Science and fashion ― unusual bedfellows ― meet in our culture of dieting. Trimming trends, usually claiming solid scientific support, cycle in and out of favor almost as fast as the seasons. One year complex carbohydrates reign; the next year protein dominates weight-conscious menus and carbs are the enemy.
Two principles, however, have survived this confusing roller-coaster ride of fad diets: balance and moderation.
Dr. Barbara Schneeman, professor of nutrition at the University of California at Davis and assistant administrator for human nutrition for the USDA agricultural research service, affirms these basics: A healthy diet includes moderate portions of foods from all five major groups in the USDA food pyramid.
The largest number of calories you consume should come from the base of the pyramid, the complex carbohydrates (breads, cereals, rice, and pasta). Add to that generous amounts of vegetables and fruits and moderate amounts of dairy products (milk, yogurt, and cheese) and proteins (meats, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts). Indulge in fats and sweets sparingly.
The secret to maintaining this balance over the long haul is to avoid letting moderation turn into monotony. With a little imagination, as in the ideas we offer here, weeknight meals can be highly varied without being time-consuming.
They can also draw from all the food groups ― and even veer toward high-protein or high-carb preferences ― and still weigh in at less than 30 percent calories from fat, the amount recommended by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The simple accompaniments suggested in the recipe notes turn each dish into an appealing, well-rounded meal. Consider this collection both blueprint and inspiration for a nutritious diet to last a lifetime.