Chicken and turkey are significantly lower in calories and saturated fat than red meat. For example, a 3-ounce (90 g) portion of roasted boneless and skinless chicken breast contains 161 calories and 1 gram of saturated fat, as compared to 351 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat for an equal portion of cooked lean roast beef.
As the person who daily prepares the meals for yourself and your family, you’re likely thinking, “Chicken, again, how boring!” But as we’ve often demonstrated in hospital cooking classes for people with diabetes and heart disease, chicken can be the basis of a quick, nourishing meal that comes in an infinite variety of flavors. For convenience, we keep skinless boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat, in the freezer for impromptu dinners.
With the help of a grill or broiler, we can have an interesting entree on the table in a matter of minutes and there’s no excuse about having forgotten “to take the meat out of the freezer” as there’s no need to thaw the chicken breasts before cooking. Frozen boneless breasts, pounded to 1/2-inch (1.25 cm) thickness will grill or broil to perfection in about 5 minutes per side, turning once. If not frozen, decrease cooking time by about 1 minute per side.
While the chicken is grilling, we prepare an interesting accompaniment–sauce, relish, salsa, chutney, topping for the chicken. Toss a big salad and slice some fruit for dessert. Dinner’s ready in 20 to 30 minutes.
Now in honor of National Chicken Month, we offer some of our favorite ways to serve a grilled 3-ounce (90 g) grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast half (3 low fat protein exchanges):
Dijon Sauce: Coarsely grate 1 small onion; combine with 2 minced cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Dijon mustard, and 1 cup (230 g) plain nonfat yogurt. Spoon onto 4 grilled chicken breast halves. Sauce has 7 grams of carbohydrate and equals 1/2 carbohydrate (nonfat milk exchange).
Grilled Tomatoes: Lightly spray 4 plum tomatoes with olive oil cooking spray. Grill for 3 minutes per side, turning once. Lightly sprinkle each with some crushed dried rosemary and crushed fennel seed. Sprinkle with a little balsamic vinegar and serve alongside 4 grilled chicken breast halves. A Grilled Tomato has 5 grams of carbohydrate and equals 1 vegetable exchange.
Roasted Red Pepper Pesto: In a food processor or blender, combine 2 large, well-rinsed roasted peppers (they come in a jar in a salt brine) with a clove or two of garlic. While the motor is running, add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) ground cumin, and 1/8 teaspoon (0.6 ml) cayenne pepper. Process until smooth. Stir in 2 tablespoons (29 g) fat-free sour cream. Spoon sauce over 4 grilled chicken breast halves. Pesto provides 8 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of fat, equaling 1 vegetable and 1 fat exchange.
Zesty Barbecue Sauce: In a small saucepan, sauté 1/2 cup (80 g) chopped onion and 1 minced clove of garlic in 2 teaspoons (10 ml) olive oil until onion is limp. Stir in 6 tablespoons (90 ml) low-sodium tomato paste, 1/2 cup (120 ml) unsweetened apple juice, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons (10 ml) Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 tablespoon (7.5 ml) chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) dry mustard, and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Spoon sauce over 4 grilled chicken breast halves. Sauce provides 12 grams of carbohydrate and equals 2 vegetable exchanges.
Melon Salsa: In a bowl, combine 1 peeled and finely chopped navel orange, 3/4 cup (120 g) of finely chopped cantaloupe, 1/2 cup (80 g) finely chopped red onion, 1 seeded and minced jalapeño chile pepper, 1/3 cup (19 g) minced cilantro, and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil. Spoon over 4 grilled chicken breast halves. Salsa adds 12 grams of carbohydrate and equals 1 carbohydrate (fruit) exchange.
Some other thoughts on grilled chicken breasts:
Chicken Tostada: Spritz a 7-inch (17.5 cm) corn or flour tortilla with fresh lime juice and bake at 350°F (180°C), until crispy, about 10 minutes, turning once. Spread the baked tortilla with 2 tablespoons (32 g) fat-free refried beans; top with 1/2 cup (54 g) shredded iceberg lettuce. Cut a grilled chicken breast half in strips and arrange on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons (28 g) minced tomato and 1 tablespoon (32 g) minced onion. Add 1 tablespoon (7 g) reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese on top and serve. Count your carbos. Makes 1 serving.
Indian Marinated Chicken Breasts: Before grilling, marinate chicken breasts in a mixture of 1 cup (230 g) plain nonfat yogurt, 1 small minced onion, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) powdered turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) ground cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon (0.6 ml) ground nutmeg, and a dash of dried red pepper flakes. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour. Remove breasts from marinade and grill as directed above. Sprinkle gilled breasts with chopped fresh cilantro and serve. Count your carbos. Makes 1 serving.
Chicken and Asian Vegetable Stir-Fry: Cut 4 boneless chicken breast halves into strips and coat with a mixture of 1 large egg white, 1 tablespoons (15 ml) low-sodium soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) grated fresh ginger. Stir-fry in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) canola oil with lots of sliced celery, chopped bok chow, some snow peas, and a julienned red bell pepper. When done, sprinkle the mixture with a little mild rice wine vinegar and serve. Count your carbos. Makes 4 servings.
Chicken Caesar Salad: Before grilling, marinate 2 chicken breast halves in a mixture of 1/3 cup (80 ml) balsamic vinegar, 2 chopped shallots, 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) crushed dried thyme, and 1 pressed garlic clove. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Grill as directed above and serve atop of nonfat Caesar Salad, made from a packaged mix. Count your carbos. Makes 2 servings.
Chicken Salad with Grapes: Grill 2 chicken breast halves as directed. Cut into bite-size pieces and set aside. In a food processor or blender, 1/2 cup (110 g) low fat cottage cheese, 1 peeled and coarsely chopped shallot, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried dill weed, 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Dijon mustard, 1/2 tablespoon (7.5 ml) fresh lemon juice, dash Tabasco sauce, and 1/2 tablespoon (1.5 ml) olive oil. Process until smooth. Stir in chicken pieces, 1 cup (213 g)chopped celery, 1/4 cup (40 g) minced red onion, and 15 green or red seedless grapes which have been halved. Arrange 2 crisp lettuce leaves on each of 2 dinner plates. Divide chicken salad between plates and top each serving with a few alfalfa/radish sprouts. Serve cold. Count your carbos. Makes 2 servings.
Dressed up or down, chicken makes a simple yet impressive, low-cost, low-calorie, low-fat entree…and that’s worth celebrating!