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Healthy Cook: Barking Up the Right Poultry

Looking for a new chicken or turkey recipe?  Here are three—all from The Genie of The Giblets, Kate Sherwood.

In the recipes that call for brown rice, you can lop 30 minutes off the preparation time if you use instant or already-cooked (like Uncle Ben's - a great choice!).  To hold down the sodium in the recipe that calls for chicken broth, we used Imagine Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth.


To make it vegetarian, omit the chicken and add a can of drained and rinsed white beans along with the tomatoes.

½ lb. while wheat farfalle or penne

4 cups broccoli florets or broccolini cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divide

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ lb. raw, skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 lbs. cherry tomatoes, halved

½ tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 bunch basil (stems removed) roughly chopped

¼ cup Parmesan cheese


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to the package instructions.  Two minutes before the pasta is done, toss in the broccoli.  When the pasta is done, strain in a colander and return to the pot.  Toss with 1 tbs. of olive oil and cover to keep warm.
  2. Heat a heavy, deep skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the remaining 1 Tbs. of olive oil and garlic.  Sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add the chicken and sauté until tender and cooked through, about t3 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper.  Toss in the pasta and broccoli.
  5. Garnish with the basil and Parmesan cheese.  Makes 4 servings.
PER SERVING (2 ½ cups)
Calories:  440
Total fat:  13 g
Sat. fat: 3 g
Trans fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 40 mg
Sodium:  460 mg
Carbohydrates:  58 g
Protein:  26 g
Fiber:  8 g


To make it vegetarian, omit the turkey, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and increase the mushrooms to 2 pounds.

1 cup brown rice, whole wheat bulgur, or other whole grain

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 lb. white button or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, well rinsed and thinly sliced

1 Tbs. all-purpose flour

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup fat-free sour cream

¾ lb. raw, skinless and boneless turkey breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups frozen green peas, thawed

¾ tsp. salt

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

  1. Cook the rice according to the package instructions.
  2. Heat a large skillet on high heat until hot.  Add 1 Tbs. olive oil and sauté half of the mushrooms until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Remove to a bowl.  Repeat with 1 Tbs. olive oil and the remaining mushrooms.
  3. Reduce the heat to low.  Add 1 Tbs. olive oil to the skillet and gently cook the leeks until soft, about 3 minutes.  Sprinkle in the flour.  Stir in the broth and sour cream.
  4. Add the turkey and cook on low hear until tender and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  (Don’t let the liquid boil.  The sauce will separate and the turkey will get tough).
  5. Add the peas.  Taste and season with up to ¾ tsp. salt (if needed) and pepper.
  6. Serve with the rice.  Makes 4 servings.
PER SERVING (2 ½ cups)
Calories:  550
Total fat:  14 g
Sat. fat:  3 g
Trans fat:  0 g
Cholesterol:  60 mg
Sodium:  520 mg
Carbohydrates:  71 g
Protein:  37 g
Fiber:  9 g 


1 cup brown rice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. grated ginger

¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

½ cup water

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1 Tbs. cornstarch

2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil

¾ lb. raw, skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 Tbs. canola oil

6 cups broccoli florets, rinsed

1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips

½ cup roasted, unsalted cashews

  1. Cook the rice according to the package instructions.
  2. Make the marinade:  mix the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, water, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and sesame oil in a large bowl.  Add the chicken and toss to coat.  Set the bowl aside.
  3. Heat a large deep skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Add the canola oil and stir-fry the broccoli until bright green, about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and the marinade.  Stir-fry until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the peppers and remove from heat. 
  5. Garnish with the cashews and serve immediately with the rice.  Makes 4 servings.
PER SERVING (3 cups)
Calories:  520
Total fat:  18 g
Sat. fat:  3 g
Trans fat:  0 g
Cholesterol:  50 mg
Sodium:  600 mg
Carbohydrates:  61 g
Protein:  32 g
Fiber:  9 g


Chicken and turkey are rich in protein, low in saturated fat (if you don’t eat the skin), versatile, and easy to cook.   

And companies are working their wings off to make poultry even easier.  Forget whole chickens, or even boneless and skinless breasts.  These days you can buy your birds already seasoned and grilled or oven roasted and cut up into cutlets, tenderloins, strips, or cubes.

The downside?  Your wallet . . . and your blood pressure.  Most seasoned chicken and turkey is largely seasoned with salt.  You could even end up with a mouthful of salt from white looks like fresh unseasoned chicken.  Here’s how to find quick-prep poultry that isn’t loaded with sodium.

Stripped Down

You can throw them in a stir-fry, wrap them in a tortilla, toss them in a salad, or scatter them on pasta primavera.  They have no more than 2 grams of saturated fat and about 120 calories per serving.  And all you have to do is take them out of the bag and heat.  What’s not to like about fully cooked chicken strips or diced chicken?

Salt.  A modest 3 ounces of most strips or cubes from Oscar Meyer, Butterball, or Fast Fixin’ supply 700 to 800 milligrams of sodium.  That’s about a third to half of a day’s sodium limit in half a small bag or box. 

Some companies shrink their numbers by shrinking their serving size to 2 ½ ounces (Perdue Short Cuts), or even 2 ounces (Hormel Natural Choice).  But at the “official” serving of 3 ounces (which we use in our chart), only a handful of products have less sodium than out cutoffs for a Best Bite (350 mg) or Honorable Mention (480 mg).

Our advice:  if you don’t want to cook and slice a package of raw, boneless chicken breasts, try Trader Joe’s unflavored Just Chicken 

Of our remaining Best Bites, Perdue’s Grilled Chicken Breast Strips (300 mg of sodium) pleased the most palates, closely followed by Hormel Natural Choice Grilled Chicken Strips (350 mg).

Chicken to Go

Judging by the box, each Foster Farms Savory Servings Lemon Herb Boneless and Skinless Chicken Breast Fillet has 360 milligrams of sodium.  The catch:  the package’s Nutrition Facts are only for half a 7-ounce fillet.  (That’s legit.  The government's official serving size for poultry is 4 oz. raw, or 3 oz. cooked).  If like most people, you eat the entire breast, you’re talking 720 mg of sodium.

Our chart adjusts the serving of the “flavored parts” to one breast, drumstick, or thigh, even though it may weigh as littler as 2 ½ ounces.  That leaves just two Best Bites:  Trader Joe’s Pollo Asado Autentico and Bell and Evans Grilled Chicken Breasts. 

Both get plenty of flavor out of their 260 to 280 mg of sodium.  The difference?  The Pollo Asado has a Southwestern flair, while Bell and Evans is more natural.  Also, Trader Joe’s (raw) breast meat takes 4 to 5 minutes on the grill, while B&E’s (cooked) breasts can go from freezer to plate with just a minor detour through the microwave.


Information compiled by Brian Calkins, with permission from The Nutrition Action Health Letter, Center for Science in the Public Interest.



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