By Isadora Baum
Come on, who doesn’t love crispy chicken tenders or crunchy breaded fish? But, sadly, it usually isn’t the healthiest option, and can leave you feeling pretty blah.
Luckily, with a bit of creativity with more nutritious breading ingredients, you can enjoy that crunch in your meals and still feel awesome afterwards.
“Using nuts as a coating is great because you are getting more fiber and healthy fat than you would from plain breadcrumbs,” says Chicago-based registered dietician Maggie Michalczyk. They add flavor and nutrition, as well that crunch you’re going for, without adding in unwanted fat and carbs.
“I like using pistachios, almonds, macadamia nuts or pecans because of their texture and flavor,” she says. “A combination of 1 to 2 Tbsp. of each mixed together would also make a crunchy and flavorful dish.”
Almond flour is also a great option, perfect for coating seafood, chicken and even vegetables to give them crunch. “Dip in beaten egg first to help the flour stick and pan fry in oil,” Michalczyk says.
Try it: Pecan-Crusted Flounder
Similar to nuts, seeds offer the crunch factor as well as lots of good nutrition. For example, “Flaxseed is great because you’re getting a healthy dose of omega 3s, a good fat that is heart healthy,” she says. The flavor is pretty neutral, so it goes with just about any protein or vegetable. Chop whole seeds well, or use flaxseed meal.
Alternatively, try pumpkin seeds, which go especially well with fish. “Pumpkin seeds are high in iron and minerals like zinc and magnesium, which is great for active muscles,” Michalczyk says. Use whole seeds, chop coarsely or grind.
Cassava is a flour derived from yuca, a south American root vegetable, and is a great source of fiber and minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and iron, says Michalczyk.
“Some of these nutrients often lack in our diets so sneaking them in with cassava flour as a coating is a great way to get some more in general,” she says. “Iron and manganese are trace minerals that are required in small amounts in the body yet are critical for the unique benefit they each provide. Iron is crucial for red blood cell production and manganese helps the body to metabolism protein, fat and carbohydrates.”
Cassava’s “earthy, nutty flavor is great for breading chicken tenders—especially for a paleo diet,” she says. And it performs a lot like all-purpose flour, so it’s a good swap for breading (and baking).
Try it: Crispy Paleo Chicken Tenders
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