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Quick, healthy dinners with canned chicken breast

When trying to maintain a healthy diet, it's a wonderful thing to find a non-perishable food that you can keep on hand in your pantry that can be used for a quick and nutritious dinner. One of my favorites is canned chicken breast. It's versatile, low in fat, high in protein and ready to eat!

Meal No. 1: Chicken salad sandwiches
Talk about quick! All you need to do is drain and flake the chicken, add just enough mayonnaise to coat, seasonings to taste (I like basil, onion powder, garlic powder), and chopped celery, halved grapes or green olives if desired. Serve on bread, toast, tortilla, a "light" hamburger bun, a bagel, or whatever you like! I like to serve vegetarian baked beans and a salad for side dishes.

Meal No. 2: Quick burritos
Simply place chicken, black or fat-free refried beans, lowfat cheese and chopped cilantro (if you have some) in a reduced fat tortilla. Heat in microwave. Top with salsa and light sour cream and enjoy. [If you're cooking for a crowd, heat up ingredients separately and build burritos all at once. Serve with fresh watermelon slices.

Meal No. 3: Chicken Pasta Salad
Simply boil pasta shells (or other pasta) according to package directions. Drain and run under cold water until cool. Toss with drained chicken breast, light mayonnaise, chopped veggies (red bell pepper, onion, celery, carrots) or grapes, and seasonings. Eat immediately or chill until ready to eat. Serve with whole grain rolls.

Meal No. 4: Chicken and Green Chili Quesadillas
Heat a nonstick skillet and spray with cooking spray. Add tortillas, top with reduced fat cheese, chopped green chilies, drained chicken breast, and another tortilla, spray with cooking spray. Cook, flipping once, until both sides are lightly browned and cheese is melted.

Optional: Add saut�ed bell peppers, onion and/or mushroom to quesadillas with other ingredients. Serve with light sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Optional side dish: Brown rice with chopped cilantro and lime juice.

Meal No. 5: Greek Chicken Salad
Start with a bowl of torn romaine lettuce. Add drained and flaked chicken breast, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, a small amount of chopped kalamata olives, feta cheese and dried basil. Toss with a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar.

Optional side dish: Spray pita wedges with cooking spray and sprinkle with garlic powder, broil until crispy.

This is just the beginning of ideas for using this convenient meal-starter. Canned chicken, and also rotisserie chicken, can be used in most recipes calling for cooked chicken. Keep a few cans in your pantry and you can whip up a healthy meal in minutes!

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