Lately, there’s a lot of talk about protein and its impact on health.

While one group blames animal protein for increases in cancer, type II diabetes and inflammation, another group claims we were born to eat meat.  As with all things nutrition related, nothing seems simple. Popular opinion often wins over science, even if it’s not sound advice.

If you follow my blog, you know where I stand on the topic- balance is best. Not only does eating a variety of food increase your chance of getting the nutrients needed to support health, it also helps you feel good mentally, physically and emotionally.

I’m not claiming you should eat meat. I’ll also not saying you should avoid it. You can meet your nutritional needs, reach your goals and feel fantastic by following many different eating patterns—as long as your intake is balanced and adequate.

It’s this simple:

  • if you prefer animal protein– eat it, but consider cutting back and mixing in some plant-based sources.
  • if you prefer plant-based protein- eat it, but make sure to includes a variety of sources to meet your needs.
  • if you enjoy meat and plant-based protein– eat both, but make your meals use an equal portion of the two types

This recipe for chicken and chickpeas with broccoli and spinach sauté is a perfect example. It incorporates both animal protein (chicken) and plant-based protein (chickpeas) into one delicious dish, but reduces the typical portion size to keep it balanced. Two-ounces of chicken is recommended per serving, compared with the four- six ounce portion you might typically eat. Combining different sources into one dish maintains the protein content while increasing the vitamin, mineral and fiber content. Incorporating vegetables with the protein increases the flavor, increases your vegetable consumption and it also saves on time.

Chicken and Chickpeas with Broccoli and Spinach Sauté

Author: Heather Mangieri, RDN

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 16oz chickpeas
  • 1 16oz spinach
  • 13 oz leeks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
    Prep the ingredients:
    Trim the root from the leeks and cut the dark green leaves off (save the leaves to add to a soup another day). Rinse well under cold water then chop.
    Peel and chop the garlic cloves
    Remove the chickpeas from the can and rinse under cold water
    Chop the spinach
    Remove chicken from packaging. Using a cutting board, remove any visible fat and dis-guard. Slice the chicken lengthwise into pieces. Set aside.
    Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
    Put broccoli and chickpeas in a bowl and add olive oil, garlic powder and 1/4 tsp of black pepper (not all of it.) Toss gently until broccoli and chickpeas are evenly covered with spices. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Using a spatula, toss the broccoli and chickpeas. Continue to cook another 10-15 minutes.
    While the broccoli and chickpeas are in the oven, spray a deep sauté' pan with non-stick cooking spray. Turn on medium heat.
    Add oil, leeks, garlic and 2 tsp pepper. Sauté until leeks are see through, then add spinach and lemon juice. Stir well. Reduce heat to low-medium. Cover with a lid and simmer.
    Once cooked, transfer spinach sauté to a separate bowl. Add 1 tbsp. of chicken broth (if you do not have any chicken stock you can use water) to the sauté pan (the same pan used to cook the spinach) to deglaze. Add the cut-up chicken breast and sauté until chicken is cooked to 165 degrees.
    To Serve: Spoon broccoli and chickpea on plate, top with spinach sauté. Top with 2 ounces of cooked chicken.
    Optional: sprinkle with Parmesan cheese

Notes

Recipe makes 6 servings.
1 serving= 340 calories, 39 grams carbohydrate, 12 grams fiber, 30 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 550 mg sodium, 15% daily calcium, 7% daily iron; 20% daily potassium

If you try this recipe, let us know what you think. Leave a comment below, or share a picture of your finished product so we can see. Tag our page on Instagram, #NutritionCheckUp and share it with me, #HeatherMangieri.