22 Jun USDA’s new healthy plate overrides old pyramid
With the USDA’s recent unveiling of its revised nutritional guidelines comes a recommendation to choose a healthy plate and balance it with exercise. Controlling calorie intake means enjoying your food, but eating less and avoiding oversized portions.
Other guidelines laid out by the USDA advise making at least half your grains whole grains, switching to fat-free or low-fat milk, reducing sodium in your diet and drinking water as your beverage of choice.
If you’re hungry for even more updated nutrition information, check out the USDA’s website at www.choosemyplate.gov.
While you’re there, a quick glance at the multicolored pie-shaped graphic will show half a plate filled with fruits and vegetables, while grains and protein fill out the other two divided sections, all rounded out by a serving of low-fat dairy, as represented by the smaller round circle in the upper-righthand corner.
Seeing the separated sections of the plate reminded me of the All-American “Blue Plate Special.” Popular from the 1920s to the 1950s, this midday meal served on divided blue plates included a meat and two vegetables, most commonly meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans, on diner menus across the land.
Offered as a daily special, there were typically no substitutions, and portion sizes were smaller. Offering everything on one plate cut down on serving and dishwashing time, resulting in a low cost, usually about 50 cents in post-WWI days. “A square meal for two bits,” some called it.
And the diner tradition lives on, even today where you occasionally run into the “Blue Plate Special.”
It seems to me these early diner owners were on to something. I do like the nosubstitution rule, and offering a smaller serving of meat or protein sounds like a sensible plan to me, especially when you surround it with fresh, flavorful fruits and vegetables, building a nutritious, delicious plate in accordance with the Choose My Plate suggestions.
An emphasis on choice is important, I think because eating should be a pleasurable experience — eat what you love, love what you eat, as long as you’re mindful of what efficiently fuels your body. Finding fresh fruits and vegetables and learning simple, straight-forward ways to prepare them helps, too.
Making over the meal planning at your house can be as easy as adding a few Choose Your Plate Specials to your recipe repertoire. For breakfast, a vegetable frittata and fruit cup plate satisfies the fruits, vegetables and protein sections, easily completed by adding a slice of whole grain toast. Use the frittata recipe as a guideline and substitute whatever fresh vegetables or cheeses you happen to love.
Fajitas and fresh fruit salad can be a healthful combination for lunch (or dinner), especially when the meat is grilled and the tortillas are whole grain.
Switching out the chicken for shrimp or beef works, and possibilities for fresh fruit salad are endless in the summer months.
Pasta primavera is a fast all-in-one entree. Simply saute the garlic and tomatoes until the tomatoes begin to break down.
Then add your favorite fresh vegetables, covering the pan if the vegetables need to steam, before finishing the sauce with white wine, herbs and a splash of cream. Dressing up sliced fruit with candied nuts makes them irresistible. And suddenly, dinner is served.
In celebration of healthy eating and efforts to combat obesity in America, I give you my Special of the Day: Choose Your Plate Specials with recipes for Frittata and Fruit Cup Plate, Fajitas and Fresh Fruit Salad Plate and Pasta Primavera Paired with Sliced Fruit with Candied Almonds. Enjoy!
ASPARAGUS AND RED ONION FRITTATA
» 1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Blanch asparagus in a pot of simmering water for five minutes. Remove to an icefilled colander and let cool.
Heat olive oil and butter in medium flat-bottomed frying pan over medium heat.
Saute red onion until soft.
Pat asparagus dry with paper towels and sprinkle over red onion in the pan.
In medium mixing bowl, beat eggs with whisk. Add salt and pepper and stir to combine.
Sprinkle cheese over asparagus. Pour beaten eggs over the top.
Cook over medium heat until eggs are set.
Finish in preheated oven until top of frittata is cooked, about three minutes. Remove from oven. Run a table knife around edges and invert onto cutting board.
Slice in wedges and garnish with chive blossoms, if desired.
FRUIT CUP » 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, dried and sliced » 2 fresh peaches, cut into bite in sized pieces » Fresh mint sprigs for garnish
Mix fruit in medium bowl to combine. Serve in individual dishes and garnish with mint sprigs.
GRILLED CHICKEN FAJITAS» 3 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts » Chili powder » Salt » 3 tbsp. oil » 1 sweet onion, sliced in thin rings » 1 yellow pepper, seeded and sliced thinly » 1 orange pepper, seeded and sliced in thin rings » 1 red pepper, seeded and sliced in thin rings » 2 cloves garlic, minced » ½ cup sour cream » 3 tbsp. salsa » 2 limes, cut in wedges » 6 whole grain tortillas Preheat barbecue grill to medium high heat (about 350°).
Lay chicken breasts on preheated grill and sprinkle with chili powder to cover, then sprinkle with salt.
Close lid of barbecue and let chicken cook for 6 minutes. Turn chicken and sprinkle other side with chili powder and salt.
Close lid and cook for an additional 6 to 8 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Let chicken rest on cutting board before slicing into thin slices.
In a medium saute pan, saute onions and peppers in hot oil until tender crisp.
Mix sour cream and salsa together thoroughly. Assemble fajitas: Whole wheat tortilla topped with grilled chicken slices then sauteed peppers and onions. Squeeze lime juice over top and serve with salsa sour cream. Serves four.
» Juice of one lime » 2 tbsp. olive oil » 1 tbsp. shallots, finely minced
» 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes » ¼ tsp. salt » 1 tbsp. honey » 2 mangos, peeled and dicedIn a medium bowl, whisk together all ingredients except mangos.
Add minced mangos, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
» 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped» 2 cups broccoli tops » 1 cup fresh baby peas » 2 tbsp. freshly snipped parsley » ½ cup dry white wine » ¼ cup heavy whipping cream » ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
» Salt and freshly ground pepper, to tasteIn a medium saute pan over medium high heat, heat oil and saute garlic.
Add tomatoes and broccoli and cook until tender crisp.
Add peas, parsley, wine, cream and cheese and stir to blend.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Serve over hot cooked penne pasta.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves and grated Parmesan, if desired.
Heat sugar in a small saute pan over medium high heat, without stirring, until it melts.
Reduce heat if sugar starts to brown.
Add almonds and stir to coat and toast.
When sugar has melted completely and almonds are thoroughly coated, remove to waxed paper and let cool.
Arrange sliced oranges on individual salad plates.
Top with candied almonds.