A roundup of healthy chicken recipes for lunch or dinner that are flavorful and inspired by some of our favorite meals.
What's the best thing about chicken, besides its lean nutritional content? 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 all the way to Paleo and Keto, no matter what diet or lifestyle you follow (aside from vegan/vegetarian of course), chicken is an important low calorie, low fat, high-protein player. But before you hit your local market and start cranking out healthy chicken meals, you should know that not all chicken is raised the same.
Aaron Kaskowitz, a holistic health coach who specializes in mindful living and nutrition, recommends seeking out chickens that live freely, aren't given antibiotics or processed feeds, and to avoid products from factory farms in general.
"An organic, pastured chicken would be just about the best you can do," says Kaskowitz. "These birds live outdoors, as opposed to free-range which are still grown indoors and just given access to the outdoors. This may be hard to find so ask your butcher who can help guide you to make better choices."
What's a Good Portion For Chicken?
To prevent yourself from overeating chicken during your meal, use your palm as a guide for portion size. Kaskowitz also recommends two great tricks to prevent chicken overload: "Use smaller plates or bowls. A large plate that is filled up will also fill up your stomach. Or when in doubt, follow the 80-percent rule, which tells us to chew well and to slowly eat until we feel 80-percent full, then stop," says Kaskowitz.
What Are Good Side Dishes That Go With Chicken?
Just about everything goes well with chicken as a side dish. To maximize a healthy lifestyle, focus on fresh, in-season vegetables and stay away from anything fried, breaded or drenched in butter. And make healthier choices. Instead of white mashed potatoes, opt for roasted sweet potatoes instead.
Check out these healthy chicken recipes below that are so versatile and flavorful, not only will you not get bored but you'll get nutritional boosts along the way thanks to some key ingredients like turmeric, tarragon, chicken broth and more.
Turmeric Marinated Grilled Chicken Tenders
Move over turmeric lattes, turns out chicken and turmeric are a match made in flavor heaven with loads of health benefits to boot. According to Medical News Today, this saffron-colored spice has been shown to not only have antioxidant abilities that help prevent or slow down cellular damage but has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits, aid in a healthy gut and possibly reduce the risk of cancer.
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 and let the chicken absorb all the flavor during the day — and voila — you have a healthy chicken dinner that is ready to be cooked and served as soon as you get home.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Turmeric Marinated Grilled Chicken Tenders
Instant Pot Jambalaya
One of our favorite ways to get inspired for healthy chicken dishes ideas is to take our favorite foods and swap out key ingredients to make them better for you. And this healthy version of jambalaya, the traditional Louisiana one-pot meal, is no exception. Here we've swapped white rice for brown, and chicken Andouille sausage rather than pork sausage to cut down on the fat.
This healthy chicken recipes also calls for chicken broth, which Kaskowitz says, "Is an absolute staple in the kitchen. For soups or curries, anything. Bone broth reminds us to utilize every part of the animal and perhaps most importantly, broth is a healing, traditional food that provides important amino acids, collagen for our gut lining, minerals and supports a healthy immune system."
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Instant Pot Jambalaya
Leafy Rotisserie Chicken Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing
This lunchtime favorite gets a nutritional upgrade thanks to bright and fresh ingredients like grapes, cucumbers, pine nuts, and tarragon. Tarragon, still not as widely used as more common herbs like oregano and basil, has a host of benefits we should be paying attention to. According to Michael T. Murray and Joseph E. Pizzorno, authors of "The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods," in addition to being flavorful, tarragon also supplies a small amount of iron, has been reported to have anti-fungal and antimicrobial compounds and has compounds that fight free radicals. And lastly, according to the duo, the herb may assist in treating diabetes because it helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Leafy Rotisserie Chicken Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing
Paleo Citrus-Basil Chicken Salad
When it comes to chicken breasts, 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 with water and boil until cooked. Here, tangy citrus and fresh basil are culinary complements to this orange-poached chicken.
