When you think of "diet" foods, what comes to mind?
In the fitness world, it's often this: Chicken, Rice, & Broccoli.
And here are a few reasons why:
1) It's simply nutritious. Just 4oz of chicken breast yields roughly 32 grams of protein, 1 cup of rice is about 36 carbs, and 1 cup of broccoli is only 30 calories and jam-packed with fiber and other important micronutrients. Along with that, this meal isn't full of artificial ingredients (especially when cooked at home).
2) It's pretty affordable and relatively easy to make. Enough said!
3) It's filling. Again, this meal is full of protein and fiber, which stays with you well throughout the day. So if you're trying to limit munching between meals, this is a great option that works for many people.
However, I think one of the biggest problems people have with sticking with nutritious foods is that they need variety to see success. We have person A that can eat this chicken rice & broccoli 100 days in a row and not get sick of it, but the majority of people fall under category B and get sick of this after 1-2 meals in a week.
Lucky for you, we have a few ideas to spice up this healthy meal staple! Read on for 3 different meal inspirations.
RECIPE BASE: First, we need the critical foundation...chicken and rice. I personally like cutting chicken breast into thin strips and cooking them on the skillet. I've found the chicken cooks relatively quickly and evenly this way, without sacrificing taste or drying out the chicken. Baking or grilling your chicken breast works just fine as well, or you can buy pre-made frozen chicken strips if that works best for your time and/or cooking abilities. For the rice--feel free to mix it up! Brown rice has arguably the best nutritional content, but all types are great options if you're swapping it from a deep-fried or highly-processed carbohydrate. You can also use cauliflower rice if you're trying to maintain a lower-carb diet! We typically cook (regular) rice in our instant pot (ratio is 1 cup rice to 1 cup water for 12 mins, with a pinch of salt to reduce stickiness). You can also cook it on the stove, in a rice cooker, or buy the microwaveable pouches (again, for those on a time-crunch or hate cooking!).
Once your base is ready, let's look at 3 great options:
1) TEX-MEX INSPO: FAJITA CHICKEN BOWLS
*Get your base ready--I recommend using chicken strips and Spanish or brown rice for this one
*Sauté your vegetables: bell peppers and onions
*Warm up any additional ingredients in the microwave like black beans and corn kernels
*Top it all with the cold ingredients--some ideas are sour cream, salsa, diced tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, and a sprinkle of Mexican cheese. We like to finish ours with fresh lime juice over the top of the bowls as well!
2) MEDITERRANEAN FLARE: GREEK CHICKEN BOWLS
*Start with your chicken & rice base--we usually use jasmine rice for this recipe
*Add your desired cold toppings: we like grape tomato halves, sliced red onion, kalamata olives, diced cucumber, and crumbled feta cheese
*Top it all with hummus, fresh dill, lemon juice, and tzatziki sauce (you can make your own pretty easily, or there are good options in grocery stores as well!)
3) ASIAN-INFLUENCED: STIR FRY CHICKEN
*Get that base ready--we also like jasmine rice and sliced chicken breast for this one
*Sauté those vegetables: the sky is the limit here! Our faves are snap peas, broccoli, carrots, green beans, water chestnuts, onion--but really we'll use whatever vegetables are leftover in the fridge because we hate wasting produce. #protip: For whenever you're in a time pinch, keep a huge bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables on hand. We like cooking the vegetables with minced garlic and a bit of sesame oil to enhance the flavor (but whatever cooking oil you use is fine)
*Topping ideas: diced green onions, fresh grated ginger, and soy sauce or teriyaki sauce (watch out for those sodium and sugar levels, think portion control here)
We hope you found these ideas helpful. Let us know in the comments what you think if you try any of these recipes. Now, get to (healthy) cooking!