Favourite chicken dishes made healthy
Matthew Kadey, MSc, RD
Healthy Chicken Nuggets? How about healthy Chicken Alfredo? It's possible when you try our fat- and sodium-reduced versions of these favourite chicken recipes.
Is imitation the best form of flattery? When it comes to recreating classic poultry dishes such as chicken alfredo and chicken nuggets using classic restaurant ingredients, it’s often not. These dishes can deliver enough calories, fat, and sodium to keep a cardiologist awake at night.
But it’s still possible to have your creamy tikka masala and eat it too. The key is to take comforting chicken dishes that families adore and overhaul them using smarter ingredients that produce meals with feel-good flavour—without the calorie bomb. Here are five popular chicken dishes that certainly won’t leave you flying the coop.
A cut above the rest
When shopping for chicken, consider joining the dark side more often. Dark meat cuts such as thighs and legs are not only easier on the wallet than breast meat, but also juicier and less prone to drying out during cooking. And with only a very small difference in saturated fat levels between dark and white chicken meat (surprise!), there is no reason to be chicken about eating darker cuts for dinner tonight.
A benefit to making chicken dishes in your own kitchen is that you can better control the type of meat you use. But these days, chicken is not just chicken. Here’s the rundown on some of the most common labels to look for.
Raised without antibiotics
This means that the birds were not administered antibiotics during rearing. Antibiotic use is common practice in facilities where birds are raised in dismal cramped conditions to help prevent the spread of disease and encourage faster growth. A recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that organic poultry operations—in which antibiotics are not given to birds—had significantly lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria than their conventionally raised counterparts.
Farmers must demonstrate that their birds have been allowed access to the great outdoors to forage. But the ease of this access and how often the birds use it are big question marks. The upshot is that you have to query farmers directly about their raising conditions. Some would say that true pasture-raised poultry has terroir, meaning that, like a fine wine, you can taste the nature that produced it.
This just means that the chickens are allowed to move freely where they are raised (which might be in the barn) and are not confined to cages. Outdoor access is not required.
Hormones are not allowed in poultry production in Canada, so this label is guilty of irrelevance.
Organic poultry products come from birds fed 100 percent organic feed containing no animal byproducts, antibiotics, or genetically modified ingredients. In a 2010 study, only 5.6 percent of organically raised birds were infected with Salmonella, compared with 38.8 percent of conventionally raised ones. Regulations can vary from province to province, but animal welfare such as access to the outdoors is also often taken into account.
The grain given to the animals contains no animal byproducts. Keep in mind that chickens are naturally omnivores and like to dig for items such as grubs when foraging outdoors, a practice that may increase the nutrition and taste of the meat. Also, if not specified as organic, vegetarian feed may contain genetically modified ingredients such as soy.