Kaskowitz reminds us to try and be mindful, and to really enjoy your food. "Treat yourself to something that satisfies your soul, along with your taste buds. Eat real food, like chicken, in ways that leave you feeling satisfied and joyful. Too often we focus on ways to deprive ourselves of the joys of food."
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Paleo Citrus-Basil Chicken Salad
How Do You Make Healthy Chicken Breast?
Making healthy chicken breast is easy. All you need is an oven, a serving of olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Pop it into a 375-degree oven for 20-40 minutes (or until no longer pink inside) and you've got yourself a healthy chicken breast that you can add to a nice leafy salad, serve with a side of roasted sweet potatoes or cut up and turn it into a healthy chicken salad recipe. Just be mindful of your portions and stick to a palm-size serving or the size of a deck of cards for reference.
Tzatziki Rotisserie Chicken Pita
These Greek-style gyros are the quintessential meal for those that follow the Mediterranean diet for 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 whole-wheat pita like Thomas' Pita Pockets in Whole Wheat that receives an A- on Fooducate.com, a website and app that analyzes information found in product nutrition panels and ingredient lists.
And thanks to the use of Greek yogurt in the tzatziki sauce, you'll get an extra a boost of protein and gut-healthy probiotics — live microorganisms that help the digestive and immune system operate more effectively as well as offset nasty side effects cause by some antibiotics.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Tzatziki Rotisserie Chicken Pita
Healthy Homestyle Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup
Kaskowitz is a fan of chicken noodle soup and for good reason. "Grandma knows what's up with that chicken soup. It provides important amino acids, collagen for our gut lining, minerals and supports a healthy immune system. Remember to source a healthy chicken for this because you are essentially extracting everything into the broth, including toxins that the chicken might have stored from an unhealthy life."
According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, chicken soup helps support a suppressed immune system thanks to the dish's various vitamins, minerals, some fat, warm liquid to help upper respiratory tract symptoms, protein and carbs that help you feel satisfied, not to mention helping with hydration.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Healthy Homestyle Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup
Keto Chicken Enchiladas
Most drastically, tortillas were replaced with zucchinis. In addition to being low carb, zucchini is a good source of vitamin C, the same nutrients that's in carrots which aids in eyesight health, plus manganese, an essential mineral that helps fight free radical damage.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Keto Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Pad Thai Zoodles
If you have given up your go-to pad Thai because you are 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 zoodles. Two cups of zoodles have only 66 calories, 12 grams of carbohydrates and four grams of fiber.
Of course, portion control will be your biggest challenge when you consume this dish. Per Kaskowitz's recommendation, choose a smaller bowl and fill it up rather than a larger bowl that will make your meal look small and unsatisfying. But don't worry too much — zoodles are so low in calories that you can double your portion of this pad Thai and still walk away consuming less calories than you would with any takeout version.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Chicken Pad Thai Zoodles
Kale and Chicken Caesar Salad with Quinoa and Pecans
"Chicken on a salad is actually quite filling," Kaskowitz says. "Therefore, you're likely to feel full more quickly without craving more." He recommends adding a source of fat to support satiety. "Fats are very satisfying and allow blood sugar to remain stable for longer, so you aren't likely to get hungry as soon. But fats also make food taste better, so be careful that you don't end up eating too much"
Seamus Mullen, author, chef, and creator of this kale and chicken Ceasar salad, packs in the protein thanks to the roasted chicken, a soft-boiled egg and tricolor quinoa for a much-appreciated plant-based protein. Adding nuts offers a much-needed crunch and makes this salad feel luxurious, but Mullen also warns to watch your portions and treat pecans or walnuts as a garnish to avoid overeating.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Kale and Chicken Caesar Salad with Quinoa and Pecans
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 but is also a great source of iodine. Iodine, according to Medical News Today is essential for "a wide range of bodily functions, including metabolism, bone health, immune response and development of the central nervous system."
Top this salad with a soft boiled egg and a palm-sized serving of chicken for 38 grams of body-building protein.
Recipe and Nutritional Info: Chicken with Mushrooms, Kale and Yuzu Salad