Low in calories and high in protein, chicken breast checks off all the right boxes when it comes to your weight-loss efforts. But eating healthy doesn’t have to mean bingeing on bland chicken breast all day.
From burritos and barbecue to pizza and pad thai, these 11 dietitian-approved chicken recipes are anything but boring.
The best part? These mouthwatering poultry picks will satisfy all your culinary cravings without racking up the calories — each has fewer than 500.
1. Sunflower Seed and Sage-Crusted Chicken Tenders
These easy, gluten-free tenders are great for weight loss since they cut down carbs — nixing the breadcrumbs for a nutty, seed-based crust — and pack a plethora of protein (37 grams) and other nutrients, dietitian Leslie Langevin, RD, author of The Anti-Inflammatory Kitchen Cookbook, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
“Using sesame and sunflower seeds adds crunch, vitamin E and good monounsaturated fatty acids,” Langevin says, adding that you can adjust the flavor to your particular palate by subbing other nuts or seeds.
Serve these tasty tenders on top of a salad or with wilted greens for a complete, well-balanced dish.
2. Keto Chicken Enchiladas
This keto-friendly take on chicken enchiladas tosses out tortillas in favor of low-carb, low-calorie, nutrient-dense zucchini wraps. And with spices like chili powder and ground cumin, you won’t sacrifice a smidge of savory flavor.
“But if you’re not following a keto diet, feel free to cut down on some of the olive oil to keep the calories a little lower and decrease the fat percentage,” Langevin says.
3. Spicy Turmeric Chicken
Trying to curb your carb intake? With zero total carbs per serving, this simple and quick chicken recipe — just 15 minutes from prep to plate — is for you.
But what this dish lacks in carbs it makes up for in tastiness thanks to its marigold-colored marinade made of an assortment of aromatic spices and fresh herbs.
Loaded with tangy turmeric and fragrant garlic, these seasonings not only heighten the flavor but also help decrease inflammation and keep your immune system strong, according to Langevin.
4. Baked Chicken Nuggets
At just over 200 calories per serving, these homemade chicken bites are a healthier option compared to a six-piece portion of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, which will cost you 310 calories and twice the sodium.
Perfect for paleo dieters, these low-carb, protein-packed (19 grams), baked chicken nuggets are dipped in an egg-based batter and “breaded” with tapioca powder.
5. Chicken Tikka Masala
This healthier, homemade twist on the traditional chicken tikka masala cuts out the heavy cream and cuts down on calories and fat. Just as tasty as takeout, this recipe’s lip-smacking marinade of warm spices and creamy Greek yogurt tenderizes the chicken, so it practically melts in your mouth while it tickles your taste buds.
The chicken needs to marinate at least three hours, so plan accordingly. For even juicier chicken chunks, let it sit overnight. We promise it’ll be worth the wait.
Did we mention it’s good for you, too? With anti-inflammatory ingredients like garlic and turmeric and metabolism-boosting protein (a whopping 66 grams), this chicken dish is not only great for your waistline but for your health too, Langevin says.
6. Barbecue Chicken Pita Pizzas
Winner, winner, chicken dinner! Finger-licking barbecue sauce, mouthwatering mozzarella and juicy grilled chicken make the tastiest toppings for this healthier, high-protein (29 grams per serving) pita pizza.
“This can be a nice dish to use up leftover chicken,” says Langevin, whose favorite trick for home cooking is “cook once, eat twice!”
And with only 10 minutes of prep time, these crispy personal pizzas are perfect for busy weeknights.
7. Sesame Chicken Nori Burrito
This sushi-inspired sesame chicken burrito substitutes seaweed for traditional tortilla wraps, saving you a ton of calories and carbs. Plus, adding nori piles on powerhouse nutrients like vitamins A, C, E and K and iodine, Langevin says.
Grilled chicken breast, avocado and brown rice provide the perfect balance of lean protein, plant-based fats and complex carbs that you need to maintain steady blood sugar levels, keep your stomach full and achieve healthy weight loss, Langevin says.
8. Chicken Pad Thai Zoodles
Low-carb, low-calorie zoodles replace rice noodles in this healthy spin on pad thai. For reference, one cup of starchy rice noodles will run you 14 times the carbs (and more than 12 times the calories) as the same serving of zoodles.
And between fresh zucchini, summer squash, carrots and bean sprouts, you’ll be on target to achieve your two to three cups of veggies a day — the recommended daily serving for an adult.
To make this dish even healthier, lower the sodium content. Langevin recommends substituting coconut aminos (which have a mild soy sauce flavor) for the sea salt.
9. Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Overflowing with fiber-filled veggies like juicy tomatoes, crisp bell peppers and meaty mushrooms, this chicken cacciatore recipe is rich in potassium and vitamin C and great for weight loss, Langevin says.
Plus, stress-free, no-fuss “slow cooker recipes are ideal choices when we are working from home or chasing our families around,” she says.
Simply toss your ingredients in the pot and let them simmer while you go about your day. Once the chicken stews and tenderizes in its own juices, it’ll be falling off the bone.
10. Pesto Chicken Farro Risotto
If you’re modeling your weight-loss plan on a Mediterranean diet, this low-calorie pesto chicken dish will help you reap the heart-boosting benefits with its healthy fats, whole grains and lean protein.
This recipe forgoes rice in favor of the complex carb farro, creating a rich risotto bursting with B vitamins. High in fiber, the ancient whole grain also gives you the “I’m full” sensation for longer, so you’re less likely to overindulge. A major win for those with weight-loss goals.
“For a gluten-free spin, use gluten-free broth and short grain brown rice, which will mimic the texture of farro,” Langevin says.
11. Feel Better Chicken Soup
The ultimate comfort food, this low-sodium, low-calorie chicken soup is spilling over with good-for-you veggies, which offer vital vitamins like A, E and C, and provides all the nutrition you need in one bowl, according to Langevin.
At just 156 calories per serving, you can afford to have seconds without busting your daily calorie count.
Chicken soup is also a staple when you’re sick and for good reason. With hydrating broth, energy-boosting lean protein and disease-fighting antioxidants, a warm cup of this nutritious meal can help strengthen your immune system if you’re under the weather.
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