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Healthy Chicken Crock-Pot Meals

by Angela Tague

Whether you use a Crock-Pot brand slow-cooker or a cooker from another manufacturer, the countertop appliance is a mom's best friend on busy days. Simply fill the pot with a favorite chicken recipe in the morning and let it cook at a low heat until lunch or dinnertime. Most slow-cookers operate between 170 to 280 degrees Fahrenheit, making lean cuts of chicken shrink less and become very tender.

Choosing Chicken

Start with thawed, raw chicken when using a slow-cooker, recommends the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Choose fresh, bite-size organic chicken pieces when making a soup. Select larger chicken cuts, such as lean boneless breasts, when the healthy meal includes larger accompaniments, such as carrot chunks and onion wedges. When your slow-cooker chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the chicken is safe to serve to your family.

Cooking Tips

Before filling your slow-cooker, know how much chicken it can cook at once. For each quart in size, a Crock Pot can handle 1 pound of chicken, according to the company's website. For example, a 6-quart slow-cooker can cook 6 pounds of chicken. For even cooking, fill the slow-cooker at least half full. For best results, cut the chicken into similar-sized pieces as the accompanying vegetables. For example, slow-cook drumsticks with medium-size potato halves so both components of the meal finish cooking simultaneously. To save time, precut vegetables, herbs and fruits the night before.

Healthy Accompaniments

After putting the chicken in the pot, add a liquid and vitamin-packed produce. Because lean chicken doesn't have much fat, add low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock to the slow-cooker to keep the chicken moist. Avoid adding wine or beer to keep the meal child-friendly and low-calorie. Choose hearty fibrous fruits and vegetables to accompany the chicken. Nutrient-rich sweet potatoes, carrots, apples and turnips will maintain their shapes and textures during a long, slow cook. If your recipe calls for delicate vegetables such as cherry tomatoes or broccoli florets, add them to the slow-cooker 20 minutes before serving the meal. Prepare a fresh green salad with family-favorite dressings to go with the chicken meal.

Flavor Enhancers

To keep the chicken meal healthy, use seasonings instead of sauces to add flavor. Cream-based sauces add fat and calories, while fresh or dried herbs do not. Try fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme, or opt for an Italian flavor by using oregano leaves and diced garlic cloves. Add a pop of color to the meal by adding fresh sliced lemon and ground pepper to the slow-cooker. "Good Housekeeping" magazine suggests going light on powerful seasonings such as cayenne pepper or red-pepper flakes, as slow-cookers tend to amplify robust flavors.

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