Delicious? Check. Nutritious? Check. Immunity-booster? Check.
Any chicken lover will give you multiple, almost-convincing arguments explaining why chicken is the best food on the planet. However, did you know that you might be making a simple mistake that dethrones your chicken from its “best food” position? Even if your chicken is of the best quality, the method you use to cook your chicken ultimately gets to decide how “good” or “bad” it actually is. So here are the healthy and the not-so-healthy ways to prepare your chicken.
Poaching, according to nutritionists, might just be the healthiest way to cook chicken. Since there is no new ingredient added, apart from water, the chicken retains its nutrients. Also, certain studies state that poached or boiled chicken lacks several volatile compounds, as poaching happens at a lower temperature than methods like frying or baking.1 Also, a 1-ounce serving of poached chicken gives you approximately 47 calories, 1 g of fat, 68 mg potassium, and 9 g protein, along with 2% iron.
How to do it
- Add water to a saucepan and bring it to boil
- Once it reaches the maximum temperature, start reducing the temperature
- When the temperature is low, add chicken to the saucepan
- Simmer until the chicken is cooked.
However, your chicken might fall behind on taste if you use this method. So, add a few fresh herbs spices to pack in some flavor.
Time for all grilled chicken lovers to rejoice, for it’s the second best way to cook chicken. The advantage of grilling is that it makes the chicken less greasy, unlike other methods of cooking like frying or even baking.2 But, be conscious of the fat content in your oil. If you use high-fat oils, limit its use and go for oils that are low-fat. The American Heart Association suggests using olive oil (as opposed to butter or coconut oil) to marinate your chicken, as it contains unsaturated fat, which is better for your heart.3 A 1-ounce serving of grilled chicken gives you approximately 33 calories, 1 g of fat, and 7 g protein.
How to do it
- Preheat the grill to a medium-high temperature
- Place marinated chicken on the grill with the skin-side down.
- Grill for about 10 minutes
- Now flip the chicken and repeat the procedure
Conventional sauteing uses fats and oils to cook chicken. And while this isn’t strictly “unhealthy”, you can end up consuming excess fat. If you like sauteed chicken, there is a healthier alternative you can opt for – slender sauteing. This method uses other fluids like water or broth instead of oil.4
How to do it
- On a medium temperature, heat 1–2 tbsp plain water.
- You can also use broth instead of water.
- When the water bubbles, add chopped chicken pieces to the saucepan.
- Keep stirring until the chicken is cooked.
However, if you want to stick with the conventional method of sauteing, invest in a quality non-stick skillet. A good skillet will reduce the amount of oil needed to cook your chicken. Alternatively, you can also saute the chicken on a stove-top. When you use less oil to cook, your food will become healthier.
What To Avoid: Frying
It’s no surprise that fried chicken isn’t good for you. A 3-ounce serving of fried chicken contains a high amount of saturated fat – 3.3 g (17% DV) and up to 195 calories. And a high-level of saturated fat in your food can raise your cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease.5 Moreover, fried food is less satiating – so you’ll end up eating more than what your body requires and risk weight gain.6
A healthy alternative to fried chicken is grilled chicken salad with low-fat dressing, which contains only 178 calories, as opposed to a regular fried chicken burger that carries 599 calories.
Tips To Make Your Chicken Healthier
- Try chicken thighs – they’re believed to be healthier than chicken breasts.
- Skinless chicken contains lesser calories than its skinned counterpart.
- Don’t ignore your toppings. Even a poached chicken can be bad for you if it’s topped with cheese and bacon and served on refined wheat bread. Instead, opt for a simple ranch dressing coated, some lettuce and fresh veggies.
- Avoid rotisserie chicken as it contains a high amount of sodium and cholesterol.
Chicken is healthy – but only if you cook it right. So, opt for poaching, grilling, and sauteing to make your chicken not only delicious but also nutritious.
|↑1||Jayasena, Dinesh D., Dong Uk Ahn, Ki Chang Nam, and Cheorun Jo. “Flavour chemistry of chicken meat: a review.” Asian-Australasian journal of animal sciences 26, no. 5 (2013): 732.|
|↑2||Burkhart, William H. “Cooking apparatus and method.” U.S. Patent 4,516,486, issued May 14, 1985.|
|↑3||Advisory: Replacing saturated fat with healthier fat could lower cardiovascular risks. American Heart Foundation.|
|↑4||Cooking Technique: Healthy Sautéing. American Heart Association.|
|↑5||Fats, Added Sugars, and Salt. A Healthier You: Based on the dietary guidelines for Americans. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, USA Government.|
|↑6||Eat More, Weigh Less? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|