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Which came first? Chicken.

A few years ago, the American Diabetes Association Web site noted that the word most frequently searched on their site was "chicken." That's right—at the site hosted by the leader in diabetes education and research, people were more interested in meal plan-friendly chicken ideas than any other single topic.

Then again, it's not surprising. Chicken is the chameleon of the food world—adapting to just about anything you put next to it. And it's a great option for people who are trying to eat healthier. After all, chicken is a lean source of protein, especially if you choose white breast meat and remove the skin. Plus, because protein takes longer to digest, it helps you feel full longer and won't provide the blood sugar spike other types of food might.1

So if you're looking for new ways to eat chicken, just use your imagination. Here are just a few ideas that don't even need a recipe (or you can use to alter any recipe you like).

Chicken and vegetables

  • Grilled Ratatouille—Brush sliced zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and red peppers with olive oil, then put them on the grill after your chicken breasts have been cooking for a bit. Sprinkle everything with chopped thyme or basil and a little salt before serving.
  • Chicken Lettuce Wraps—Sauté diced chicken and mushrooms, then season with soy sauce, ginger and a bit of rice vinegar. Off the heat, mix in shredded carrots, sliced green onions and anything else that suits your taste, then spoon into bibb lettuce leaves to eat.
  • Enlightened Tacos—Shred cooked chicken instead of browning ground beef, then load your tortillas with lots of low-fat refried beans, tomatoes, lettuce, onion, avocado and salsa. You'll have so much flavor, you may not even need cheese or sour cream.
  • Colorful, Hearty Salad—Even the most ordinary green salad becomes a meal when you slice a grilled chicken breast on top. But don't stop there. Add fresh and grilled vegetables, grilled fruit, raw corn sliced off the cob, nuts and a splash of vinaigrette.

Chicken and fruit

  • Fruitful Skewers—Make up chicken kabobs with chunks of pineapple, peaches or plums and throw them on the grill. The sugar in the fruit will caramelize, making it a rich, delicious accompaniment to the chicken.
  • Great Grape Salad—Add sliced red grapes to your favorite chicken salad when you mix in the celery. No grapes on hand? Try strawberries, diced apples or pears, or dried fruit.
  • Sweet-n-Spicy Salsa—Dice melon, peaches, mangoes or apples, and mix with minced onion, cilantro and lime juice. Add jalapeno for as much zip as you like.

Chicken and beans

  • What's-in-Season Beans—Instead of pasta or rice, serve white beans. Sauté spinach or other greens with drained canned beans, minced garlic and olive oil, then season with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Serve as a bed for grilled chicken breasts. Bumper crop of tomatoes or zucchini? Those pair beautifully with beans and herbs, too.
  • Chicken Chili—Use chicken in place of ground beef, then add lots of black beans or kidney beans, onions, bell peppers and tomatoes for a great warm-up in a few months.

Chances are, if a recipe calls for beef, pork or just about any other meat or poultry, you can tweak it a bit to work with chicken. Don't be afraid. Get creative.

1Harvard School of Public Health. Protein: moving closer to center stage. Available at: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/protein-full-story/. Accessed January 25, 2017.

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