By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Do you love chicken or eggplant Parmesan? Although not fried or smothered in cheese, these healthy chicken and eggplant Parm recipes are just as hearty as restaurant versions and and taste out of this world. Try one, and it may become your new family favorite!
*Note: this recipe contains links to products sold by Vervana, a fine food company I founded and co-own.
Healthy Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
*use organic ingredients whenever possible
- 2 eggplants sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
- 2 eggs beaten
- 2 cups bread crumbs (Panko, Italian style, gluten-free or homemade. For grain-free, you can use 1/2 c. of almond or coconut flour with a little salt and pepper mixed with 1 tsp of Olive Oil Dipping Blend.)
- 1 jar Organic Marinara Sauce
- 2 bell peppers (any color) sliced
- 1 tsp Olive Oil Dipping Blend
- 1 to 4 tbs Organic EVOO (or cold-pressed Basil, or Garlic olive oils)
- 10 oz organic mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded
- Optional – Handful of chopped fresh basil or parsley
- 1 bag of organic red lentil pasta, prepared according to directions
- Savory Salt and Pepper & Juniper Blends
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wash and slice the eggplant. Grind sea salt onto both sides of each eggplant slice, and lay the slices on a plate to reduce moisture. Let eggplant sit for 30-60 minutes, then blot each slice with a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture. Dip each slice into the eggs, then into the bread crumbs (or flour mixture) and place onto a greased baking sheet. Bake each side for 8 to 15 minutes until crispy. While the eggplant is baking, warm the olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the sliced peppers and the Olive Oil Dipping Blend and sauté until soft. Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of an 9×13 baking dish followed by a layer of eggplant, then peppers, more sauce, and evenly spread some of the mozzarella out over the top of the layer. Repeat until all the eggplant and cheese is used. Bake for 40-60 minutes until bubbly and browned on top. Place 1/4 of the prepared pasta onto a serving plate or in a bowl and top with a spoonful of marinara sauce or a drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil if desired. Top with a serving of eggplant Parmesan and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin or flavored olive oil. Add fresh, chopped herbs, if you like.
Tips for making healthy eggplant Parmesan:
- Bake the eggplant, don’t fry it at high temps;
- Use organic mozzarella cheese, and in moderation;
- Include extra organic veggies for added fiber and nutrients;
- Use a vibrant, organic marinara with no added sugars and not too much salt (like my Vervana Organic Marinara, which is sweetened only with carrots and is lower in sodium than many store-bought varieties)
- Serve it over organic, high-protein red lentil pasta instead of traditional white pasta – this means more nutrients, lots of protein and fiber to promote a healthier blood sugar response, and none of the pesticide residues found in regular white pasta.
Healthy Chicken Parm Recipe
- 1 to 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts or tenders
- Fresh mozzarella cheese (BST-free, if not organic)
- 1 jar Oganic Marinara Sauce
- 1 package Organic Red Lentil Pasta
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Pepper & Juniper Blend
- Natural Salt Blend
- Basil Olive Oil
First, start with the chicken. If cooking chicken breasts, you want to lightly pound them so that their thickness is even throughout; the tenders can be cooked as is. Season the chicken on both sides with a few grinds of Pepper & Juniper Blend and Savory Salt Blend, then either bake or sauté it. To sauté, heat about 1 Tbsp Basil Olive Oil in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant, then cook the chicken in it until it is no longer pink inside – about 6-9 minutes per side, depending on thickness. If baking, preheat oven to 375 F and, in a glass pan, coat each side of the chicken with about 1 Tbsp Basil Olive Oil. Bake chicken for 15 to 25 minutes until it is no longer pink inside. Remove the sautéed or baked chicken from heat source, then set the oven to 425 F, for when you bake the whole dish.
While the chicken cooks, prepare the organic red lentil pasta according to package directions and drain well. Combine cooked pasta with 1/2 jar of Organic Marinara Sauce in a glass baking pan (you can use the same one as before) and stir well. Top with the sautéed or baked chicken, then add a few more spoonfuls of organic marinara sauce over the chicken. Layer the chicken pieces with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, the sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425 F until cheese is browned and bubbling. Be sure to keep a close eye on the chicken parm, as it can easily burn! Remove from oven and serve. You may want to finish each plate with a drizzle of Basil Olive Oil.
Made with high-quality, delicious ingredients, this eggplant Parmesan recipe is satisfying, comforting and much healthier than traditional eggplant Parm recipes – Enjoy!
Why Are these Chicken and Eggplant Parm Recipes Healthy?
For one, they’re made with tomatoes, which are bona fide nutritional powerhouses thanks to their vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Tomatoes are full of antioxidants Vitamins A and C which help neutralize free radicals that can lead to disease in the body. Vitamin C has even been linked to lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, something I definitely pay attention to! They also contain Vitamins B & K, which work to regulate cholesterol, lower blood pressure and help blood clot.
But the starring nutrient in tomatoes is lycopene, a phytonutrient that can reduce cardiovascular risk, among other benefits. Lycopene prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which can lead to heart problems. In 2011, a meta-analysis of 12 studies revealed that, lycopene doses of greater than or equal to 25 mg daily reduced LDL cholesterol by about 10%, comparable to the effect of low doses of statins. So you can see, tomatoes really pack a heart-healthy punch! But that’s not all lycopene can do. It’s also been shown promise in preventing a wide range of cancers, including breast, lung, gastric, colorectal, pancreatic and most dramatically, prostate. An analysis of 26 studies in 2015 found that the higher the levels of lycopene in men significantly lowered the risk of prostate cancer with greater consumption offering greater protection.
And the fact that the tomatoes are cooked in these recipes makes them even more nutritious because heat allows the lycopene molecules to become more readily absorbed by your body when consumed. I like a sauce made of whole, organic foods of the highest quality that’s free of added sugars and artificial additives or preservatives – learn more about how to tell if your pasta sauce is healthy here.
What about the pasta? In these recipes I use an organic, high-protein pasta made from red lentils instead of wheat. Not only is it gluten-free and grown without synthetic pesticides, but red lentil pasta promotes a healthier blood sugar response than regular white semolina pasta. Plus, when you have a pasta made from lentils, beans or another protein-packed food, it also keeps you satiated for longer, so you’re not digging back into the pasta pot for second and maybe even third servings!
Don’t worry, if you don’t have any red lentil or other pasta that’s naturally high in protein, use a lesser amount of regular white semolina pasta. Just buy organic pasta, if possible, to avoid synthetic chemical residues, and limit each plate to about 1 cup of cooked pasta. The chicken will add healthy protein, and finishing with a drizzle of olive oil will lend healthy fat to the chicken Parm to help slow digestion. If you’re still hungry, try to fill up instead on steamed veggies or salad. I LOVE eating broccoli with pasta and marinara because when you combine broccoli with tomatoes, the nutrients in them have a synergistic effect – that is, they are more powerful when combined than eaten separately!
For more on how to eat pasta and be healthy too, read my Pasta Diet Ebook – you can download it for free here.
© Stephen Sinatra, MD. All rights reserved.