Grilled Chicken with Broccoli Pesto Pasta

Friday 23 October 2015

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 Carbohydrates are very important  to a person's diet, wether you be diabetic or not.   They are your main source of fuel to keep your body and brain going and active.   They also are the things which affect your blood glucose levels the most, so it's really important as a diabetic to know which carbohydrate sources are worth ingesting and are the most nutritious!  It goes without saying that if you are having to limit your carb intake, you will want the ones you do eat to count in positive ways.

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You should choose low fat dairy foods.  Dairy (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese etc.) contain lactose which breaks down to glucose when digested.

Whole grains (brown rice, whole grain pasta, and breads, oatmeal), starchy vegetables (potatoes with skin, corn, peas), and legumes (beans, edamame, lentils) all contain carbohydrates.  They are good choices because they are much higher in fibre than highly processed grain foods such as white bread, pastas, etc.

Non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, green beans, spinach, lettuce, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes),  also contain some carbohydrate, but much less than starchy vegetables.  They are full of nutrients which are very good for you.

Refined grains, desserts and sugary drinks are not very good for you at all.  You should limit them.  Sweets (candy, ice cream, cake and chocolate).  Foods made from refined grains (bagels, white pasta, sugary cereals, white rice).  Regular soda and energy drinks are all high in sugar.

Fruits contain carbohydrates from fibre and natural sugars.  Pick fresh or frozen fruit rather than dried.  You will get a larger serving for the same carb amount.

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Here is a list of tips for helping you when it comes to counting carbs:

1.  Labels - become a label reader.  The total carbohydrate number is the sim of fibers, sugars and starches.  Be sure to check the serving size on the label as well.   Try to be accurate in your serving sizes.

2.  Choose with predictability - ie. at first buy the same products each time you shop.  That way you can familiarize yourself with their carb counts and how they affect your blood glucose levels.  Once you get used to them, you can vary things.

3.  Pick produce by size - take the time at first to weigh your fruits and vegetables.   Look up carb counts based on the weights you buy.  The difference between small and large apples, for instance, can be as much as 15 grams of carb.

4.  Eyeball portions accurately -  keep your eye honest by double checking your portions every once in a while.  Use measuring cups, scales, etc to put oatmeal, cold cereal, pasta, rice and other starches in your usual serving bowl.  This way you can see how the "right" sized serving looks.

5.  Invest in a good set of food scales - look for ones that measure by grams, and keep them readily available.

6.  Record recipe counts - make an effort to figure out carb counts and appropriate servings of your favourite recipes.  This will help you stay out of trouble.

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Dishes like this Grilled Chicken with Broccoli Pesto Pasta are a great example of how you can still fit carbs into your diet by making wise choices.  You will want to choose a whole grain pasta for this, making sure that on the lable the product information lists more whole grain than any other ingredient.  You should also weigh out your serving accurately.  (see above)

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Instead of a rich, fat laden sauce . . .  the pasta is coated with a delicious pasta which is high in fibre and low in fat . . .  broccoli, no fat cottage cheese, a bit of Parmesan (small amounts of Parmesan generate lots of flavour, far more than a milder cheese, so you don't need to use as much), pistachip nuts, garlic, lemon juice . . . delicious.  The finer you grate the Parmesan . . .  the further it will go.

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By slicing the chicken breasts in half lengthwise, you are cutting the amount of protein per serving in half without it looking like you are being stingy . . .  and rubbing a low fat, highly flavoured rub into the chicken before grilling also imparts a lot of flavour.

Together the grilled chicken and the pasta make for a meal which is delicious, satisfying and quite healthy.  I served a mixed vegetable salad on the side to complete the meal.

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*Grilled Chicken with Broccoli Pesto Pasta*
Serves 4

If you have all of the ingredients laid out ahead of time, this goes together in a snap.  It's delicious and diabetic friendly! 

1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally
chicken seasoning mix (1/2 tsp each salt, coarse pepper, dried thyme, finely grated lemon zest, rub together)
6 ounces of dried whole grain pasta
For the pesto:
4 ounces large broccoli florets
a small handful of fresh basil leaves, rolled up tightly and then slivered
45g of grated Parmesan Cheese (1/4 cup)
4 tsp olive oil
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
2 TBS shelled pistachio nuts
2 TBS fat free cottage cheese
1 small clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

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Bring a large lightly salted pot of water to the boil and then cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Add the broccoli during the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking time.  Scoop out before draining the pasta and drop into the bowl of a food processor.  Drain the pasta, reserving some of the water.  Keep warm.

Rub the chicken pieces with the seasoning mix.  Heat a large skillet and spray with low fat cooking spray.   Add the chicken and cook, over medium heat,  for 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning only once, until golden and cooked through. (Juices should run clear.)

While the chicken is cooking, add 3 TBS of the Parmesan cheese to the broccoli in the food processor, along with the basil, lemon juice, olive oil, pistachios, cottage cheese, garlic and some salt and pepper.  Process until finely chopped.  Toss the cooked pasta with this pesto and enough reserved pasta water to make it slick enough to coat the pasta.  Divide the pasta between 4 heated plates.  Slice the chicken breasts on the diagonal and place one on top of each plate of pasta. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

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