Chicken Salad Is More Nutritious Than You Might Have Thought

A staple at any deli, a highly requested sandwich for school lunches, and a recipe that ranges from household to household, chicken salad is a beloved and classic dish as popular today as it was over 50 years ago. Flavorful and filling, chicken salad can be paired with your favorite greens or married together between two slices of bread.

One of the best parts of chicken salad is the fixings and ingredients you dress it with. Traditionally based with mayonnaise, chicken salad can be prepared in various ways depending on your dietary preferences. Take on a Mediterranean approach with olive oil, or opt for a more modern approach and swap out the mayo for Greek yogurt.

The sky's the limit for ingredients to add to a chicken salad, from a Waldorf salad (via Food Network) with apples, grapes, celery, and walnuts, to an almond chicken salad with shaved Marcona almonds and dried cranberries. Each preparation is sure to make your mouth water and your stomach satisfied.

What if we told you, though, that not only does each addition to your chicken salad make it more delicious — but nutritious as well. As Healthline notes, chicken salad is, in fact, one of the healthiest snacks or meals you can choose when perusing a menu or planning a meal.

A blend of lean protein and healthy fat macronutrients

On its own, chicken salad can serve as a low-calorie, protein-packed dish. According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Food & Nutrition Research, poultry (like chicken) may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease when paired with a vegetable-rich diet. Additionally, because chicken is a lean source of protein, it can prevent the risk of becoming overweight with consumption, unlike other forms of meat-based protein.

When it comes to the base of your chicken salad, this is where you can introduce more healthy and fat macronutrients into your diet — and cut the calorie count. For example, by opting for homemade mayonnaise using avocado oil or olive oil, you can reduce your risk of consuming hydrogenated vegetable oils found in many ready-made foods (via Healthline), including packaged mayonnaise.

Once you've mixed in your healthier fat base with your protein, it's time to add in fun. Here is where you can get creative with your chicken salad and add in even more nutrients. According to the American Heart Association, additions like nuts and seeds can elevate your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, reducing your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. If you want a little sweetness, fruit can be a tasty addition to chicken salad as well, while at the same time offering a serving of antioxidants.

So indulge in your favorite lunchtime dish without the guilt. Chicken salad, when prepared the right way, is a great staple to add to your routine meal plan.