Thursday, April 2, 2015

Cluck Cluck: How To Make That Bird Less Boring

It doesn't matter if your goal is building muscle, losing fat, or both. One nutrient that is essential in your diet is PROTEIN and chicken is certainly the most popular form of lean meat. But it can get boring and boredom can become your worst enemy. Here are some ways to make that daily serving (or four) of bird .. better. 

Hey Fit Fam,

I eat chicken 3 to 4 times a day sometimes. I've been doing this for a solid year now and I've yet to really get sick of eating it! The secret to it not getting "old" is finding HEALTHY ways to make it flavorful!! Which of the following methods you use depends on how much time you have to spend meal prepping. I tend to stick with number 5 & 12 the most!! Enjoy!!

(1) Use A Marinade -- Now don't go run to the store and grab one off the shelf. Turn that bottle over. Chances are it is LOADED with calories, sodium, carbs, sugar, etc. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see "dieters" make. They don't look at the labels on condiments! I have found a couple that aren't too bad as far as macros go ... but your best bet is to make your own. Pick your favorite spices and rub them into the chicken breasts and let them sit for a few hours in the fridge so that the flavor seeps into the chicken before cooking. If you can, let them sit overnight for maximum flavor! The options are endless!! You can even do 1/2 your chicken with one marinade and 1/2 with another! I tend to cook my chicken plain and add my spices "per meal" - but allowing the spices to "marinate" will certainly make it more flavorful! There are tons of recipes using only spices on Pinterest too!

(2) Make Stir Fry -- You are going to want to reach for those pre-made stir fry sauces. Don't do it!!! Again .. most condiments can kill your progress (every little bit adds up.)  To make a healthier stir fry just buy some low sodium soy sauce and grab your favorite spices. I love using Spicy or Everything Flavor God! I spray a pan, add my pre-cut veggies that I've already meal prepped, add measured out chicken that is already baked, add spices and some measured out soy sauce. Boom!! This is also a great one to add some coconut oil to! I also will often add one serving of frozen pineapple chunks (Trader Joe's has them for cheap.) You could even add an egg or a couple egg whites and/or some rice if your macros allow for a stir FRIED rice type dish! I make this "per serving" so that I know exactly how many veggies, how much meat, etc., that I am getting in each serving. Stir Fry already "prepped" is pretty impossible to measure correctly because you have no way of knowing if you are getting more veggies, more meat, or if you add it in .. more rice/egg. It takes like 2 min per serving to make it individually and I do several days worth (put into individual containers) so that I only have to dirty up dishes once.  It does take a little more time doing it "by portion" ... but that is how I have to do it to ensure I know exactly what I"m getting in each serving. Most people could just make a big batch and divide it up. I personally just have to make sure each meal is measured out properly!

(3) Slow Cook (crock pot) -- This one is so easy. Put chicken in a crock pot. That is it, lol!  You can add maybe a jar of salsa if you want .. or some spices .. or nothing! Cook on low all day or high 4+ hours. Just make sure it's done. I usually cook on high for a while then switch to low for a while. Get some forks and shred it apart! Boom .. shredded chicken! It's amazing how just doing this makes it taste different. Totally a texture thing!

(4) Chicken Burgers -- I prefer not to do "ground" meat when possible. However I do love my turkey and beef burgers. Which is why I rarely do ground chicken. But chicken burgers are a great way to totally change the way it tastes! Just make sure you are getting the extra lean kind!!!!! It shouldn't have any more fat than a chicken breast. One of my favorite recipes is my Buffalo Chicken Burgers .. they are so good! But you can make them however you would make a regular burger!

(5) Mustards -- I'm not talking about yellow mustard either! This is a staple on competitors diets and I never can understand why people don't search for FLAVORED mustards instead of the standard hello. If you search .. you can find ones with the same (or almost the same) macros!! I have like 10 different flavored mustards and they are my STAPLES! I bake my chicken plain (usually a couple pounds at a time) and then add whatever mustard I want when I eat it and it makes me feel like I have a different chicken every single time! This is the fastest method and my favorite. Make sure and look at the nutrition label. 1-2 carbs and 10 cals or less is typically good if you are sticking to one serving. Just again remember .. everything adds up, so measure it out if you can :) Some of my favorite mustards flavors are Sweet & Spicy, Jalapeño, Buffalo and Spicy Brown!

