The bird is the word when it's time to serve healthy meals everyone will love.
Grandma was right: Chicken is good food. Tasty, versatile, and kid-friendly, chicken is chock-full of important nutrients and provides a concentrated dose of protein, offering more per ounce than beef or pork. In fact, 4 ounces of chicken includes about 70% of your recommended daily intake, says Peter R. Ferket, PhD, professor of nutrition and poultry science at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.
At the same time, "chicken breast has about half the fat of a trim piece of T-bone steak," Ferket says. The fat in chicken is less saturated than that of beef, so it's less likely to raise blood cholesterol levels. A thin membrane between the skin and meat holds moisture in but keeps excess fat out. To keep fat and calorie content low, remove any skin from the cooked chicken before you tuck in.
You can also think of it as brain food. Chicken supplies a hefty dose of niacin, which may protect against age-related cognitive decline, and choline, which supports fetal brain development suggests new research. Chicken also might reduce colon cancer risk. A 2005 study found that people who ate about four servings per week had a 20% reduction in adenomas (growths in the colon that can be precursors to colon cancer), compared with those who ate less than a half serving per week. That's a whole flock of reasons why chicken deserves a spot on the table.
Grilled Tuscan Chicken With Arugula and Tomatoes
If your family doesn't like arugula's peppery bite, try using milder mixed greens.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 small shallot, finely minced
4 cups arugula
2 ripe beefsteak tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat grill to medium high.
2. Place chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap; pound each piece to ½-inch thickness with a meat mallet or rolling pin.
3. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
4. Place chicken on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill chicken 4 to 5 minutes per side or until done.
5. Meanwhile, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, and shallots. Toss well with arugula until coated.
6. Place a piece of grilled chicken on each plate. Top with one cup prepared arugula and a quarter of the tomatoes.
7. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 259 calories, 33 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 76 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 3 g sugar, and 401 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 38%.
Asian Chicken Stir-Fry
The Asian-inspired sauce's sweet zing appeals to kids, making this a great way to get them to eat more produce.
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp vinegar, any type
3 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp fresh grated ginger or 1 tsp dried ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½-inch strips
4 cups assorted vegetables, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups cooked whole grain brown rice
1. Combine honey, vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and cornstarch. Set aside.
2. Preheat wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp oil.
3. Stir-fry chicken for 3 to 5 minutes or until done; remove from pan.
4. Add 1 tsp oil and stir-fry half the vegetables until crisp-tender. Remove from pan. Repeat with remaining oil and veggies.
5. Return chicken, vegetables, and sauce to wok or skillet. Cook briefly to thicken sauce and heat thoroughly.
6. Serve over rice.
Makes 4 servings
Per serving: 282 calories, 18 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 34 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 320 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 16%.
White Chicken Chili
Make a batch of this super-nutritious chili on weekends and freeze individual portions for easy school-night dinners.
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 4.5-oz can chopped chiles, undrained
3 10.5-oz cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 19-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen white corn, thawed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp white pepper
Optional: Fat-free sour cream, sliced green onions, and chopped fresh tomatoes for garnish
1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottom Dutch oven.
2. Sauté onion for 5 minutes.
3. Add garlic and chicken and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes or longer. For thicker chili, use a spoon or potato masher to mash some of the beans in the pot as it simmers.
5. Serve with optional garnish.
Makes 6 servings
Per serving: 259 calories, 28 g protein, 29 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 43 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 103 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 13%.