A chicken diet can come in many forms. You may find extreme versions that suggest eating nothing but chicken breast, or reasonably balanced diets where chicken is the main source of protein. Aim for the latter.
What Is a Chicken Diet?
A chicken diet is one that focuses on including chicken in most of your meals, leaving little room for other protein options. Even though you may have heard your friends talking about the latest fad claiming, "I ate only chicken for a week," this is not a healthy approach to weight loss or life in general.
Whether you choose to follow a chicken diet for weight loss, or for general health reasons, you should focus on including a variety of options in your diet. When it comes to the healthy chicken breast recipes to lose weight, you'll get tired of it quickly if you stick to the same three choices.
To determine how many calories you should be eating every day as part of your chicken diet, you can use the table provided by the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Look at the recommendations for your age, gender and activity level. That's how many calories you should eat if you want to maintain your current weight.
According to Mayo Clinic, a pound of fat contains about 3,500 calories, so to lose one pound a week you'd need to cut 500 calories per day from your diet. To lose two pounds per week, you'd need to cut 1,000 calories per day from your diet. Alternatively, you could create the caloric deficit through exercise, or by using a combination of less food and more exercise.
Chicken’s Nutritional Value
The good news is, a serving of chicken provides many nutritional benefits, as long as you're eating the right parts. The USDA says a 3-ounce serving of grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast contains 128 calories, 26 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat. It does not contain carbohydrates or fiber.
Compare that to a fried chicken breast that's been breaded, so you eat the skin, too. According to the USDA, a 100-gram portion that's slightly larger than 3 ounces contains 230 calories, 23.5 grams of protein, 12.4 grams of fat and 6 grams of carbohydrates.
According to the USDA, a 100-gram portion of boneless chicken thigh that's been stewed but the skin hasn't been eaten, contains 184 calories, 9 grams of fat and 24 grams of protein. It doesn't contain carbohydrates or fiber.
If you're tempted to join the "I ate only chicken for a week" club, remember that your body needs carbohydrates and fiber. The USDA Dietary Guidelines say you should consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in your diet. Those guidelines also state that healthy adult males should consume 56 grams of protein per day, and healthy adult females should consume 46 grams of protein every day.
Multiple servings of chicken a day, combined with other foods rich in protein such as eggs and legumes, could easily mean you're getting too much protein and not enough other nutrients. Eating the skin adds a lot of unhealthy fat, too.
A June 2015 study published in Food and Nutrition Research states that consuming poultry as part of a vegetable-rich diet is associated with reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese and a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases or type 2 diabetes. The study also says that white meat is considered neutral or moderately protective in terms of cancer risk.
The same study indicates that meat, not just chicken, is the ideal dietary source of B12. B vitamins in poultry are similar to what's found in other meats and don't diminish during cooking. Chicken provides a good dose of niacin and is a good source of selenium. Lean meat contains factors that encourage the bioavailability of a number of nutrients, as well.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), chicken is a healthier protein choice than red meat because it contains less saturated fat. A diet high in saturated fat can increase your risk of heart failure, heart disease and the most common type of stroke. The AHA also says that eating a lot of meat is not a good way to lose weight, especially if you have heart disease.
When preparing meat, it's best to opt for healthy cooking methods such as baking, stewing, roasting, grilling and broiling. These methods don't add more fat but still allow you to impart a great deal of flavor in your meals. Trim any visible fat before preparing your healthy chicken breast recipes for weight loss.
Read more: Which Are the Fatty Parts of a Chicken?
Add Nutritional Balance
There are a number of healthy chicken breast recipes to lose weight, but the chicken alone isn't enough. To ensure you have all your nutrition needs met, and that you're not the one saying, "I ate only chicken for a week," you'll need to include healthy foods from other food groups, too. Think about your favorite fruits and vegetables, whole grains and dairy products.
If you're not sure what you should eat with your chicken to keep your overall food intake healthy, this healthy diet schedule for what to eat daily can help. When it comes to breakfast, skip the chicken and waffles, and instead opt for an omelette filled with veggies, nitrate-free chicken sausage and a bit of cheese. You could have a grilled chicken salad for lunch, made with dark leafy greens. For dinner, serve some baked chicken breast with steamed green beans, carrots and a small serving of brown rice.
Mix things up by trying a variety of flavor profiles. One night, try a Mexican-inspired dish where chicken is the star, then the next try an Indian or Italian dish. This will help you expand your horizons so that even though you're eating mostly chicken rather than beef, pork or seafood, you'll look forward to it. Be sure to include lots of leafy green vegetables and whole grains, as these will give you carbohydrates and fiber, along with other vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy.
- U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: "Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- USDA: "Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Breast, Skinless, Boneless, Meat Only, Cooked, Grilled"
- USDA: "Fast Foods, Fried Chicken, Breast, Meat and Skin and Breading"
- USDA: "Chicken, Thigh, Stewed, Skin Not Eaten"
- 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: "Daily Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes & Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"
- Food and Nutrition Research: "Role of Poultry Meat in a Balanced Diet Aimed at Maintaining Health and Wellbeing: An Italian Consensus Document"
- American Heart Association: "Meat, Poultry, and Fish: Picking Healthy Proteins"