After the Revelry, Avoid Extremes of an Unrealistic Diet

Instead of following the strict diet regimen usually prescribed after weeks of partying, gorging on fatty foods and overindulging on alcoholic beverages, it might be easier to adhere to a plan of sensible eating as the new year gets under way.

Diet plans that eliminate entire food groups or suggest unusual eating patterns are generally regarded by nutritionists as harsh and ineffective since they require behavior that is often too restrictive to maintain. Rather, the goal is to develop a reasonable approach to eating--electing foods from all four food groups with a focus on complex carbohydrates--while cutting back on fat and sugar intakes. This, coupled with regular exercise, is regarded as the most effective approach to weight loss, whatever the desired drop in pounds.

Chicken is one of the foods most often selected as low enough in fat and calories to be included in a healthful diet plan. It can be a good source of protein provided that a few simple guidelines are followed and because it is naturally low in fat, it is a good foundation upon which to develop meals designed to reduce caloric intake.

Remove and discard all skin before cooking the chicken to conserve more than 50 calories per serving. Then, combine low fat ingredients with the chicken such as fresh fruits and vegetables, which in addition to adding color and texture, transform the poultry into a dish that satisfies as the entire meal, thus eliminating the taste for high calorie accompaniments.

Utilizing exotic spices and flavor combinations is another option. Marinate the meat in a tasty blend of herbs and seasonings, then quickly cook over high heat. Or try quickly sauteing boneless, skinless chicken breasts and topping with a creamy sauce made of wine and mustard. Some final advice: Saute the meat in a mixture of butter and olive oil, substituting monounsaturated olive oil for half the butter usually called for in a recipe.


2 tablespoons butter or margarine

4 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 tablespoons dry vermouth or dry white wine

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup pitted prunes

1/2 cup grapes

3/4 cup diced pears

3/4 cup diced pineapple

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon toasted slivered almonds or walnut pieces

Melt butter over medium heat in large heavy skillet. Add chicken and saute until light brown on both sides. Stir curry powder into butter, then add vermouth, salt and prunes. Cover and simmer over low heat 5 to 7 minutes or until chicken is done.

Place chicken on plate and cover to keep warm. Add grapes, pears, pineapple and brown sugar to pan juices, bring to boil and cook until syrupy. Place chicken on platter or individual plates and pour sauce over. Top with nuts. Makes 4 servings.


1 pound chicken breasts

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes

1/4 cup peanut butter

3 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 small onion, sliced

1/2 sweet red pepper, cut into strips

1/2 green pepper, cut into strips

1/4 head green cabbage, shredded

Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Combine 3 tablespoons soy sauce, garlic and crushed red pepper in shallow pan and marinate chicken in mixture 15 minutes.

Combine peanut butter, 1 tablespoon oil, brown sugar and remaining soy sauce to make sauce. Stir fry chicken in remaining oil until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add onion and peppers and stir-fry until vegetables are tender-crisp. Stir in cabbage and peanut sauce. Cover, reduce heat and simmer about 2 minutes, or until cabbage is tender. Makes 4 to 6 servings.


1 pound chicken breasts, skinned

2 tablespoons flour

Salt, pepper

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 tablespoon oil

2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced

3/4 cup white wine

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons whipping cream

1 tablespoon mustard seeds

Dust chicken with flour and season to taste with salt and pepper. Saute in butter and oil over medium heat until no longer pink inside, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove chicken to platter and keep warm.

Saute leeks until just tender in pan drippings. Add wine, mustard, cream and mustard seeds and simmer until sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve. Makes 4 servings.


2 1/2 pounds chicken breasts, skinned and boned

1/2 teaspoon basil leaves, finely crushed

1/4 teaspoon tarragon leaves, finely crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon oil

1 tablespoon butter or margarine

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup dry white wine

2/3 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup red grape halves

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Cut chicken breasts into halves. Blend basil, tarragon, salt, paprika, pepper and flour and toss chicken with mixture, reserving any excess. Heat oil and butter in skillet.

Add chicken and cook over moderately high heat until golden. Turn chicken, add garlic, sprinkle on any leftover seasoned flour and pour in wine. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Add broth, lemon juice and grapes. Cook, uncovered, 5 minutes or just until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken and grapes to heated serving platter. Boil pan liquid 1 minute, then pour over chicken. Sprinkle with parsley. Makes 4 servings.


1 (20-ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice

2 whole chicken breasts, split and skinned

Salt, pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon butter or margarine

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 cup minced ginger root

1 large clove garlic, pressed

1 medium red onion, sliced

2 ripe bananas, pureed

2 tablespoons pale, dry Sherry

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Hot cooked rice

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Season chicken to taste with salt and pepper. Brown one side of chicken in heated olive oil and butter. Sprinkle with 1/2 of coriander and 1/2 of cloves, turn and brown other side. Sprinkle with remaining spices.

Remove from skillet. Stir in ginger and saute. Stir in garlic and onion and saute until onion is tender. Stir in reserved juice, bananas and Sherry. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in pineapple and peas and heat through. Serve with rice. Makes 4 servings.

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