Americans eat more than 90 pounds of chicken per person per year, according to the National Chicken Council. Plain baked chicken breast is a simple and quick way to prepare this lean and healthy source of protein.
The Popularity of Chicken
For most of the second half of the 20th century, Americans preferred beef over poultry, including chicken. Then, in the early 1990s, the American diet started to change and chicken intake began to rise and then surpass beef.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eating out and health are the reasons people cite for choosing to eat more chicken. Many health care professionals recommend skinless chicken over beef to reduce saturated fat intake. Too much of this fat in your diet may increase your risk of heart disease, according to MedlinePlus. Saturated fat intake should be less than 10 percent of your daily calories, which translates to 22 grams on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Chicken breast is very low in saturated fat, as well as total fat. It's also a good source of protein and many vitamins and minerals. Three ounces of cooked chicken breast has:
- 133 calories
- 27 grams of protein
- 2.8 grams of total fat
- 1 gram of saturated fat
Cooked chicken breast also provides more than 10 percent of the daily value for many essential nutrients, including selenium, niacin, choline, vitamin B6 and riboflavin.
By comparison, a 3-ounce portion of broiled sirloin strip steak has:
- 180 calories
- 25 grams of protein
- 8 grams of total fat
- 3.2 grams of saturated fat
Sirloin steak is also a good source of many essential nutrients, but it comes with less protein and more unhealthy saturated fat.
Read more: General Nutrition Facts About Chicken
Bone-In or Boneless When Baking?
Whether you like your plain baked chicken breast with or without the bone is a matter of preference. You may prefer the ease of the no-fuss skinless, boneless breast. But most chefs would agree that the best way to cook chicken breasts in the oven is to use bone-in chicken breasts with the skin.
According to Cook's Illustrated, the bone and skin add an extra layer of protection for your meat while it cooks to help hold in the juiciness. The bone and skin also impart additional flavors into the meat, which may make your plain baked chicken breast less plain without having to add high-calorie or salty sauces.
Plain Baked Chicken Breast
With or without the bone, you can have your plain baked chicken breast ready to eat in under an hour.
According to the experts at Delish.com, skinless, boneless chicken breasts bake best at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Start by preheating your oven. Then line your baking sheet with foil and place your chicken breasts on it. Drizzle the chicken breasts with oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal cooking temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, as recommended by FoodSafety.gov.
Your bone-in chicken breasts may take a little more time in the oven. Cook's Illustrated recommends preheating your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare your bone-in chicken breasts the same way as your skinless, boneless breasts and bake for 40 minutes, or until it's reached the desired temperature.
For a crispy skin for your bone-in breasts, consider a quick sear in a hot skillet on the stove after they've finished baking, suggests Cook's Illustrated.
Oven-Baked Chicken Breast Recipes
A plain baked chicken breast makes a simple and quick meal, but you can easily dress up your chicken to add a little flavor so it's not so plain. Herbs, spices, sauces and marinades can take your plain oven baked chicken to the next level with very little effort.
Herbs and spices: Before placing your chicken in the oven, you can add any number of herbs and spices to add more flavor, such as rosemary, thyme or paprika. Or create a spice rub by mixing together cumin, chili powder, sweet paprika and garlic powder and rubbing it into your chicken before baking.
Marinades: If you like to plan ahead, you can marinate your chicken to add more dimension to the flavor in your chicken. You can make a simple marinade mixing together your favorite vinegar (balsamic, red wine or apple cider) with thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, grainy mustard and olive oil. Place your chicken breasts and marinade in a sealable plastic bag in the refrigerator and let the flavors infuse into your meat overnight.
Sauces: Dress up your plain baked chicken breast with a simple sauce, such as a pesto or a sweet mustard sauce. You can also make a spicy peanut sauce by blending together fresh ginger, creamy peanut butter, low-sodium soy sauce, garlic and a few red pepper flakes in your blender or food processor.
Be careful with ready-to-serve spice rubs, marinades and sauces. They're convenient in a pinch, but they come with a lot of sodium and may contain added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup. One popular marinade has 25 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of sugar and 490 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon.
Too much added sugar and sodium in your diet may affect heart health. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and added sugar to no more than 25 grams a day for women and 36 grams a day for men.
Read more: How to Bake Chicken Breasts to Be Shredded
Healthy Plain Baked Chicken Tenders
Chicken tenders are a family favorite, but the ones you find in the frozen food section of your grocery store may contain a long list of ingredients and a lot of sodium. But you can make tasty healthy plain chicken tenders your kids will love at home.
- 1 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/4 pounds of chicken tenders
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil.
- In a shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
- Coat each chicken tender with the breadcrumb mixture and place on the baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the tenders are crispy and the meat has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Serve your healthy plain baked chicken tenders with a homemade dipping sauce made of Greek yogurt, mustard and honey whisked together until well blended.
- National Chicken Council: "Per Capita Consumption of Poultry and Livestock, 1960 to Forecast 2020, in Pounds"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Breasts vs Thighs Which Is More Nutritious"
- MedlinePlus: "Facts About Saturated Fat"
- MyFoodData: "Broiled Sirloin Strip Steak and Lean Chicken Breast (Cooked)"
- Cook's Illustrated: "How to Cook Bone-In Chicken Breasts"
- Delish.com: "Perfect Oven Baked Chicken Breast"
- FoodSafety.gov: "Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures Charts"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Lawry's Caribbean Jerk Marinade"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"