Chicken is the most popular source of protein in the States, which means that, along with hand sanitizer and toilet paper, people have been stocking up on chicken breasts big time. It’s not that there isn’t any chicken left at the store (although that may change soon with a looming meat shortage), it’s just that the cuts in the refrigerated section just aren’t ones you may have cooked with before. Exhibit A: ground chicken.
While ground chicken may often be overlooked, it can be used in many of the same ways as ground beef. “Ground chicken is a great option because there are so many ways to cook it,” registered dietitian Jodi Greebel, RD says.
Here, Greebel sounds off on how ground chicken compares nutritionally to chicken breasts and ground beef. Plus, see five ground chicken healthy recipes to try at home.
Is ground chicken healthy?
Like other types of meat, Greebel says not all ground chicken is the same, nutritionally. “Ground chicken isn’t necessarily made with the leanest parts of chicken, which is the white meat,” she says. “If not marked as lean ground chicken, the ground chicken likely has brown meat mixed in.” While brown meat (aka the thighs and legs) tends to be more flavorful, she points out that is also tends to be higher in fat. But she says that choosing lean ground chicken means it will have between zero and two ounces of fat per four ounces.
Sometimes you’ll see “extra lean” ground chicken at the grocery store, but Greebel says this choice actually isn’t as nutrient-rich as lean ground chicken. “You still want some dark meat because it contains iron and zinc,” she says, important minerals that impact your energy levels and immune system. “Also, some of the fat is healthy fat. So you don’t want it too lean.”
When you go for lean ground chicken, Greebel says the nutritional value is comparable to chicken breasts. And when you compare lean ground chicken to lean ground beef, the protein is actually higher in chicken. But the fat content can also be higher, which is why it’s important to note the fat percentage included on the packaging.
In general, the nutritional differences between ground chicken and ground beef are minimal, which is why Greebel feels good about using them interchangeably in her recipes. Ready to get cooking? Keep reading for five ground chicken healthy recipes.
5 healthy ground chicken recipes to try at home
Pair these little chicken meatballs with a bowl of zucchini noodles or whole wheat pasta and you have a delicious Italian dinner that doesn’t require a ton of work. Make the chicken meatballs just as you would ones with ground beef, adding an egg, bread crumbs, and a few key seasonings for flavor.
Another way to serve up chicken meatballs is by coating them in a creamy herb sauce. This one is made with garlic and rosemary. Pro tip: use coconut cream as the base to make the sauce extra thick and to add another layer of flavor.
What makes one-pot meals like this one so great is that you can add your ground chicken (just as you would beef crumbles) while working in lots of veggies at the same time. The seasonings are really what give this recipe its Mexican flavor, so be sure to have garlic, paprika, cumin, and chili powder all on hand.
If you’re craving an Asian-inspired meal, flavor your ground chicken with an orange chili-garlic sauce. Pair with rice and veggies and you have a healthier, better-than-takeout meal that’s less than $1.50 per serving.
Make a half plant-based, half meat burger by blending your ground chicken with avocado. Because of its creamy texture, the avocado works as a binder, helping hold everything together. This recipe works whether you’re grilling outside in the backyard or inside on the stove.
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