Who doesn't love a heaping plate of piping hot chicken parmesan oozing with melted cheese and tongue tickling tomato sauce? Chicken parmesan or parmigiana as it is formerly known due to the essential addition of Parmesan cheese is a foodie favorite for sure. However, it's one you may feel like you have to avoid if you're striving for weight loss the healthy way.
There's no need to deny yourself a hearty helping of chicken parmesan if you know how to do the meal makeover right. Optimize nutritious ingredients and lower and lessen your intake of fattening foods that aren't good for your body.
First things first, let's talk about the chicken.
When it comes to protein and reducing your fat intake there's no better source of sustenance than chicken. Some dieters may feel though that chicken is done to death. But with plenty other protein options you can still enjoy classic chicken meals like cutlets parmesan without feeling guilty.
So how to healthy up the chicken? Choose chicken breasts that come from grass-fed, free-range chickens. You may notice that the organic chickens produce meat that seems less meaty. Chicken breasts are smaller. If you can manage the higher price tag for less food, treat your body right with some grass-fed chicken meat for a superior form of meat-based nutrition.
Reduce your portion size. If you would normally fill your plate with two oversized chicken cutlets swimming in sauce and cheese, cut your portion in half. Instead of gorging yourself, be more mindful. Take your time to enjoy this favorite, savory meal.
Substitute another cheese for the mozzarella. Mozzarella is a parmesan lover's favorite and yet you do have some healthy options if you would like to enjoy a weight-loss-friendly chicken parmesan experience. Try a cheese like provolone which is higher in calcium and vitamin A and has a stronger flavor. Stronger flavor means you don't need to use as much to get the same effect. You and your family will hardly notice the difference. You can also make a mix of fontina and provolone. Experiment with different, decent quality artisan cheeses in your parmesan recipes when you can!
Cut the amount of cheese per serving. If you normally would stack three thick slices of mozzarella on each cutlet, shoot for one slice and sprinkle some Parmesan over it for extra flavor. Just be aware that grated cheese does contain fat. So, if you're looking to reduce fat intake, you're going to want to watch your portion size on that as well.
Bake instead of frying your cutlets.
Another change in the recipe for chicken cutlets is making the baked version. To do this, batter or dip your cutlets in eggs and bread crumb like you normally would. Lay the breaded cutlets on a baking sheet lined with foil that you have sprayed with olive oil to prevent sticking. Also spray your olive oil cooking spray lightly over the cutlets to help the breading crisp up with a bit of healthy fat.
Swap out white breadcrumbs for whole grain.
To lower the carbs even more, substitute a bread crumb alternative such as almond flour, to give that crispy texture without adding carbohydrates to the meal.
Switch white flour pasta to whole grain pasta. Or if you want to take the healthy factor up a few extra notches you can bake a spaghetti squash, drizzle in oil and season with garlic and herbs, then topped with spaghetti sauce to serve as a healthy veggie side with your parmesan cutlets. Spaghetti squash does a might good pasta impression, even your kids are likely to love this healthy veggie that's fun to eat.
Healthy Meal Makeover: Chicken Parmesan
- Baking dish, mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, oven, cutting board, chef knife, meat pounder
- 2 lbs. 900g chicken breast, boneless, skinless
- ½ cup 65g panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup 100g parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 egg
- 3 tbsp. olive oil + 1 tsp. to grease dish
- 1 cup 260g marinara sauce
- 1 cup 115g mozzarella cheese, shredded
- fresh basil for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) and grease an oven-proof dish with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
- Slice each chicken breast in half, lengthways, then place the chicken on a cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. Using a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken to a ½-inch thickness. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder and salt. Whisk the egg into a medium bowl.
- Dip each chicken breast first into the beaten egg, shaking off any excess, then into the breadcrumb mixture.
- Heat ½ tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-low heat. Add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Wipe the skillet between each chicken breast to remove any brown bits and continue to saute the remaining pieces of chicken.
- Transfer the chicken to an oven-proof dish and top the chicken breasts with the marinara sauce and sprinkle over the shredded mozzarella.
- Bake the chicken in the oven for approximately 7 minutes or until the mozzarella has melted and the chicken is cooked through.
- Sprinkle over freshly chopped basil and serve immediately.