Friday recipe: south of the border chicken stew

As I mentioned on last Friday’s blog, the DMU wellness staff are offering a weight management program that uses nutritionist Dr. Barbara Rolls’ volumetrics eating plan as a guide. Volumetrics focus on eating foods with lower energy density – such as fruits, vegetables and other items with high water content – that help one achieve satiety, while also keeping a log of one’s daily diet and exercise and increasing physical activity.

Dr. Barbara Rolls promotes a diet plan that's doable. Photo: Mount Nittany Health System
Dr. Barbara Rolls promotes a diet plan that’s doable. Photo: Mount Nittany Health System

To calculate a food’s energy density, divide the calories in one serving by its weight in grams. Then build your plate around those with low energy density. The lowest on Rolls’ list – with a density of 0.6 or less – include lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, cooked broccoli, salsa, cantaloupe, winter squash, carrots, apples and oranges.

The volumetrics approach works for many people because it recommends foods that are generally widely available, nutritious and filling. Rolls, a nutritionist and researcher at Pennsylvania State University, and her colleagues have found that when people increase the volume of low-density foods in their diets, it helps them control their hunger and, hence, their weight.

Rolls also follows the principle that the only diet that will work is the one people will actually eat. Courtesy of the DMU wellness staff, below is a party-in-your-mouth stew from Rolls’ The Volumetrics Eating Plan that should be a “go-to” for anyone who loves flavorful dining.

But first this unabashed self-serving request: I’ve entered the DMU Staff Organization’s October 9 chili-and-soup cook-off, so I’m looking for the winner. Got a favorite chili recipe that sends ’em swooning? Send it to me at and I’ll consider submitting it. If your recipe wins, you’ll receive some sort of to-be-determined expression of my deepest gratitude. Cook on!

South of the border chicken stew
From The Volumetrics Eating Plan

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, 4 ounces each
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups chopped onions
  • 1 cup seeded, chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 cups nonfat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1½ cups canned diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • ¼ teaspoon hot-pepper sauce
  • ½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions

Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 4-to-5-quart pot over medium-high heat. Lightly brown the chicken, stirring, about 5 minutes. Place the chicken in a bowl.

Reduce the heat to medium and add a tablespoon oil, onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Stir in the oregano, broth and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Stir in the corn, tomatoes and chicken and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the spinach and hot-pepper sauce.

Divide the stew among 4 bowls, and serve with the yogurt and green onions in small bowls on the side. Makes 4 servings of 2½ cups each.

Nutritional information per serving: calories, 325; energy density, 0.50; carbohydrate, 24 g; fat, 11 g; protein, 34 g; fiber, 6 g.

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