron skillets “so you can cook with teaspoons of oil rather than tablespoons...
Try replacing some of the butter in baked goods with better-for-you canola oil.”
To make healthy food that is flavorful, use plenty of spices, herbs and citrus, wrote Price. When using less “virtuous” seasonings like cheese or smoked meats, Price advocates choosing “varieties with big flavor like extra-sharp Cheddar cheese” or super-smoky meats.
“That way you can add a moderate amount to your food for the highest impact.”
Of all the MyPlate recommendations, people found the message to switch to low-fat or non-fat milk the hardest to accept. Perhaps it’s a question of how to use the milk. I have been using low-fat and non-fat milk for years, and frankly I find some of MyPlate’s dairy suggestions unappealing. The sample menu of salmon with beet greens served with quinoa with almonds sounds good, but accompanying this dinner with a glass of fat-free milk as a beverage? Give me a glass of wine, please, or a cup of green tea! There is no way to plan a nutritious lifestyle if people don’t enjoy the food. Healthy eating must be a pleasure.
Cooking at home is a key. MyPlate encourages eating at home more often.
“If you cook, you’re halfway there,” wrote Martha Rose Shulman in The Very Best of Recipes for Health, “because I firmly believe that the easiest and most pleasurable way to eat well, and certainly the most economical way, is to cook the food you eat.”
The writer is the author of The Lowfat Kosher Cookbook and of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.
This quick, easy recipe is from my book, “Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home.”  It makes a tasty, satisfying supper entree and is a good way to use lean boneless chicken breasts because the light, flavorful sauce keeps them moist. 
Serve the chicken with brown rice or another whole grain, such as bulgur wheat.  Broccoli or green beans, cooked on their own or paired with carrots, are good accompaniments.  You can also add quick cooking vegetables, such as diced zucchini or frozen peas or snow peas, directly to the pan to cook them in the sauce with the chicken; in this case add 1/4 cup more broth so the vegetables can cook evenly.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
570 grams (1 1/4 pounds) boneless skinless chicken breasts1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger1 large garlic clove, minced 1/4 cup rice vinegar or wine vinegar2 to 4 tablespoons sugar3 to 4 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce2 tablespoons chicken broth or water1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch1 small green onion, chopped1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups hot cooked brown rice or bulgur wheat
    Trim visible fat from chicken and cut meat in 2.5-cm (1-inch) cubes. Heat oil in a heavy saute pan or wok.  Add chicken and saute over medium heat, stirring, 1 minute. Cover and saute 3 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add ginger and garlic and saute 1 minute.
Meanwhile, thoroughly mix vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons ketchup, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, broth and hot sauce. Add mixture to pan of chicken and mix well. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until chicken is tender. Chicken is done when color is no longer pink; cut into a thick piece to check. Taste sauce, and add more sugar, ketchup or soy sauce if you like.
In a small cup blend cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water.  Add to simmering sauce, to center of pan. Quickly stir mixture into remaining sauce. Heat until bubbling. Stir in half the chopped green onion. Serve hot, sprinkled with remaining green onion and accompanied by brown rice.
This recipe is from “The Volumetrics Eating Plan” by Barbara Rolls.
Rolls wrote: “The mint and lemon juice complement the taste of broccoli, so it can be enjoyed without added fat. The energy density (amount of calories for the food’s weight) is so low you can eat as much as you like.” 
For my family, I double or even triple the serving size of this beneficial vegetable.
Makes 4 servings of 3/4 cup each.
454 grams (1 pound) broccoli3/4 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons lemon juicefreshly ground pepper1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Remove the tough ends of the broccoli stems, peel the stems and cut the broccoli into 1.25-cm-(1/2-inch)-thick spears.
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the broccoli and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli and return it to the pan.
Place the pan over very low heat. Sprinkle with the lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, a few grindings of black pepper, and the mint. Toss gently to combine.
Cook’s Note: Try using your favorite fresh herb or combination of herbs in place of the mint.