General Tso’s Chicken Gets a Healthy Makeover + Food Rules for Your Family (Podcast Episode #186)

General’s Tso’s Chicken is a classic Chinese restaurant takeout dish, and we gave it a healthy makeover by using less fat and sodium and adding more vegetables.

Healthy General Tso's Chicken via

This month, we had articles published in two magazines: Kiwi and Every Day with Rachael Ray. For Kiwi, our story on The New Dinnertime Rules featured rules like No TV or Cell Phones, One Family, One Dinner and Take a “No Thank You Bite,” and we made the point that better nutrition can be achieved when families eat together … happily (something you can more easily achieve with realistic food rules).

For Every Day with Rachael Ray, we contributed a recipe for General Tso’s Chicken to their Makeover Meal section … a recipe lower in fat and sodium (and filled with veggies) than the meal you’d find in most Chinese food restaurants. We dish about both articles on this week’s Cooking with the Moms podcast, and we hope you’ll tune in!

Healthy General Tso's Chicken via

The recipe we share below is a bit different from the Every Day with Rachael Ray version. That’s because RR had to shorten ours up a bit so it fit on one page. Feel free to make either version, and be sure to let us know what you think of it.

Healthy General Tso's Chicken via

We LOVE these magazines!

General Tso’s Broccoli Chicken Stir Fry

Makes 4 Servings

Lean chicken breast and just 2 tablespoons of heart-healthy canola oil help to cut back on the fat, and reduced-sodium soy sauce keeps the sodium in check.

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup water
  • 1¼ pounds head broccoli, trimmed and cut into bite-size florets (about 5 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut on the diagonal into thin rounds (about 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Thinly sliced scallions, optional
  • Sesame seeds, optional
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and black pepper until well combined. Add the chicken and toss until evenly coated.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Carefully add half of the chicken in a single layer. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 3 minutes per side. Stir occasionally. Place the cooked chicken on a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

3. While the chicken cooks, place the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and the remaining 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. Whisk in the honey. Set aside.

4. When the chicken is done, remove from heat and carefully wipe out the wok to remove excess oil. Return to medium-high heat, carefully add the water and garlic and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and carrot, cover, lower the heat, and simmer until crisp tender, 3 minutes.

5. Uncover, add the sauce and stir until it thickens and bubbles, about 1 minute. Stir in the chicken until well coated with the sauce and heated through, about 1 more minute. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds as desired and serve over rice. (Yields 6½ cups chicken/veggie mixture.)

Nutrition Information per Serving (2 cups): 480 calories, 15g fat (2.5g saturated, 0.8g omega-3), 630mg sodium, 56g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 30g protein, 90% vitamin A, 100% vitamin C, 15% iron

Print Recipe

Healthy General Tso's Chicken via

Here are some of the food rules we featured in Kiwi magazine … (see the Kiwi article for more details).

ONE FAMILY, ONE DINNER:  Promote Mom or Dad from short-order cook to executive chef. Plan the nightly menu and stick to it: Once the kiddos realize that one meal and one meal only will land on the dinner table — versus a different meal for each family member — they will know not to ask for grilled cheese instead.

NO TV OR CELL PHONES:  Electronic devices are a distraction, so turn them off during family mealtime. Checking work-related emails or returning texts from friends can certainly wait until after the table is cleared. With fewer distractions, family members can slow down, relax, and talk about their day. Talk about the perfect time for family bonding!

TAKE A “NO THANK YOU BITE” … To encourage family members to eat, or at least try, what’s been served. Then kids, (or parents!) can either say, “No thanks. I’m not a fan,” or “Thanks, I’ll have some more.” It’s a low-key and often amusing way to introduce new foods and flavors.

… UNLESS YOU HAVE A “TASTE BUD TURNOFF” PASS:  Some rules are meant to be broken … sometimes. It’s important to respect personal preferences. So if a family member has a short list of “taste bud turn off” foods — foods they’ve tried before and just can’t seem to stomach, then they get a pass on the “No Thank You” Bite.

Do you have rules in your house that make mealtime more pleasant? Please share.

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