Chicken is a good source of lean, low-fat protein, but some of our favorite recipes deep-fry and over-sauce it until it’s only a shell of its former healthy self. We’ve hunted down nine complete diet disasters to avoid and offered up ridiculously healthy (and delicious) recipes to try instead.
1. Ridiculous: Chicken Parmesan
Traditional chicken parmigiana involves pan-frying the chicken, coating it with bread crumbs, layering on sodium-filled tomato sauce, and adding a generous dose of full-fat cheese. Served over a heaping plate of pasta, it’s a 1,000-plus-calorie meal with double the amount of recommended sodium.
Ridiculously Healthy:Try this healthychicken parmesan recipeinstead. It uses part-skim mozzarella, less oil, and whole wheat bread crumbs to make a 365-calorie meal.
2. Ridiculous: Chicken QuesadillaOrder this in a restaurant and you may be getting more than 1,000 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat. Why? Gigantic white flour tortillas, double doses of cheese, and oil-slathered chicken don’t help.
Ridiculously Healthy:Try this healthychicken quesadilla recipeinstead. It uses spices, not oil, to add flavor and serves up cheesy chicken on a whole wheat tortilla.
3. Ridiculous: Chicken and DumplingsThough the calorie count in this traditional dish isn’t horrible, the sodium count (approximately 2,000 mg) is enough to give you high blood pressure just by looking at it. And most recipes contain few, if any, vegetables.
Ridiculously Healthy:Try this healthy take onchicken and dumplings. It cuts the sodium in half while adding in carrots, celery, and peas.
4. Ridiculous: Fried ChickenIt may not come as a surprise that fried chicken isn’t waistline friendly. But how bad is it? Just one breast of fried chicken contains 7 grams of saturated fat, half of your recommended daily intake, without any sides.
Ridiculously Healthy:To get your fried chicken fix without busting your belt buckle, try this200-calorie “fried” chicken recipe. Buttermilk and a mixture of white and wheat bread crumbs coat the chicken, and fresh herbs and spices kick up the flavor.
5. Ridiculous: Chicken SaladCoated with saturated-fat-filled mayo, most chicken salad doesn’t stand a chance of making it on your healthy eating list. And certain drive-thru varieties contain more than 50% of your daily dose of saturated fat and heart-stopping trans fat.
Ridiculously Healthy:Thischicken salad recipegoes light on the mayo but adds in celery, scallions, and grapes for a burst of flavor and crunchy texture.
6. Ridiculous: General Tso’s Chicken“Breaded,” “deep-fried,” and “soaked in sauce” aren’t usually included in the General Tso’s Chicken descriptions on menus, but this Chinese food favorite contains about 1,300 calories and over half a day’s saturated fat.
Ridiculously Healthy:Choose thisgeneral’s chicken recipeinstead. Low-sodium soy sauce, vinegar, and fresh ginger give it authentic flavor while cutting the sodium and fat.
7. Ridiculous: Chicken Pot PieThough it’s one of the classic American one-pot meals, chicken pot pie’s buttery crust and thick gravy come at a caloric cost, weighing in at almost 800 calories per serving and 45 grams of fat.
Ridiculously Healthy:You don’t have to skimp on flavor to cut the fat, with this take on a classic. This version has all the comforting qualities ofpot pie(including a delectable crust!) with half the calories and a third of the fat.
8. Ridiculous: Chicken WingsThis traditional game-time favorite doesn’t score well in our books—it’s deep fried, doused in hot sauce, and dipped in a rich blue-cheese dressing. So it’s not surprising that each serving can have more than 700 calories, 49 grams of fat, and 2,000 mg of sodium.
Ridiculously Healthy:Feel the heat of these metabolism-revvingspicy chicken wingscomplete with a figure-friendly yogurt-based dipping sauce.
9. Ridiculous: Chicken Caesar SaladThink ordering a salad puts you in the safe zone? Think again. Chicken Caesar salad can tally nearly 1,000 calories if you’re not careful with all the rich fixings: Caesar dressing, croutons, and Parmesan cheese.
Ridiculously Healthy:Made with light dressing and homemade pita croutons, thishearty saladwill fill you up without drowning you in heavy dressing.