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Perked-up chicken can save your diet

Skinless chicken breasts have become the new cottage cheese -- the ubiquitous base upon which so many weight-loss diets are built.

But it still doesn't register well on the old excitement meter. I mean, how many times have you found yourself craving a naked, unseasoned hunk of chicken breast? I'd raise the white flag and order pizza if the road to lasting health looked like an endless parade of plain chicken breasts.

Take the advice of a guy who has gobbled his fair share of chicken -- you don't abandon it altogether, but you do need to break up the monotony. Especially when dieting, it is important not to get lazy in your chicken prep. It's time to add some perk to your poultry.

Because a diet that's dull is a diet you won't stick to.

Nothing kills a commitment to healthy eating faster than boredom. If you're battling meal monotony, you've come to the right place. And check out these numbers. My version of this dish has just 228 calories and 8 grams of fat. Traditional versions clock in at 521 calories and 28 grams of fat.

> Warm Salad of Grilled Chicken Thighs, Figs and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided

Salt and ground black pepper

8 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs, each cut into 2 pieces each (2 to 2 1/2 pounds total)

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

2 ripe fresh figs, cut lengthwise into quarters

8 cups loosely packed fresh arugula

1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved

In a large bowl, combine half each of the vinegar and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes or in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours, turning the chicken occasionally.

Place the onions in a large bowl and add the remaining red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt. Mix and set aside for 15 minutes to 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-low. Place the chicken thighs on the grill and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through, turning the chicken halfway through grilling. Transfer the chicken to a plate and sprinkle with basil. Set aside.

Add the arugula, figs and remaining rosemary to the onions and vinegar. Gently toss the salad, then season with salt and pepper. Divide the salad between 4 serving plates. Place the chicken thigh halves around the salad, then sprinkle the salads with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serves 4.

Per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 228 calories; 8g fat (3g saturated); 120mg cholesterol; 8g carbohydrate; 31g protein; 2g fiber; 732mg sodium.

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