(6) Eat It COLD -- Chicken in a salad or chicken salad are great option. This is a great for those that tend to have to eat on the go and don't have access to a microwave! I actually don't mind eating my regular ole baked chicken cold from time to time. It kind of changes the taste and (oddly) is a nice change up, lol! Just be careful with chicken salad and of course with salad dressings! There are some amazing chicken salad recipes that use greek yogurt, avocado, etc. Also for salad dressing .. true balsamic vinegar is amazing and a little goes a long way! I mix mine with Braggs Apple Cider to mak a dressing! I also LOVE Trader Joe's Cilantro Vinaigrette in off season. It has some fat and calories but it's a good one and has ingredients that are good for you! There are many out there .. just gotta watch the macros!

(7) Get Out The grill -- Anything on a grill just tastes different! Plus you can make a ton all at once! So glad summer is here and we can get to grilling!!

(8) Add Some Noodles -- I personally wouldn't use the pasta you may be thinking of (even the healthier ones like wheat, quinoa, brown rice, etc) because as I've mentioned in other recipes, since I eat so many SMALL meals a day, I would only be allowed like an ounce DRY. Do you know how little that is, haha?! It would be be exact It hunk it's like 8 penne noodles, ha!  So when I eat pasta I usually make it my cheat meal so I can have a big serving OR if its for everyday/prep friendly -- I use something called Miracle Noodles. They literally have NOTHING in them. Quest makes some noodles too .. but I prefer the Miracle Noodles. There are so many ways you can add your chicken to these. The Creamy Avocado Recipe I posted a while back is great (and another one that is good cold), but I also really like sautéing these noodles in a skillet with chicken, veggies, soy and a homemade peanut sauce which is just pb2 and water! A little note .. the noodles smell HORRIBLE but that is NOT how they taste! Trust me not his one :) I order mine online!

(9) Make It Mexican - This is one of my favorites! I either cut up baked chicken I've made ..or it is really good if you use the kind made in the crock pot (above).  Just grab a pan and add a onion, peppers, some black beans or rice, low sodium taco seasonings and a little water. Then put in a couple thin corn tortillas or whatever your choice is! Top with some guacamole and salsa! Same "measuring" method as above. I make these individually cause it's really hard to weigh properly once prepared. Another great way to have a mexican type dish is to make a sauce made of dijon mustard. lime juice, salsa, green onion. Add it on top of your chicken breast. So good!

(10) Wrap It Up -- If you can have wraps there are TONS of low carb/healthy ones out there. I can't have them cause I have to be Gluten Free and I've yet to find a healthy/good wrap. Julia's Bakery Online has some, but they are so expensive! Anyway ... Just add some cucumber, cilantro and maybe some homemade greek yogurt dressing (get creative there are tons of recipes) or the Cilantro Salad Dressing I mentioned above at Trader Joes and you are good to go! Or you can go the standard route and add some lettuce, tomato, mustard, etc! So many wrap recipes! Again .. just watch the "extras" cause they add up! If you are home you can also grill them and make a hot wrap - even better! If you are like me and love the "chips/sandwich" combo .. you can always lessen the ckn you put in the wrap and have a side of Quest Chips (they are high protein and low carb) .. or if you chose a low carb wrap you could make some home made chips. I can't rave enough about those. They are a GAME CHANGER!

(11) Chicken Chili -- This one can be hard because of the "measuring" factor. But if you don't care about each portion being specific .. this is a good one. Or you can just make enough for yourself for 4 days and once it is done weight it and divide it by 4. Even if you get more chicken one day - it will all equal out :) Onion, Cumin, White Beans, low sodium ckn broth, Chili or Jalepeno peppers -- yummy! There are tons of recipes out there. As always .. just watch the extra!

(12) Just Add Spices -- As I mentioned above, I bake a bunch of plain chicken at once and then make each serving different. Other than mustard, the biggest way I make my chicken taste different, is simply using dry spices! I add them before or after I microwave - doesn't really matter. I actually usually do this PLUS a mustard! My favorite are the same as I mentioned in the marinades (Flavor God) .. but a close second are POPCORN SEASONINGS!!! I mention this in my Chip Recipe because they are amazing when making chips .. but they are also good on chicken! Ranch, Cheddar, Buffalo -- those seasonings are amazing! They are pretty low sodium considering .. but they do contain milk ingredients. They will of course be more flavorful if you bake it with the seasonings as mentioned above .. but if you are like me and indecisive .. just adding them to each meal is a great way to spice things up and make your chicken less boring!! My favorite "combo" is this Lynchburg Cinnamon Chipotle Seasoning I found at my Kroger ... with the sweet and spicy mustard!! YUMMMY!!

Eat Clean. Train Dirty.

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