It's National Chicken Month so let's focus on incorporating more chicken into your healthy diet. The good news: Chicken is low in fat - it only serves up half the fat and calories of red meat. With 8 grams per ounce, it's also a wonderful source of protein.
There is a flock of great ways to prepare chicken. But be sure to always remove the skin before eating your chicken. The skin is where most of a chicken's fat roosts!
Perhaps you've gotten into a rut by preparing the same chicken dishes over and over. No worries. There are more than a few simple ways to jazz and breathe life into your boring old favorites.
Let's look at some new ideas for those boring old recipes.
For starters, let's focus on different ways to prepare chicken. A few great options include stir-frying, grilling, baking or roasting. Chicken can also be used in a soup or stew -- or slow-cooked in a crock-pot.
To add some life, try adding in a little apricot jam, onion soup mix, and reduced-fat French salad dressing to chicken breasts and bake in the crock-pot for 6-8 hours.
Or how about chicken stir-fry? Take it to the next level by tossing together some frozen vegetables, cut-up chicken, chicken broth, reduced sodium soy sauce, lemon and garlic.
Here's another good trick for recharging your love of chicken. Use it in recipes that traditionally call for red meat - like tacos and burgers. Ground or shredded chicken will nicely replace the beef in the tacos, while chicken patties (be sure they are made from breast meat) are great alternatives to the traditional beef patty for your next backyard barbecue.
Spice is the variety of life
Now let's talk about the seasonings that will sprinkle in some new taste for your old favorites. Some seasonings that work well for me include lemon-lime, garlic, curry, paprika and teriyaki.
I also like to cover chicken breasts with Italian dressing or salsa and bake them.
One simple recipe involves add some cut-up vegetables - such as carrots, potatoes and onions - to a pan with a seasoned chicken breast, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.
The bottom line: Don't be afraid to experiment with this very versatile meat the next time you cook.
Remember to always cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F to be sure it is fully cooked. Happy cooking - here's a recipe to get you started!
Chicken Taco Salad
This healthy salad is as good for your diet as it is exciting for your taste buds.
4 serving olive oil cooking spray (5 one-second sprays per serving)
8 medium corn tortilla(s), cut into 4 wedges each
1/2 tsp. table salt
4 cups romaine lettuce, shredded
1 lb. cooked, skinless chicken breast, shredded
1 cups tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup salsa
1/2 tsp. ground cumin or Adobo seasoning
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange tortillas on baking sheet; spray tortillas with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Arrange tortillas in bottom and up sides of 4 salad bowls. Place 1/4 of lettuce, chicken, tomatoes and cheese in each bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, salsa, cumin and pepper sauce. Drizzle about 3 Tbsp. dressing over each salad.
Rebecca is a Registered Dietitian and an Exercise Physiologist who believes that we can change our metabolism and achieve optimal health through proper nutrition and regular exercise. She has a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's of Science in Dietetics from Iowa State University. She is a certified Personal Trainer by the American College of Sports Medicine. She specializes in weight management, performance nutrition, and eating disorders.