Recovery is a top-down, inside out process that involves the rebuilding of the spirit and restoration of health and wellness. Summertime is a special time of year that lends itself well to the renewal of mind and body. During the summer we can get out of the house and get some exercise, soak up some vitamin D, and generally reboot our commitment to a healthy sober lifestyle.
Warm summer evenings provide the perfect canvas for gathering loved ones around the picnic table for a festive meal. The slow cooker may become your best friend for creating a delicious entreé that is both easy and nutritious. Slow cookers are known for convenience and high-quality results, allowing ingredients to simmer for hours while retaining nutrients and capturing amazing flavor you can sink your teeth into at the end of a long day. Pair some tasty pulled chicken sandwiches with a side of pasta salad for a summertime meal that the whole family will enjoy.
Featured Recipe: Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken BBQ
Pulled Chicken BBQ:
- 5 – 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
- 1 16-ounce box fusilli (gluten-free if desired)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup best quality extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- 1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
- 1 cup chopped scallions
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, red and/or yellow, halved
- ½ cup black olives, pitted and chopped
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
Pulled Chicken BBQ:
- Grease a 6 quart or larger slow cooker and add chicken breasts. Sprinkle with salt, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper and rub into the chicken. Top with onion slices and garlic cloves.
- In a mixing bowl, add tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar and stir to combine. Pour into the slow cooker and toss gently to combine.
- Cover and cook on “low” for 5-7 hours, or on “high” for 3-4 hours.
- Once done, remove chicken to a cutting board or large mixing bowl and shred using two forks. Return to the slow cooker and toss in the sauce/juices. Serve on a whole-wheat bun, lettuce cup, or by itself.
Prep: 10 minutes Cook: 6-7 hours Total: 6-7 hours 10 minutes
- Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente, about 12 minutes.
- While pasta cooks, whisk garlic, oil, vinegar, mustard, Italian Seasoning, salt and pepper in a large bowl.
- Drain pasta, and immediately add it to the dressing. Toss to coat. Let cool, tossing once or twice, at least 20 minutes. To make ahead, cover and refrigerate up to 12 hours.
- Stir artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, scallions, tomatoes, olives and basil into the pasta. Serve immediately or chill.
Prep: 15 minutes Cook: 12 minutes Total: 35 minutes
Why is this a Healthy Meal?
Sometimes we just crave a dish that isn’t necessarily good for us. In the case of this slow cooker pulled chicken, rest assured that by tweaking a few of the ingredients you can enjoy this savory BBQ craving without piling on fat and calories. Here’s how:
- The use of chicken breast instead of the traditional pork butt or shoulder reduces fat intake while still maintaining a similar protein content.
- Using a homemade barbecue sauce puts you in control of sugar intake, such as how much to add or whether to use a sugar substitute. Sugar is a known inflammatory food because when it breaks down and combines with fats or proteins in the blood, creating advanced glycation end-products (AGE’s). AGEs can increase the risk or, or worsen many diseases, such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, chronic kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s. Increased inflammation also creates more pain within the body, which inhibits the recovery process.
- Opting for whole-wheat buns in place of white for the sandwich, and opting for whole-grain pasta for the pasta salad adds fiber, protein, and vitamins to the whole meal. This is because, in whole-grain bread, the outer parts of the wheat grain (the bran and the germ) have not been stripped away. The germ contains healthy polyunsaturated fats (such as omega 3’s/6’s) and protein. Fiber has many functions, including lowering LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), blood pressure, and inflammation, while promoting healthy bowel function. Fiber can also help to control blood sugar levels for those with diabetes.
- Homemade vinaigrette for the pasta salad puts you in control of sugars and fats. You can choose the type of sugar you want to use as well as the fat source. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are much healthier than saturated fats or trans fats.
- Monounsaturated fats are rich in vitamin E and come from plant oils such as olive oil, canola, peanut, and safflower, and sesame oil. Polyunsaturated fats are rich in vitamin E as well, but contain the added benefits of omega 3’s and 6’s, which in addition to their heart-healthy benefits are also good for brain health.
Nutrition Matters in Recovery
The mind-body connection is very powerful, and in recovery, it takes on a whole new level of significance. This is because there is abundant scientific evidence that what we eat has a direct impact on our mental health. For example, according to a recent article from Harvard University, about 95% of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, and appetite, is produced in the gut. Gut health is improved when we avoid processed, fatty, or sugar-laden foods, which can benefit our mental health. Science has shown that those who stick to a clean diet, such as a Mediterranean diet, have a substantially lower risk of developing depression.
So, why does gut health matter to someone in recovery? Among individuals who struggle with a substance use disorder, there is a significant level of co-occurring mental health issues. Our mental health status can have a powerful effect on maintaining stability in recovery. The symptoms associated with depression or anxiety are often triggers for relapse. This is a primary reason for tending to our mental health in recovery, which includes watching what foods we eat.
Ashley Addiction Treatment Center is a leading addiction and dual diagnosis treatment program located in Maryland’s scenic Chesapeake Bay. For more information about the program, please reach out to us today at (800) 799-4673.