What's the best thing about chicken besides its stellar nutritional content? We'd say it's the meat's versatility and ability to absorb flavors, which allows for interesting, protein-packed lunches and dinners every day of the week.
From the Mediterranean diet to paleo and keto, no matter what diet or lifestyle you follow — aside from vegan and vegetarian, of course — chicken is a low-calorie, low-fat, high-protein player. Give these healthy chicken recipes a try for a nutrient-dense lunch or dinner you'll look forward to eating.
1. Turmeric-Marinated Grilled Chicken Tenders
Move over turmeric lattes: It turns out chicken and turmeric are a match made in flavor heaven — with loads of health benefits, to boot. This saffron-colored spice gets its power from curcumin, a key chemical in turmeric that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and also modifies immune system responses, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Easily incorporate turmeric into your weekly meals by adding it to chicken tenders. The best part about this main dish is that it also cooks up fast, since grilling the chicken only takes about four minutes per side. Whip up the marinade in the morning before work, let the chicken absorb all the flavor during the day and voila! You have a healthy chicken dinner that's ready to be cooked and served as soon as you get home.
Get the Turmeric-Marinated Grilled Chicken Tenders recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Instant Pot Jambalaya
One of our favorite ways to get inspired for healthy chicken dish ideas is to take our favorite foods and swap out some ingredients for a health boost. And this wholesome version of jambalaya, the traditional Louisiana one-pot meal, is no exception. Here, we've swapped white rice for brown and opted for chicken Andouille sausage instead of pork sausage to cut down on the saturated fat.
This healthy chicken recipe also calls for chicken broth, which works well in everything from soups to curries. Bone broth reminds us to use every part of the animal and provides a good dose of protein.
Get the Instant Pot Jambalaya recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Leafy Rotisserie Chicken Salad With Creamy Tarragon Dressing
This lunchtime favorite gets a nutritional upgrade thanks to bright and fresh ingredients such as grapes, cucumbers, pine nuts and tarragon. Tarragon, still not as widely used as more common herbs like oregano and basil, has some nutrients we should be paying attention to.
In addition to being flavorful, tarragon also supplies a small amount of iron, manganese and potassium, per the USDA. This bright salad recipe adds tarragon to the dressing, which combines fiber-rich beans as well as vinegar, oil and garlic.
Get the Leafy Rotisserie Chicken Salad With Creamy Tarragon Dressing recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Paleo Citrus-Basil Chicken Salad
When it comes to chicken breast, it's hard to keep them moist — but poaching is an easy way to ensure that the meat stays juicy. Simply add the chicken and the aromatics to a pot, cover it with water and boil until it's cooked through.
Then, place the chicken over a bed of leafy green for added vitamins and minerals and toss it with some low-sugar grapefruit and a DIY dressing. Here, tangy citrus and fresh basil are culinary complements to this orange-poached chicken.
Get the Paleo Citrus-Basil Chicken Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Tzatziki Rotisserie Chicken Pita
These Greek-style gyros are the quintessential meal for those that follow the Mediterranean diet, as they prioritize vegetables and whole grains, along with small amounts of lean meat and dairy. Purchase a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store to save on time. And to optimize your ingredients, choose a pita made from whole grains only — which the Whole Grains Council confirms has greater health benefits than refined grains.
And thanks to the use of Greek yogurt in the tzatziki sauce, you'll get an extra boost of protein and gut-healthy probiotics — aka the live microorganisms that help the digestive and immune system operate more effectively, as well as help offset nasty side effects cause by some antibiotics, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Get the Tzatziki Rotisserie Chicken Pita recipe and nutrition info here.
Read more: How to Reheat Rotisserie Chicken With Rub
6. Healthy Homestyle Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup
Grandma was on to something: Chicken soup helps support a suppressed immune system thanks to the dish's various vitamins, minerals and some fat, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Additionally, the warm liquid helps with upper respiratory tract symptoms and has protein and carbs that help you feel satisfied all while providing some much-needed hydration.
Get the Healthy Homestyle Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Keto Chicken Enchiladas
Most drastically, tortillas were replaced with zucchinis. In addition to being low carb, zucchini is a solid source of vitamin C, the same nutrient in carrots that aids in eyesight health — plus manganese, an essential mineral that helps fight free radical damage, according to the USDA. Practice portion control with this delicious dinner by choosing a smaller bowl rather than a larger bowl that might make your meal look small and unsatisfying.
Get the Keto Chicken Enchiladas recipe and nutrition info here.
8. Chicken Pad Thai Zoodles
If you have given up your go-to Pad Thai because you're avoiding carbohydrates or gluten, then it's time to try this version that swaps out those starchy noodles — packed with calories and little-to-no-fiber — for zucchini noodles, aka zoodles. You'll get only 20 calories, 3.7 grams of carbohydrates and 1.2 grams of fiber in a cup of zoodles.
The best part: Zoodles are so low in calories that you can double your portion of this Pad Thai and still walk away taking in less calories than you would with any takeout version.
Get the Chicken Pad Thai Zoodles recipe and nutrition info here.
9. Kale and Chicken Caesar Salad With Quinoa and Pecans
Seamus Mullen, author, chef and creator of this kale and chicken Ceasar salad, packs major protein into this dish. You'll get the macro via the roasted chicken, a soft-boiled egg and even the tricolor quinoa.
The dish also offers a solid amount of blood-sugar-stabilizing fats and fiber from the veggies and nuts. Adding nuts offers a much-needed crunch and makes this salad feel luxurious, but watch your portions and treat pecans or walnuts as a garnish to avoid overeating.
Get the Kale and Chicken Caesar Salad With Quinoa and Pecans recipe and nutrition info here.
10. Chicken With Mushrooms, Kale and Yuzu Salad
Mullen also loves to include Asian-inspired flavors — like seaweed — to his salads for a couple of good reasons. Nori is low in calories and it's also a great source of iodine, according to the Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. The body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones, which control the body's metabolism and many other critical functions. The body also needs thyroid hormones for proper bone and brain development during pregnancy and infancy, per the National Institutes of Health.
Top this salad with a soft-boiled egg and a palm-sized serving of chicken for 38 grams of body-building protein.
Get the Chicken With Mushrooms, Kale and Yuzu Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “Phasing Out Certain Antibiotic Use in Farm Animals”
- Arthritis Foundation: “Turmeric”
- The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods: “The Healing Power of Herbs and Spices”
- USDA: “All Hail the Whole Grain!”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Fermented Foods for Better Gut Health”
- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: “Why Do We Eat Chicken Noodle Soup When We Are Sick?”
- USDA: “Squash, Summer, Zucchini, Includes Skin, Raw”
- Nutritionix: “Zucchini Noodles - 1 Cup”
- Journal of Food and Drug Analysis: “Analysis of Iodine Content in Seaweed by GC-ECD and Estimation of Iodine Intake”
- National Institutes of Health: “Iodine”
- USDA: "Tarragon Nutrition"
- Whole Grains Council: "What's a Whole Grain? A Refined Grain?"