Healthy meals cam be made with chicken thighs. There has been a long-running debate over which makes for healthy meals—the breast or the thigh. It comes down to balancing better flavor versus some added fat.
Chickens are in high demand; each American now consuming nearly 93 pounds of chicken a year. Most continue to prefer the ease, versatility and leanness of white breast meat, even though the darker thigh meat is juicier and tastier. If you’ve been hesitant to cross into chicken-thigh territory because you’re worried about fat content, you’ll see that there’s nothing to worry about.
Chicken thighs can make healthy meals. There has been a long-running debate over which makes for healthy meals—the breast or the thigh. It comes down to balancing better flavor versus some added fat.
Healthy Meals with Chicken
Healthy meals can definitely include chicken. Three ounces of chicken may not sound like a lot, but try putting a piece on a plate and you’ll see that it’s a respectable serving size:
- A 3-ounce chicken breast includes about 140 calories, 3 grams of total fat and 1 gram of saturated fat.
- The same serving size of dark meat, without the skin, includes about 170 calories, 9 grams of total fat and 3 grams of saturated fat.
Both chicken breasts and thighs are good sources of protein, vitamins and minerals and contain about the same amounts of iron, sodium and the “good” HDL cholesterol.
The Skinny on Fat
People often shun chicken thighs simply because they’re misinformed about fat content. Thighs contain two different types: the fat in the meat and the fat in the skin.
The fat in the meat helps keep chicken thighs moist and juicy. It also happens to be the “good” kind of fat – the monounsaturated fat that the American Heart Association states should be part of a healthy diet.
Monounsaturated fats can:
- Reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels
- Control blood pressure
- Lower the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Bolster vitamin E levels
- The fat in the skin is the “bad” kind of fat – the saturated fat that may taste delightful to your palate but is unhealthy.
- If you cook a batch of chicken thighs with the skin intact, count on doubling the calories – and doubling the risk of ingesting unhealthy fat.
Make Healthy Meals With Skinless Thighs
Healthy meals can be made with chicken thighs. Just remove the skin.
It can be easy to develop a love-hate relationship with chicken skin. When it’s broiled to a crisp, it can provide a tantalizing surface crunch to the tenderness of the succulent meat underneath.
But if the fat content is holding you back, you can:
- Trim any fat that extends over the edge of the thigh.
- Trim any excess fat from the underside of the thigh. The skin may look thick and rugged, but it often needs just a strong tug or a quick nip with a sharp knife to remove.
- Cook chicken thighs with the skin on so that they self-baste and don’t dry out over high heat. Then remove the skin when the chicken is done and before you eat it.
You should be able to find some help at the outset: it’s becoming easier to find boneless, skinless chicken thighs at most stores. These packages will cost a little more because some of the prep work has been done for you, but they should still cost less than chicken breasts.
Air Fryer Asian Boneless Chicken Thighs
Try this healthy recipe, which can be cooked very quickly in an air fryer. If you don’t have one cook for 20 minutes in the oven at 425 degrees.
These Asian Glazed Chicken Thighs come out so juicy and delicious in the air fryer! Perfect with brown rice and steamed veggies on the side.
Try sautéing bok choy using this method. Cut the bok choy in half and heat a little oil (use a spray oil or a mister to minimize the quantity), ginger, and garlic in a pan. Add the vegetables and wait a few minutes for them to brown. Add 2 tablespoons of water to finish with steam cooking. It complements the chicken marinade very well and keeps it healthy. I also bought a mister for olive oil from home goods to keep oil levels down.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
- 32 ounces 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 scallion, green only sliced for garnish
- In a small bowl combine the balsamic, soy sauce, honey, garlic, shiracha and ginger and mix well.
- Pour half of the marinade (1/4 cup) into a large bowl with the chicken, covering all the meat and marinate at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.
- Reserve the remaining sauce for later.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400F.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and transfer to the air fryer basket.
- Cook in batches 14 minutes, turning halfway until cooked through in the center.
- Meanwhile, place the remaining sauce in a small pot and cook over medium-low heat until it reduces slightly and thickens, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- To serve, drizzle the sauce over the chicken and top with scallions.
NUTRITION (per serving of 2 thighs)
Click here to find this healthy meals recipe.