Lean Protein is Better Protein

Kendall Peddie & Alison Kiefer

Recently, “plant-based” diets, such as vegetarian and vegan diets have been gaining popularity. Such diets have been found to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, mostly due to decreased consumption of saturated fats found in meats and other animal products. Saturated fat is a type of dietary fat that is most often solid at room temperature and is considered to be a “less healthy” fat. Reducing foods that are high in saturated fat and replacing them with healthier options can help lower cholesterol levels and improve lipid profiles. People have taken to vegetarian and vegan diets in an effort to decrease saturated fat intake; however, a person does not necessarily need to cut out all animal products and become a vegan or vegetarian in order to significantly reduce saturated fat intake. Saturated fats are found in higher concentrations in fatty red meats like beef, pork, lamb, or bison. Animal products with less saturated fats are referred to as “lean” protein. Lean protein sources include chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs.

Chicken is a very versatile source of protein that can be incorporated in recipes in many different ways. Chicken can also be prepared in many different ways including in soups, salads, pastas, or as an entree (see below for recipe ideas!) A serving of chicken is about 3-4 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards. One 4 ounce chicken breast serving provides about 200 calories and 30-35 grams of protein, while only providing about 3 grams of fat. On the contrary, a 4 ounce serving of cooked steak provides around 300 calories, 30 grams of protein, and 21 grams of fat (8.2 grams being from saturated fat). As you can see, chicken is much leaner than beef in comparison.

Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that food safety is very important when handling and preparing chicken. Raw or under cooked chicken may be contaminated with numerous harmful bacterium, such as campylobacter, salmonella, or clostridium perfringens, which may cause food-borne illnesses. In order to protect yourself from food poisoning, it is essential that chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F. You may use a food thermometer to check. Fully cooked chicken should be completely white in the middle, with no pink tones. Additionally, raw chicken should be prepared using separate equipment. Make sure to thoroughly wash plates, cutting boards, utensils, etc. that have been in contact with raw chicken before using them for any other foods. 

Baked Lemon Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season the chicken breasts on both sides with Italian seasoning.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side or until browned.
  • Transfer the chicken to a baking dish.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, chicken broth and lemon juice. Pour the mixture over the chicken.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Bake time may vary depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts.

Spoon the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish over the chicken, then sprinkle with parsley and serve. Garnish with lemon slices if desired

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