In your efforts to build muscle and burn fat, you can end up in a rut. After a while, your shiny new routine just doesn’t produce the same results as it did in the beginning. You’re bored with it, and so is your body. But the gym isn’t the only place things get stale. Meal plans for fitness-minded individuals grow old, too, because there are only so many grilled chicken breasts you can have. Your barbeque certainly gets a workout, but your taste buds are begging for something new. Too bad your brain understands how valuable this clean protein is for muscle repair. Happily, a little imagination goes a long way. You don’t need to — nor should you — give up chicken to get out of your dietary rut. Here are a few ways to rekindle your relationship with poultry.
1. SKIP THE GRILL
Masters of preparation will often grill a week’s worth of chicken breasts on Sunday night. But the monotony should convince you to bring your apron and tongs inside once in a while. “I use bone-in, skin-on split breasts, and I roast them in the oven,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, (danawhitenutrition.com), an expert for the Food Network. “It keeps the meat extra juicy, and there’s no grill required, which is great, especially if you live in colder climates.”
2. CHICKEN IN A CUP
Time to think outside the breast. How about chicken in a cup? “At about 100 calories each, curry chicken lettuce cups are full of flavor but not calories,” White says. Roast 2 pounds of split breasts at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, remove the skin, chop and put in a bowl with ¾ cup diced red bell peppers. Combine 1 teaspoon of curry, 2 tablespoons of light mayo and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl, mix in with chicken and peppers, and scoop into the lettuce.
3. CHICKEN SALAD REWIND
You may think that chicken salad is a mayonnaise-soaked exercise in gluttony, but that’s just your mom’s version. White’s take on it is much more physique-friendly. “This fresh, light recipe uses only five ingredients and way less mayo,” she says. White says to start by roasting split breasts at 375 for 35 minutes. Once done, cool them before removing the skin and chopping the breasts into bite-size pieces. “Then transfer the chicken to a large bowl and add 2 tablespoons of light mayo, 2 tablespoons of plain nonfat Greek yogurt, ¾ cup chopped celery and ½ cup chopped basil. Season with ¼ teaspoon each of kosher salt and black pepper. Mix well and serve immediately or store in the refrigerator to chill slightly.”
Part of what makes leftover chicken breast so unpalatable by Tuesday is the dryness. One way to build in more juiciness, even when cooking in bulk, is to marinate your chicken ahead of time. “Marinating is great to impart big flavor and maintain tenderness,” White says. “It’s also a magical tactic to help speed up defrosting. I always buy in bulk and freeze some, so this is a good tip.”
5. SAUCE IT UP
While we’d all love to pour a dab of BBQ sauce or [insert other fattening sauce here] onto our plates for dipping, it’s likely to end up deposited on our waistlines. White has a better solution for the dipping inclined. “The easiest and most guilt-free sauce ever consists of a little nonfat Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard and a little honey. Try it. It’s amazing.” This elixir adds flavor while also providing a smidge more protein without sending the calories through the roof.