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Grilled chicken is a staple for athletes. (It powers Peyton Manning's pregame meal.) A low maintenance, lean source of protein, chicken is easy to cook. Plus it's less expensive than fish and ground turkey. However, plain grilled chicken gets old after awhile, even when you change your side dishes and vegetables. (Review Key Nutrients for Athletes.)
Since there's no way I can eat plain grilled chicken every night, I've come up with some healthy solutions. Here are my favorite ways to dress up grilled chicken:
Use slivered almonds as a "breading"
Almond Crusted chicken is one of my favorite ways to add nutrients and flavor. I dip the chicken breasts in egg whites and coat them with a mixture of slivered almonds. Brown the chicken breasts on each side to toast the almonds before placing in the oven. Toasted almonds provide a nice crunch as well as delivering healthy fats.
Use a Chinese-inspired sauce and eat with chopsticks
Once the grilled chicken is cooked, stir-fry with vegetables to heat through and add your favorite healthy sauce. Some of my favorites are a mixture of low sodium soy sauce and honey, Siracha or Trader Joe's peanut satay sauce. Use whatever vegetables you have on hand and serve over brown rice for a complete meal. Plus, it's more fun when you eat with chopsticks.
Cook chicken in a crock-pot for a tender, low maintenance dinner
Cooking anything in a crockpot helps maximize flavor. I put a couple of chicken breasts in before work, add a sauce and vegetables, and have dinner ready when I come home. One of my favorite crock-pot toppings is salsa. It provides a fun flavor for chicken and is low in calories, fat and sugar. Last week, I served this combination in corn tortilla shells to make pulled chicken tacos. This was a unique meal that started with plain chicken!
Marinate with lemon juice and rosemary
I hesitate to even call this a recipe, but lemon juice adds zest to anything and helps brighten up any dish without sacrificing health. Marinate the chicken in lemon juice and rosemary to add a flavor burst to each bite. As with any dish, take advantage of herbs and spices, as they add aroma and taste without excess calories, salt or sugar.
Sprinkle with sauce and cheese to make a "healthier" chicken parmesan
Most of us love sauce and cheese. Rather than breading and frying the chicken, use grilled chicken breasts covered with tomato sauce or diced tomatoes and a healthy sprinkle of mozzarella. Reheat in the oven for a comforting meal.