Not all chickens are created equal. What appears to be a plain chicken breast may actually contain harmful chemicals and preservatives. Here are some tips for purchasing healthy chicken.
Frozen chicken bought in bulk bags. You wouldn’t think you would need to check the ingredient list on this one, it should just state chicken, right? Unfortunately, frozen chicken usually contains added chemical flavorings, sodium, preservatives and sometimes even artificial, chemical coloring. Stay away from this unhealthy option.
Pre-cooked chicken. While it is convenient, pre-cooked chicken usually contains chemical flavors, GMO ingredients and preservatives.
Pre-cooked chicken meals. Again, convenience comes with a price. These packaged dinners also contain GMO ingredients, nasty chemicals and preservatives.
Fresh chicken from the meat counter. The good news is chicken bought fresh in packages or from the meat counter, generally does not contain sodium, preservatives or artificial flavors or colorings. The bad news is it still may contain antibiotics. Also, the chickens were most likely fed GMO ingredients and pesticide treated food. Many times, this chicken is advertised as not containing hormones. This is misleading, as no chicken (or other poultry) can legally contain hormones, so this does not offer any added benefit.
Organic pre-cooked meals. There are lots of options at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and other health stores if you still prefer the convenience of pre-cooked meals. Read the labels though, as these tend to be heavy in sugar.
All-natural and Amish chicken. These will state that they are free of antibiotics and that the chicken was raised on a vegetarian diet free from GMO ingredients and pesticides. Because brands labeled all-natural are not regulated by the government like organic is, these could potentially be false claims. Use a brand that you trust or contact the company with any questions.
Organic chicken. This is the only claim that is government-regulated. The chickens are fed an organic diet without GMO’s, fertilized or pesticide treated food and are not treated with antibiotics. Organic chicken does carry a hefty price tag. Here are some options for remaining frugal while eating organic chicken:
- Stock up: Stores like Whole Foods and Kroger periodically have organic chicken on sale. Buy in bulk during a sale and freeze what you won’t use right away.
- Cook with dark meat: Dark meat chicken is much less than white meat. Use dark meat in chicken salad, soups, quesadillas, stir fry’s, chili, and fajitas where you won’t notice much of a taste difference.
- Add in other proteins: Use less chicken in a dish and make up for it by adding other proteins such as legumes, soy, nuts and seeds. For example, make a stir fry using half chicken/half tofu or a chicken salad with walnuts and chicken or make chicken chili with extra beans and less chicken.
- Buy from a local farm: Go to EatWild.Com to find a local farmer near you that sells whole, organic chicken.