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As a health-conscious consumer, you know that chicken is an excellent source of protein and offers a fair amount of niacin and iron. You aim to make chicken breasts a mainstay of your diet because they are low-fat and help you build the muscles you desire. If only everything chicken-related was this straightforward. Supermarket labels – fresh, free-range, natural, organic – can leave you duped, wondering which is the best to buy. Then you have to decide whether to add dark meat to the mix (and how to prepare it). It’s enough to ruffle your feathers. So before heading out on your grocery shopping spree, arm yourself with our expert tips on how to select the best chicken, read cryptic labels, and prepare healthy, low-cal recipes like a pro.

A meaty decision

If you can’t decide whether to have white or dark meat for dinner, knowing the nutritional differences may help: White (breast) meat is lower in fat and calories than dark (leg and thigh) meat. This is because the dark meat contains more red muscle fiber than white. But dark meat also supplies slightly more iron than the breast. A three-ounce, boneless chicken breast has only a fraction more protein than the same portion of leg meat. Chicken wings are considered white meat, but there is a considerable amount of surrounding skin that makes them high in fat, says Nelda Mercer, a registered dietician based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

A burst of flavor

When making your own marinades, consider using heart-healthy light olive oil, which contains mono- or diglycerides. These natural emulsifiers help penetrate meats faster than other oils, and hold in moisture that is often lost in cooking. Marinating chicken in other healthy items, such as skim milk, low-fat yogurt, wine, and lemon juice, or using dry rubs or herbs and spices, such as thyme, basil, or rosemary, will also enhance the flavor without breaking the
caloric bank.

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