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. Sara says:

    Another great way to add variety and subtract fat and calories is to use spicy or dijon mustard. My favorite chicken salad is made using onion, celery, black olives, walnuts, cumin, and spicy brown mustard.

  2. Mary says:

    I add in my chicken salad diced apples,celery ,green seedless grapes and a small handful of toated chopped pecans. I find I use less mayonnaise. Love the crunch

  3. Annie says:

    I add some pineapple juice to my Miracle Whip, and dlute it by about half. Add some of the pineapple, grapes, and almond slices to your chicken salad….and serve it on a bed of torn lettuce.
    Delicious and refreshing…

  4. Judy says:

    we ususally put grapes but also water chestnuts and also thin the mayo with a little milk which stretches it…

  5. Lisette says:

    I do the same as Annie, but add 1/2t of curry powder.

  6. Eileen says:

    I mix equal amounts of low fat mayo and low fat sour cream with a little skim milk and add it to chicken (baked with garlic powder sprinkled on it), pecans, green grapes, and lots of apple chunks – instead of putting it on a bed of lettuce I place a scoop of chicken salad on top of three rings of pineapple. Serve with small pita pockets that you can either stuff with the salad or eat as is. – you can also add raisins when green grapes are not in season to give it a somewhat sweet flavor.

  7. Donna says:

    Adding chopped marinated artichokes in oil is a nice alternative to mayo, too.

  8. Quintessa says:

    I've been getting rave reviews from my lighter version. To finely chopped chicken I add a lot of small diced granny smith apples, toasted, chopped pecans or walnuts. For the creaminess I have been using Oikos Greek Yogurt (lots of protein, little fat) with a little mayo. I have to add a few extra spices to increase the flavor, depending on how the chicken is cooked. I have added garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, fresh parsley, mustard, etc. Also, a good way to thin the mayo dressing is to add buttermilk.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    For an extra kick mix fat free or low fat lemon yogurt with your chicken salad. I use half and half lemon yogurt and low fat mayo or greek yogurt – depending on my mood. Fruit includes grapes, mandarin oranges, pineapple, apple or whatever fruit strikes your fancy with scallions, celery and either toasted almond slivers or toasted pecans. S & P to taste.

  10. DaisyLynn says:

    I make chicken salad every chance I get. The recipe varies every time I make it. But due to allergy concerns, I have eliminated the toasted pecans, and instead of the usual apple- I have added a chopped pear to it and it adds great flavor as well. I used to use rasins- but have graduated to using dried cranberries for color & flavor. Also add in celery, onion, s&p, and curry- I usually add alot- I rarely measure. As for the mayo- I use regular mayo- but just barely enough to hold it together. Then it sits for at least 24 hours for the flavors to come out. The pear goes in at the last moment. The restaurant where I first had it, served their variation in 1/2 avocado, on a bed of lettuce. so pretty and tasted great.

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