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Every so often, a dish comes along that fulfills all your nutritional requirements in one go. This is that moment. Say hello to pineapple fried rice.

Pineapple fried rice offers everything you need for a balanced meal: fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and healthy protein. It incorporates several foods from plants, along with a moderate serving of chicken—leaner and healthier than red meat. (Alternatively, use shrimp, tofu, or tempeh.) And it’s easy to make.

How to eat simply in a complicated food world

We live in a world full of competing nutritional claims, evolving scientific findings, and various pyramids, pie charts, and plates. How to filter all that info and translate it into simple, healthy meals isn’t always obvious. At SH101, these two guidelines helped us do it—and showed us, in the end, the glory of pineapple fried rice.

1. Avoid getting hung up on popular food dogmas

“Don’t get caught in the weeds by thinking healthy means non-GMO, organic, gluten-free, or ‘natural,’” says Dr. Christine Rosenbloom, nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. Instead, choose foods close to their original state: “an apple instead of apple juice, or lean grilled steak instead of bacon or hot dogs, and load up your plate with veggies and healthy carbs.” (Healthy carbs include brown rice, quinoa, seeds, vegetables, and whole fruits.)

2. Find a guide from a neutral source and get to know it

For example, to help us untangle the mess of nutritional advice out there, Harvard School of Public Health created the Healthy Eating Plate. This is an alternative to MyPlate, created by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Our recipe for pineapple fried rice fulfills the criteria of the Healthy Eating Plate.

Why did Harvard decide to design a new plate? Because experts at Harvard noticed some gaps in MyPlate. In addition, they wanted to promote nutritional recommendations based fully in scientific research, free of food industry influence.

What changed and why? Check out the two plates side-by-side

How pineapple fried rice captures all the elements of the Healthy Eating Plate

Healthy Eating Plate chart
Source: Harvard School of Public Health

Healthy oils

Canola, olive, coconut, or sunflower oil for cooking the veggies

Vegetables

Carrots, peas, bell pepper, onion, broccoli, and scallions

Fruits

Pineapple

Whole grains

Brown rice

Healthy protein

Chicken, tofu, or tempeh

Experts and students: “Simple strategies for eating well”

Swap out ingredients

“Instead of saying, ‘I’ll give up pizza,’ try leaner meat toppings like turkey pepperoni or lean ham with lots of veggies such as peppers, tomato, or mushrooms. Better yet, watch YouTube videos on how to make simple meals and learn how to cook,” says Dr. Rosenbloom.

Step up your pasta

“Invest in a spiralizer ($20 from large chain stores) to make nutrient-packed noodles from vegetables like zucchini, sweet potato, carrots, turnips, and more. Another option is to buy pre-packed pasta made from other ingredients, such as corn or beans, which can pack in more protein, fiber, and nutrients,” says Sonya M., a third-year undergraduate at Northern Illinois University.

Snack healthy

“Make trail mix with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and wholegrain breakfast cereals. This is a great snack that you can carry with you that will help decrease the urge to stop and buy candy or chips,” says Dr. Koch.

Get colorful

“When I was in Katimavik [a Canadian volunteer program], we had to cook using the ‘five-color’ rule. There had to be five different-colored foods for each meal, and two foods that were the same color wouldn’t count (e.g., cauliflower and pasta are both white). We’d use things like red onions (purple) instead of white; yellow, orange, and red peppers instead of green; and sweet potatoes instead of regular,” says Ashe M., second-year undergraduate at Lakehead University in Ontario.

Eat before eating

“I may have an appetizer and drink water so I don’t overeat when I get my meal,” says Martin M., a second-year undergraduate at San Bernardino Valley College in California.

The meal that has it all: What works about pineapple fried rice?

“Pineapple fried rice is a nutritious recipe because it has so many different foods from plants and a small amount of healthy animal protein from the chicken,” says Dr. Pamela Koch, executive director, associate research professor, and registered dietitian at the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy at Columbia University, New York.

Chicken: Lean protein containing the building blocks needed to form lean muscle mass and help us feel full

Pineapple: High in Vitamin C (for tissue growth and repair)

Carrots: Rich in beta-carotene, converted into Vitamin A in the body (for immune function, reproduction, vision, and cell activity)

Peas: Quality carbs (for energy and for fiber, which lowers disease risk) and additional protein (to repair and build cells)

Red bell pepper: High in Vitamin C and Vitamin A

Onion: Rich in sulfuric compounds and antioxidants (various health benefits)

Scallions: Good source of Vitamin C and potassium (various health benefits)

Broccoli: Contains Vitamins A and C

Precooked brown rice: Wholegrain, with more nutrients and fiber than white rice

Print or save your step-by-step guide to pineapple fried rice

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Article sources

Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, nutrition professor emerita, Georgia State University.

Pamela Koch, EdD, RD, executive director, associate research professor, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education & Policy, Columbia University, New York.

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2011). Healthy Eating Plate & Healthy Eating Pyramid. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate/

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (2011). Healthy Eating Plate vs. USDA’s MyPlate. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-eating-plate-vs-usda-myplate/

Senyei, K. (2013, July 31). Pineapple chicken fried rice. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.justataste.com/easy-pineapple-chicken-fried-rice-recipe/

Joanna Carmona is communications coordinator at the National Patient Safety Foundation. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Student Health 101. She has also edited collegiate textbooks for Cengage Learning and creating language learning materials for the US Department of Defense, libraries, and other educational institutions. Her BA in Spanish is from the University of New Hampshire.