Chicken is Low in Fat and High in Protein When You Prepare It Right
Grilled chicken breast enjoys a "health food" reputation for a reason – it's packed with protein, low in fat and very healthy for you. Chicken breast and chicken legs and thighs can work well in a healthy diet, as long as you prepare them properly.
Basic Nutritional Information
Chicken breast and legs are made from different types of muscle within the chicken, and they have slightly different nutritional properties. The breast is naturally leaner. A 3-ounce portion of skinless roasted chicken breast has 142 calories, 27 grams of protein and 3 grams of fat, while an equivalent portion of skinless chicken leg has 148 calories, 21 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat. While the less fatty breast is the healthier option of the two, both types of meat supply plenty of high-quality protein to support your family's active lifestyle and promote healthy immunity. And because both cuts are relatively lean, you won't get a ton of artery-clogging saturated fat.
Health Benefits from Chicken
Chicken meat is an especially good source of B-complex vitamins, a group of eight nutrients that work together to support your metabolism. Specifically, they help you metabolize the nutrients in your food so you can turn them into energy. Certain B-vitamins also have other health benefits – vitamin B-3, or niacin, for instance, helps control your appetite, nourishes your skin and supports healthy nerves. A serving of chicken breast meat has an impressive 12 milligrams of niacin. That's enough to supply your child's entire daily niacin requirements, and also covers nearly three-quarters of your daily niacin requirements.
While chicken on its own is healthy, it's important to use healthful cooking techniques to avoid turning your meal into a calorie bomb. Remove the fatty skin before cooking your chicken, to keep it lean, and opt for baking, grilling and roasting cooking techniques, which don't add much fat (and calories) during the cooking process. Whip up your own marinades using vinegar, olive oil and your seasonings of choice, or keep it simple and season your chicken with garlic salt and pepper for a flavor-packed entree without any added sugar. Avoid frying, breading – unless you do it yourself, using 100 percent whole-grain breadcrumbs – and chicken marinated in store-bought marinades, because these tend to have lots of calories, sugar, salt and fat.
A Healthy Alternative: Turkey
Even though it's good for you, chicken isn't the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to healthy meat options. And if you're looking to branch out with new meats, consider picking up a turkey breast to roast. Turkey breast is even leaner than chicken, with just 2 grams of fat per 3-ounce serving of roasted breast meat. It's also higher in protein, boasting 30 grams – but only 147 calories – per 3-ounce serving. Best of all, each breast is very large, so you can roast it once and keep the meat to use across several meals. Enjoy a sheet-pan meal with roast turkey breast one night, and slice the meat thin to use in salads, wraps and sandwiches in the coming days.