Which is healthy, chicken breast or chicken thighs?
Nutritionally, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are generally lower in calories and fat, says Jamie Allers, MS, RD, a registered dietitian with the Hartford Healthcare Institute for Digestive Health. In the recommended serving size of 3 ounces, chicken breast contains 140 calories and 3 grams of fat. A 3-ounce chicken thigh contains 170 calories and 9 grams of fat.
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She adds that chicken breast is higher in some B vitamins and minerals while chicken thighs contain higher amounts of vitamin B12. Chicken thighs are usually less expensive by the pound.
However, cooking chicken breasts can be a challenge because they can easily dry out and overcook. While chicken thighs are juicier due to their higher fat content, they can be tough in texture. Choosing to bake, grill or roast instead of frying is also healthy.
Allers says you don’t have to view your chicken in black and white terms. “The strategy I use sometimes is to go half and half,” she says. “If the recipe calls for a pound of chicken, I’d do half a pound of thighs and half a pound of breasts. That way you get the added taste of the thighs but the health benefits of the breasts.”
And while removing the skin reduces the amount of fat, leaving the skin on while cooking can help boost flavor and reduce the chances of everything drying out.
She recommends using boneless breasts for quick-cooking dishes like sautés and stir-fries. Thighs work well in slow cooker recipes, as this method helps tenderize the meat.
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Marinated or marinated chicken breast has become popular at the grocery store, and Allers says shoppers should read labels before buying. “If it’s simple, like an olive oil, lemon, and herb dressing, then yes,” she says. But salt, sugars, preservatives and flavorings can be added. There are often food allergens due to additives, such as some pickles that contain gluten. So definitely read the labels.”
She added that pre-cooked chicken is still better than opting for fast food or eating it on a regular basis.
“If that means you won’t skip a meal, or he gives you leftovers so you can pack your lunch for work the next day, then go ahead. Just read the labels.”