Chicken Salad, Lightened Up

by in Healthy Tips, Meal Makeovers, July 20, 2009

Chicken Salad
In my house, we usually stick to tuna or egg salad, but once in a while, we’ll have chicken salad for a change. But watch out, not all chicken salads are healthy eats. Find out the common pitfalls and how to bring on some special flavors that everyone will love.

The Fat
A typical chicken salad sandwich can weigh-in at around 700 calories and 30 grams of fat — ouch! Much of the fat (saturated, at that) comes from the cupfuls — yes, cupfuls! — of mayonnaise. Even if you’re going light with your mayo, you still should be monitoring your portions to about 1 tablespoon per serving. Take a look at these mayo numbers:

1/2 cup of regular mayo: 800 calories, 88 grams fat, 16 grams saturated fat
1/2 cup of light mayo: 389 calories, 40 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat

Although mayo is traditionally used in chicken salad, olive oil and vinaigrettes are other flavorful alternatives. These have fat in them, too, which can also run up calories — so still be wary of your portion sizes.

The Chicken
Chicken is a healthy protein, especially if you’re talking about skinless chicken breast. If you want to use the dark meat, be sure to mix it up with some white meat. Save money by using leftover chicken (try the scraps from last night’s roasted bird) for your chicken salad. Canned chicken is also a quick option, but opt for chicken breast in packed in water. Stick to 3-ounce portions per person (about the size as a deck of cards).

The Flavors
Don’t chicken out, flavor up your salad! I pump up my chicken salad with chopped veggies like onions, celery, scallions and peppers. For an extra kick, try tossing in chopped olives. And instead of drowning my salad in mayo, I mix in about 1/4 cup of fat-free, plain yogurt with 1 to 2 tablespoons of canola-based light mayo or a combo of Greek yogurt and a touch of regular mayo. You can add a bit of sweetness with fruits — raspberry, grapes or pineapple. Chopped nuts, such as almonds or pecans, go well with these fruit. Add-ins like ground black pepper, spices (curry powder), hot sauce and mustard are wonderful flavor enhancers with minimal calories; so are fresh herbs like parsley, dill, or basil.

The Wrapping
A chicken salad sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread is easy, but try stuffing the mix in a whole-wheat pita or rolling it in a spinach tortilla for some variation. I love the idea of serving chicken salad on cantaloupe or honeydew melon — it’s a great conversation piece for a group lunch.

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Comments (20)

  1. Claudia says:

    I skimmed the above & found all very interesting & affirming as I use many of the same additional ingredients. I can't think of a fruit that doesn't go well with chicken. What I missed seeing referenced was the initial prep for the chicken. If you have a frozen skinless boneless breast, POACH it in all kinds of flavored liquids. To the water – add sage, bouillon granules, wine, white grape juice or curry, etc – the possibilities are almost "endless". That way the chicken is flavored to begin with & not its usual bland, boring self. When cool, I "pull" it with two forks & Voila! Bon Apetit.

  2. I’m 100% positive that I’ve prepared chicken 1,000 different ways.
    The truth is that I LOVE chicken and I love to experiment with the many ways I can prepare chicken. I rarely skip a chicken recipe … I’m always collecting them. Thanks for the recipe

  3. Donna says:

    Why don't you make your receips printer friendly in these emails?

  4. I usually don’t post on Blogs but ya forced me to, great info.. excellent! … I'll add a backlink and bookmark your site.

    I'm Out! :)

  5. Emma says:

    Relish! Dill pickle relish also adds a nice tang and can reduce the need for so much mayo. I think I use a ratio of about 8 mayo :: 4 relish :: 1 mustard, though I've never precisely measured. Just mix little bits in until it tastes good.

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  8. Kjeanne says:

    Sara, your chicken salad sounds great! Would love to know how much mustard, etc???

  9. Alicia says:

    I agree about adding the mustard. I started doing this after eating the Panera Bread chicken salad sandwich, which had mustard in it (but I mix it in to my chicken salad).

  10. Anita says:

    Hi Mary,
    Can you post your recipe it sounds great.

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