Eat right, eat well ― delicious meals that strike a balance in the face of diet extremes

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.


Vietnamese Skewered Pork and Onions

Polenta with Sausage and Greens

Sautéed Chicken with Artichokes

Mexican Pocket Bread Tostadas

Italian Meatballs with Spaghetti

Halibut and Potatoes with Cilantro Sauce

Shortcut Hungarian Goulash

Peppered Swordfish with Cardamom-Carrot Sauce

Moroccan Beef Stew with Couscous

Braised Chicken in Coconut Milk

Braised Chicken with Vegetables

Pork Tenderloin with Prunes

Portabella Steaks with Mustard-Shallot Sauce

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken-Apricot Skewers

Pronto Beef Chili

Pork Chops with Cumin and Orange

Broiled Salmon with Corn Relish

Kung Pao Shrimp

Leek and Potato Frittata

Warm Turkey Picadillo Spinach Salad

Tofu and Pea Curry

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