Baked chicken is one of our healthier protein options, but we're bored with our quick preps. Help!

In trying to lose weight, but not wanting to give up the taste, nutrition, and generally filling feeling of meat products, we are settling in to a lot of baked chicken and fish. I’m good on fish prep, and no worry about our choices getting stale any time soon. However, we’re starting to get sick of our regular chicken choices.

  1. Low-cal Italian dressing, just squirt over the chicken and bake. One of the healthiest choices, decent flavor. The only thing it really has going against it is sodium.
  2. Old Bay seasoning, sprinkled on top and bake. Full of flavor, but even more sodium.
  3. Lemon juice and pepper. We don’t make it that much, just because it’s not that interesting, though it’s probably the healthiest.
  4. Parmesan/garlic powder rub. Processed sprinkle-from-the-can Parmesan. This has to be one of the worst of our healthy preps, and we’re trying to step away.
  5. Barbecue sauce. Not the easiest on the calories, plenty of sugars, good dose of sodium. Not the healthiest choice, and we don’t do it much.

So, I’m looking for other options. Preferred criteria:
-It should be healthy.
-It will require relatively few ingredients and a short prep time.
-It provides a decent flavor.
-It scale down nicely to one chicken breast (which gets split between two of us)

Lemon pepper and garlic salt? Or does that violate the “too much salt” provision?

We also do lemon/garlic/rosemary. It’s quite good.

I dip baked chicken in mustard. Mustard adds a remarkable amount of flavor, and is basically calorie free.

Sometimes I also use reduced-sugar ketchup. It’s much lower calorie than regular ketchup.

Teriyaki sauce is good, not terribly high in calories (though again with the sodium). You can get ‘lower sodium’, which is still pretty high, but not as terrible.

Chicken thighs are somewhat higher in fat and calories, but they are much juicier and more flavorful, and if you use the boneless, skinless ones, they are still good sources of protein that are fairly low in calories.

Well-trimmed pork loin chops should be another option. Not much higher in fat/calories than chicken breast, just a change in flavor.

Flying this thread over to Cafe Society.

Soy sauce, honey, Sriracha sauce.

The other one I haven’t done lately was something like lime juice, pineapple juice, garlic, ginger, habanero peppers.

Cut in chunks and simmer with tomatoes and onion. The diced tomatoes with italian spices are good, or the Ro-tel style tomatoes with chiles.

Roll it in crushed nuts, like pistachios or pecans.

I’ll second the mustard idea. I’ve been cooking mine that way for a long time. It’s very tasty.

Hoisen Sauce is good, but like BBQ sauce, it has some calories so it has to be used sparingly.

Another one I do quite often, season the chicken with salt & pepper and saute it in a small amount of some good olive oil. Then cover with some canned tomato and stew it for a bit, just til the tomatos break down a little. I throw in a few black olives at the end. This is tasty by itself or over a very small amount of angel hair pasta. I shave some good parmesan cheese over the top. Not too much. You can add garlic and/or onions too while the chicken is sauteing.

My favorite is something like this, only it’s equal parts honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

I learned it from the Frugal Gourmet, before he got zapped for feeling up his employees.

Would varied herbs stuffed under the skin be too much prep? (assuming you keep the skin on)
Fresh is better than dried, just cut little slits and slid a bit under the skin here and there. Try tarragon, chives, leeks, chopped garlic (you can get this pre-chopped in jars), citrus slices, cilantro, thyme, sage, dill, just about anything really. Maybe rub with curry?

I go for honey, lemon, rosemary, olive oil, and black pepper. It tastes pretty good if you marinade for about four hours. I kind of love it.

Balsamic vinegar’s good, too.

I’m glad you started this thread, I’m having the same issue. One recipe I’ve been doing lately is baking the chicken under some salsa and a little shredded cheddar cheese. Delightful!

I love Penzey’s “Parisien Bonnes Herbes” blend. It’s salt-free and inexpensive and the flavors are really interesting. They have lots of other good spice blends without added chemicals or salts as well.

Pesto and parmesan.

Honey and mustard.

Tumeric, coriander, paprika and chili.

Stuff with low-fat mozarella and wrap in parma ham.

All benefit from coarse black pepper and garlic. :slight_smile:

I keep a box of chicken broth in the fridge. Moisten the chicken with the broth, sprinkle with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Scarborough Fair herbs). Or with poultry seasoning. Bake covered or uncovered. The boxed broths don’t have as much sodium as the stuff in cans, and they taste better. Bake covered or uncovered. You can add more broth to the dish if you think it needs it.

I used to coat the chicken with melted butter, but the broth adds quite a lot of flavor without the fat. You can coat the chicken with olive oil or some other oil, if you’re OK with the fat.

Peel (if necessary) and cut up 1/2 onion, 1/2 stalk celery, 1 carrot, and 1 medium potato for each person. Place on a square of aluminum foil, or in baking dish. Put chicken or chicken pieces on top, pour in a bit of chicken broth (fold up edges of foil if using), season with Scarborough Fair herbs, fold over foil or cover dish, and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, or until done. Again, I used to use butter for this. At any rate, this makes a complete dinner, if you add a salad and/or some fruit. I prefer to put some salt on my portion, and my husband usually peppers his. The veggies are really tasty this way, and the chicken benefits from the veggie flavors, too.

Look into ground turkey. I really like it, and it can be pan fried as well as made into a turkey loaf. You don’t need an egg in the turkey loaf, by the way…just breadcrumbs and seasonings and milk and diced veggies. I just dice a bit of onion and celery and maybe bell pepper, and panfry in some oil before mixing it in. This makes it more flavorful.

What’s so bad about that? I mean, how much cheese do you really end up eating on the chicken- maybe a couple of teaspoons worth? We’re not talking that much salt or fat there, really.

And even the cheap grated Kraft Parmesan cheese is no more processed than the stuff you get in Italy- unless you count grating as processing. It’s still an aged hard cheese, but it just happens to be made for mass production. It’s a whole different animal than say… Cheez Whiz or Velveeta.

You seem to have sort of contradicted your question already- you want more flavor, but you’re sweating things like barbecue sauce on your baked chicken.

There’s not that much middle ground in between them, to be honest.

One thing that’s fairly healthy, really tasty but takes a little more prep is baked whole chicken- take a fryer, rub it with olive oil, give it a little bit of salt & pepper, and inside the chicken, put a bunch of fresh herbs and cut lemons. You can also jam the herbs up under the skin if you like.

Bake at 500 for about 10 minutes a pound, uncovered.

You get that great golden brown roasted look, the crispy skin (if that’s your thing) and good tasting chicken. I don’t even eat the skin, but it’s still a great dish.

This goes well with roasted new red potatoes (cut into 1" pieces, nuke until cooked, toss with olive oil, minced garlic and fresh rosemary (or thyme, or parsley or whatever), bake at 350 until browned and crispy.)

Since **norinew **mentioned chicken thighs (which, I agree, are much more flavorful even with some added calories), I thought I’d link this Cooking Light Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs recipe. I’ve made it, and it’s tasty. Using the broiler keeps things moist, I’ve found - I think it’s a really underutilized device.

Thighs are dark meat, so keep that in mind. I think the recipe could be easily adapted to use breasts, if you’re a strictly white-meat family.

I hope this is not considered advertising, because it’s actually relevant to the question. I have a great recipe using chicken breasts and other healthy ingredients like brown rice and black beans, along with a demonstration video here:

I’m very much from the Michael Pollan school of eating, so I always try to use fresh, unprocessed ingredients. Basically, “real food” ingredients and not mixes or canned soups.