For anyone trying to lose weight or get some more protein in, chicken breast probably makes its way to the top of the menu.
Because chicken is a lean protein, it lacks the fat that helps give meat its flavor and keeps it juicy and tender — which is exactly why chicken breast can be dry and bland. But the cut can also play a key role when it comes to moving the number on the scale: Protein helps you feel full and helps your body hold onto more muscle mass while you lose weight, which helps maintain your metabolism, per an August 2012 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
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In fact, a review looked at 18 different studies and found that when your body is in a stressed state — either in a calorie deficit to lose weight or while strength training to build muscle — it's important to eat more than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein (which is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight) to help meet those goals, per a December 2019 study in Advances for Nutrition. So, you'll want to aim for around 1 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
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While incorporating poultry into our daily diet is a good way to get more metabolism-firing protein, forking into chicken breast can get boring, fast. You don't have to ditch the meat in order to excite your taste buds every once in a while: Prevent a mundane-meal mishap with these five healthy chicken breast recipes chock-full of juicy flavor.
1. Asian Chicken Stir Fry Salad
A stir-fry is an excellent way to cook chicken because searing the meat in oil helps lock in flavor and juices. Yep, it's that initial browning on the outside that's key to avoiding bland chicken.
This recipe does just that and calls for a delicious coleslaw mix, which includes chopped cabbage. When cruciferous vegetables like cabbage are chopped, chewed or digested, a substance in the veggies called glucosinates gets broken down into more active compounds, which have been linked to anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Get the Asian Chicken Stir Fry Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Caprese Chicken Breast Stew
This short-cut stew, made in less than 20 minutes, uses broth to keep the meat tender and full of flavor. Here, the traditional Caprese ingredients — tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, mozzarella and basil leaves — combine for a savory dish.
Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C (providing about 30 percent of your daily value) and a one-cup serving has just as much potassium as a medium banana. Tomatoes get their red color from lycopene, a carotenoid that research suggests may play a role in reducing the risk of heart disease, per a December 2010 update published in the Annual Review of Food Science and Technology.
Get the Caprese Chicken Breast Stew recipe and nutrition info here.
3. Cranberry Chicken Salad Sliders
Sliders are often associated with unhealthy pub food — but that's certainly not the case in this recipe. Use leftover chicken breast meat to make a chicken salad, and elevate the flavor by pairing with cranberry sauce and pistachios.
All nuts are healthy but pistachios are unique because they're green in color. Their hue comes from lutein, a phytonutrient shown to help protect our peepers. In fact, researchers found an association between eating foods with lutein and a decreased risk for developing age-related macular degeneration, according to a December 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Get the Cranberry Chicken Salad Sliders recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Parsnip and Chicken Kale Salad
Simple ingredients — kale, chicken breast, parsnips and parmesan cheese — make a flavorful salad. Parsnips are an often-overlooked root vegetable but deserve some attention thanks to their stellar nutritionals.
A cup of cooked parsnips has five grams of fiber and provides 25 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, 23 percent of folate, 15 percent of both phosphorus and magnesium, 10 percent of vitamin E and five percent of iron, according to the USDA. Plus, the olive oil used to cook the chicken can help your body absorb more of the vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient.
Get the Parsnip and Chicken Kale Salad recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Tzatziki Rotisserie Chicken Pita
Using the breast meat from rotisserie chicken makes this meal extra easy while packing the shreds inside a tzatziki-loaded pita makes it fun to eat.
The whole-grain pita is the hero, acting as a vehicle for healthy ingredients including tomato, lettuce, tzatziki, spices and, of course, chicken breast. Choosing a whole-grain pita over a refined pita means you'll get more fiber, iron, folate, potassium, magnesium and selenium per bite, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Get the Tzatziki Rotisserie Chicken Pita recipe and nutrition info here.
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Dietary Protein – Its Role in Satiety, Energetics, Weight Loss and Health"
- Advances for Nutrition: "Protein Intake Greater than the RDA Differentially Influences Whole-Body Lean Mass Responses to Purposeful Catabolic and Anabolic Stressors: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis"
- National Cancer Institute: "Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention"
- MyFoodData Central: "Tomatoes, Raw"
- MyFoodData Central: "Banana, Raw"
- Annual Review of Food Science and Technology: "An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene"
- Journal of the American Medical Association: "Intakes of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Other Carotenoids and Age Related Macular Degeneration During 2 Decades of Prospective Follow-up"
- MyFoodData Central: "Parsnips, Cooked, Fat Not Added in Cooking"
- Mayo Clinic: "Whole grains: Hearty Options for a Healthy Diet"