Chicken Parmesan, Lightened Up

Classic chicken Parmesan comes breaded, fried and smothered in mozzarella cheese and then served alongside a plate of pasta. An order at some restaurants can tip the scales at 1,500 calories and 80 grams of fat per serving. Here's how to get the same flavor minus the extra fat.
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Classic chicken Parmesan comes breaded, fried and smothered in mozzarella cheese and then served alongside a plate of pasta. With all that, an order at some restaurants can tip the scales at 1,500 calories and 80 grams of fat per serving. Here's how to get the same flavor minus the extra fat.

Baked (or Grilled or Sautéed) -- Not Fried

Breaded chicken cutlets don’t have to be cooked in cups of oil. Make them less greasy by sautéing them in a nonstick pan with a few teaspoons of oil or baking them in the oven with a spritz of cooking spray. For each tablespoon of oil you cut out, you save 120 calories and 14 grams of fat.

For the breading, use the traditional combination of flour, egg and breadcrumbs. I like a mix of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs and plain panko ones for an extra crispy and flavorful crust. If you want to forgo the breading completely, try marinating boneless, skinless chicken breast in Italian dressing and then grill or roast them. Also mind your chicken portion -- stick to 4 to 5 ounces of breast meat (raw) or 3 or 4 chicken tenders per serving.

The Toppers: Sauce and Cheese

Cooked tomatoes are a terrific source of the antioxidant lycopene. When made with a small amount of olive oil, tomato sauce is a low-calorie way to add big flavor. Pour on as much sauce as you like.

Now, the cheese -- that's another story. When you drown something in cheese, all you taste is cheese (and the calories and fat skyrocket). Save calories and preserve the flavor of a tangy sauce by using a light sprinkling. Use fresh or shredded part-skim mozzarella and some freshly grated Parmesan for a salty bite. Beside, when you add layers of cheese to the chicken, it takes forever to melt in the oven. Figure on about 1 tablespoon of each type of cheese per person, pop everything in the oven to melt and your meal will be ready faster.

Adding in the Pasta and Bread

Most chicken parm comes with a (huge) side of pasta or maybe some Italian bread. If you're opting for a chicken parm sandwich, there's the hoagie bread to factor too. Pasta weighs in at 200 calories per cup, so serving your cheesy chicken atop it will quickly push calories over the limit. If you want a small taste, keep your pasta portion to a half cup (or 100 calories). A large chunk of Italian bread to go with dinner will also add a minimum of 100 calories. Just think what that huge sandwich roll means! Your chicken is already breaded; leave it at that.

Tips for Dining Out

Many folks save a dish like chicken parm for when they go out to eat. Keep these tips in mind when placing your order:

  • Save a heavy, cheesy dish like this for a special occasion, not part of your weekly selection.
  • Share one order or get half wrapped to take home.
  • Pass on the side of pasta and get a salad instead.
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