Monday, April 4, 2011

The 1,200 Calorie Nightmare & the 131 Calorie Solution

Last week, I had house guests coming for the weekend. I asked one of them if she wanted anything special to eat. She replied that she was on a 1,200 calorie a day diet.

Ack! That threw my cooking plans out the window. After some thought, it seemed that concentrating on fruits and vegetables would be the thing to do.

But there was a catch. She doesn't like most fruits and vegetables. On top of that, one of my other guests doesn't like some of the few fruits and vegetables that the first guest will eat.

No onions, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, pineapple, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans, squash, eggplant -- are you getting the picture?

I had planned to make MJ's Dinner Party Chicken but I suspected that ricotta cheese and breadcrumbs would ruin the calorie count. So I borrowed MJ's idea and hoped for the best.

I went straight to lemon to infuse my chicken breasts with flavor. After all, they couldn't have many calories! In addition I made liberal use of rosemary for more flavor without fat or calories. A plain 4 ounce chicken breast (yes, I weighed them) is 120 calories. There are a mere 61 calories in one cup of lemon juice, so the entire calorie count of lemon juice for the dish wouldn't have been more than 15 calories or so.

Like MJ, I made a slit in each chicken breast. I sprinkled each one with a different blend of spices (Penzey's Northwoods, Turkish, and Lamb seasonings) and added rosemary. Then I slid half a slice of lemon inside each chicken breast. Rosemary comes in at a whopping 2 calories per tablespoon, making it every dieter's best buddy for flavor.

I skipped browning of chicken to avoid the additional calories of oil. Instead, I squeezed more lemon on top of the chicken breasts and sprinkled them generously with rosemary. But I did add one teensy sliver (about 1/16th of a tablespoon = 6 calories) of butter to the inside of each breast as well. I'm including the picture to prove that I used very little butter -- just a whisper, really.

It turned out surprisingly well in spite of the lack of oil and other fats. The butter melted with the chicken juices, making a very tiny bit of sauce in the bottom of the pan. To be honest, the spices were almost lost since the lemon and rosemary were so dominant and delicious.

Diet Chicken Breast

3 chicken breasts
1 lemon
tiny bit of butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil.

Cut a pocket into the side of each chicken breast. Sprinkle with your favorite spices and rosemary. Insert 1/2 a slice of lemon.

Squeeze half a lemon over top of the chicken breasts and sprinkle liberally with rosemary.

Bake 40 - 45 minutes. Pour juices in bottom of pan over chicken breasts to serve.



  1. It does sound tasty. Kudos on being such a flexible hostess; I would have been tempted to tell her to bring her own food.

  2. I think you went above and beyond to cater to her diet! I hope she liked it! What side dishes did you serve with it? And did you have desert for your non-dieting guests?

  3. You are a good hostess!

    Very helpful tips here, Krista. I always look for ways to shave off some calories when taste isn't sacrificed. This looks like a wonderful way to do it!

  4. You are amazing, Krista! I'm in awe. Not only that but I'm going to steal this recipe for use here. Sounds like it will fit very nicely into our healthy eating plan. Love reading your thought process and watching your improvisation. Great stuff. Thank you!

  5. Wow a fabulous hostess you are. To accommodate so lovingly and um, sparingly. LOL It really does help when someone is on a diet to have another who can cook according to the calorie count. Way to go! A breath of butter. That's going to make it into a book. May we all borrow it?


  6. That looks tasty. Your recipe looks like it could work for low-sodium diets, too.

    You're a fantastic friend for working within your guest's dietary restrictions. I know several people with strict dietary restrictions who miss the socialization of a shared meal, especially a hand-crafted home-cooked meal, so they won't have to compensate for days afterward for what was consumed.

    Guests can bring their own food, but we all know that food in a social setting isn't just physical fuel. :)

    Conversations often center on the food prepared. The presentations, the taste, the compliments, preparation methods and stories.

    Also, if some seriously unhealthy family and/or cultural favorites are offered and then "rejected," hosts can suspect that the diner in question might think she or he's "too good" to eat their food.

    Didn't mean to go on so for so long. Food just isn't really just about the food. :)

  7. Sarah, I need to drop more than a few pounds, so I was very happy to accommodate her. The biggest problem was the limitation on veggies!

    ~ Krista

  8. Elizabeth, I love rosemary and lemon. They pack such a punch of flavor. I'll probably make this more often since everyone liked it.

    ~ Krista

  9. Oh, Julie! Don't be in awe. It was an experiment and I got lucky!

    ~ Krista

  10. LOL! Avery, please borrow a breath of butter all you like! : )

    ~ Krista

  11. CindyD, I served peas, rice, and salad with it. I'll be posting the dessert very soon. It was also a big experiment, but totally easy, fairly healthy, and it turned out well. Not as fabulous as chocolate cake or lemon pie, but surprisingly good for a low calorie dessert.

    ~ Krista

  12. Rhonda, you're so right. Food isn't just about food. I like to accommodate food preferences and dietary needs when I can. Usually it just means there's one dish someone can't eat, but this time, it called for drastic measures. It all worked out, though, and reminded me that food doesn't have to drenched in fats and creams to be good!

    ~ Krista

  13. Krista - This is a wonderfully healthy recipe. I'm also very impressed, not only with your keeping the fat and calorie count so low but (as others have mentioned) with your great example of kindness and consideration toward your guest. Thank you for such an uplifting post to start a new week!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  14. Krista,

    WONDERFUL and sweet of you to accommodate your guest! I , myself, have been on a 1200-1400 calorie a day meal plan for about 16 months and have lost about 125 lbs, and gotten diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol under control. So from all of us trying to get healthy, THANK YOU for being so supportive! I practically live on veggies of all kinds, though, so I am easier to cook for/with. lol

    Your recipe turned out sounding very tasty. I will certainly have to try it! As far as browning your chicken goes, I use a cooking spray and manage to brown meat with little problems. =)

    Rosemary and lemon...yum.

    Thank you for such a great recipe and post!

  15. Really, I think you are the perfect hostess! By the way, this food limitation situation (I am trying not to think of it as a problem) gets worse as people get older. In one of my favorite groups of lunch friends, there seems to be no one food that we all can eat. Some of the restrictions are allergies and serious health issues. We have learned to compensate and still have fun. Friends are worth it.

  16. I did not demand a low calorie meal. I mentioned to my lovely hostess that I was trying to stick to a 1200 calorie limit and that I would just eat smaller portions. I did request that she NOT make her homemade DELICIOUS CHEESE PRETZELS because I knew I could not cut back on those. Being a Domestic Diva, my lovely hostess chose to experiment with healthy meal choices for the weekend. They were delicious!! We enjoyed running the food through my MyFitnessPal app for the calorie counts. I'm thankful I have such a good friend who is such a wonderful cook!

  17. Kudos for being such an ingenious hostess, Krista! I hope your guests appreciated your efforts.

    This is going on our menu this week, as we need to shave off a few calories too! Thanks for the idea & the tips.

  18. How nice of you to do that, Krista! And what a delicious solution. I'll be trying it this Sunday for my guests (also folks with food restrictions). Thanks!

  19. You are a wonderful friend, Krista! And your solution is beautiful. The lemon actually in the chicken makes it so *pretty* (not to mention delish). Color me impressed. :)

  20. What a blessing you are, Krista!! As the Fab Four here at Chez Phillipe have just started Weight Watchers I can foresee this recipe being repeated often :-) I always have rosemary in my herb garden so I can't wait to use it for this!!!
    Thanks again!

  21. Obviously the ideal situation would be to get yourself invited to Krista's and have a 4000 calorie per day MINIMUM requirement.........