Always an impressive dish, chicken (eaten without the skin) provides plenty of protein, little saturated fat, and good amounts of B vitamins and zinc.
- A University of Minnesota study found that no significant fat is transferred from the skin to the meat when chicken is cooked. So when roasting, broiling, or grilling chicken (or game hens), it’s okay to leave the skin on during cooking as long as you remove it before eating.
- A three-ounce portion of cooked skinless chicken breast supplies about half of your daily protein requirement.
- The fat in chicken is mostly monounsaturated, which some researchers believe lowers blood cholesterol.
- Chicken breast is a fairly good source of some minerals, including iron, potassium, and zinc.
When shopping, keep in mind that chicken comes in several sizes depending on your needs. Young, tender broiler-fryers range from 2 1/2 to 5 pounds. Roasters are larger — from 3 1/2 to 6 pounds. Rock Cornish hens range from 3/4 to 2 pounds. Chicken breasts are sold whole or halved and in several forms: bone-in with skin, boneless with skin, and boneless, skinless. You can even buy skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size nuggets — though at a premium price.
If you’re buying a whole chicken, look for one with a meaty breast. The skin color will depend on the chicken’s breed and diet, and does not affect nutritional value. If you’re searching for chicken breasts, look for plump pieces that smell fresh.
Follow these chicken cooking tips:
- Rinse the chicken under cold running water. Remove any visible fat. To reduce the risk of food poisoning, wash utensils, work surface, and hands with hot, soapy water after preparing raw chicken.
- To pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts to a uniform thickness, place chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound gently with the flat side of a meat pounder or a small heavy skillet.
- To avoid salmonella risk, cook a whole chicken until a thermometer inserted in the thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 180°F (the meat will be white and juices will run clear, not pink, when pierced with a fork).
- To preserve the juiciness of chicken breasts, cook them quickly (especially when broiling or baking), but long enough that the meat is fully tender and the juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork.
Pasta is a low-fat protein source and the inspiration for countless quick, healthful meals. Most dried pastas are enriched with B vitamins and iron.
People used to think that pasta was fattening, but only the sauce can make it a high-fat dish. A cup of plain cooked pasta contains less than 1 gram of fat.
The most nutritious pastas are made from semolina, a coarse flour ground from durum wheat. Durum is a hard grain that has a higher protein content than other types of wheat. When buying pasta, look for the best texture. Choose a brand of pasta made from pure semolina. This includes most imported and many domestic brands.
Cook pasta in plenty of boiling water to keep it from sticking together. Add the pasta all at once, stir briefly, and return the water to a boil. Time the cooking from the second boil. Test the pasta for doneness a little sooner than the package directions recommend (overcooking ruins pasta), and drain immediately when it is firm-tender (al dente) to the bite.