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When you think of Chicken Parmesan what comes to mind? Probably a warm, cheesy, indulgent meal. An Italian restaurant. A plate piled high with pasta. Any of those sound about right? I bet “healthy and nutritious” is not at the top of your list. But now it can be!
The Donut Worry Be Healthy Difference
Believe it or not this meal supplies a huge variety of your dietary needs. The chicken provides protein, cheese adds dairy, bran cereal coating for some whole grain carbs and fiber, zoodles as your vegetable, and marinara sauce made with real tomatoes to provide some fruit! And it provides all of this without being full of unhealthy fats and calories. The two main tricks are swapping the ingredients we use to make the breading, and baking the chicken in the oven instead of frying in oil.
Making The Meal
We start with a homemade marinara sauce. This already gets us off to a good start because it avoids all the added sugar and preservatives in most store-bought options! See below in the recipe for links to my sauce. However, if you are short on time, one of the best sauce options that you can get from the store is this Cucina Antica Tomato Basil. Why is this sauce a good go-to when you don’t want to make your own? To start with, it is non-GMO, contains no preservatives or added sugar, and is gluten free! It also has less calories and more fiber than most alternatives (35 calories and 2 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup serving). It is made with simple ingredients, evidenced when you look at its label, and that is one of the key things to look for when shopping for your family’s groceries.
The next big difference is the breading. We use a mixture of mostly bran cereal and just a little Parmesan cheese. The bran is a great swap because it actually adds nutrition, rather than just being a source of unwanted calories like traditional breadcrumbs. We used a fiber-active bran cereal from Publix, similar to this Nature’s Path Organic Cereal. In just one 1/2 cup serving the bran we used contains 12 grams, or 57% of your daily fiber! In addition to this, it is low in calories, has zero added sugar, and is packed with tons of vitamins and minerals! And you don’t need to use an egg wash or extra oil to get the breading to stick to the chicken. I have always thought of this as a wasted step, because it sticks fine on it’s own! Just dip the chicken in the bowl with your “breadcrumb” mixture.
The only other major difference is that we will bake our chicken instead of frying it in lots of butter and oil. And of course, using zoodles rather than traditional pasta! However – if you don’t yet have a spiralizer (get one, I mean it, you won’t be sorry!) or you have some picky eaters that just refuse to eat anything but traditional pasta, you can definitely make this with a great whole wheat pasta like Bionaturae’s Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti and it will still be much healthier than traditional chicken Parmesan. This store-bought option is organic and kosher, 100% whole wheat without having a gritty texture, and contains 6 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein per serving! It makes a great alternative if you don’t have time to make zoodles.
Taste Test Time
Now that you know how to make the dish, follow the full instructions below and give it a try! I promise the only difference you will notice is how much better you feel after eating this meal than you would a traditional chicken Parmesan. You still get all of the great flavors, you just leave out a lot of what makes the meal so heavy and greasy. Remember, food can either be the best medicine or worst poison you feed your body. And we’ve only got one body to last us through life. So make smart decisions now and swap out those unnecessary ingredients. The difference in taste is minimal, but the difference it can make for your health is exponential.
As previously mentioned, this dish is perfect to put over spiralized zucchini noodles. Swapping your pasta out for zoodles makes this the ultimate nutritious dish. Not sure what spiralizing is? Check out my post on it. Know what it is, but still haven’t pulled the trigger on purchasing one? Check out my recommended spirlalizer here. It was one of the greatest purchases I’ve ever made!
And what else goes great with this meal? Wine. Wine makes everything better 🙂 Enjoy!