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How To Cook Healthy For Beginners: Southern-Style Quinoa Coated Chicken

Want to learn how to cook healthy? Healthista’s Vanessa Chalmers does. In her column this week, Vanessa tries Joe Wicks’ Lean in 15 Southern-Style Quinoa Coated Chicken recipe for fried food fans

A healthy lifestyle is achievable for anyone. But there are tons of recipes out there that seem to require starfish, truffle oil and Açaí (pronounced ass-eye-ee). I did, however, try an Açaí bowl at a launch event this week and it may have been one of the most amazing things I’ve eaten, perhaps because of the heaps of peanut butter I put in. I laughed to myself when I posted it on my Instagram story, asking myself ‘am I Instagram famous yet?’

Everyone is loving food trend Acai bowls
Everyone is loving food trend Acai bowls

Making an Instagram perfect  Açaí bowl is on my bucket list, but until then I am going for easy, simple recipes that use ingredients from my local supermarket. If anyone has a reputation for creating these recipes, it has to be the oh-so-popular fitness and foodie celeb Joe Wicks (The Body Coach). He started with 15 second videos of cooking dinner on his social media, and all of a sudden he has three recipe books, based on his 90 Day SSS plan, and almost 2 million followers.

Flicking through the Lean in 15 – The Sustain Plan, The Southern-Style Quinoa-Coated Chicken caught my eye, naturally. It’s served up with sweet potato wedges and a side salad.

The bar is raised high by the likes of KFC and the new vegan chicken shop Temple of Hackney

MORE: 3 healthy recipes from hot trainer Joe Wicks

I reckon we all have a lust for fried chicken and fries now and again, and if I deserve it, I will most definitely will allow myself. But with the bar raised high by the likes of KFC and the new vegan chicken shop Temple of Hackney, I was intrigued to see how tasty a quinoa coating would compare.

Nutrionist May Simpkin covered new research in her article this week, which found out that 81 per cent of Brits are bored with their lunches. Three out of four workers are tucking into the same lunch every day, with ham sandwiches being the most common, the poll of 2,000 adults by New Covent Garden Soups found.

MORE: 5 healthy lunch swaps – Britain’s worst choices made healthier by nutritionist May Simpkin

We can become uninspired and reach for treats like takeaways

This got me thinking; how many of us are turning to the same dinners every week? Without experimenting in the kitchen and leading busy lives, I reckon people have a set amount of go-to dinners, say ten, they can easily rustle up. I know in my household the classic British dinners – pasta, jacket potato, spag bol or chicken and veg – are on the menu regularly. I don’t mind at all, but we can get in a rut of eating the same things day in day out, leaving us uninspired and reaching for treats like takeaways instead of finding a new favourite meal.

The Southern-Style Quinoa Coated Chicken seemed an alternatively healthy way of sprucing up my weekly dinner, without leaving me dreaming of fast-food.

Southern-Style Quinoa Coated Chicken with Sweet Potato Wedges

Serves 1


1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced into 6 wedges

1 x 220g skinless chicken breast fillet

125g pre-cook quinoa

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp garlic granules

2 tsp onion granules

1 tsp dried oregano

1 egg

½ tbsp coconut oil

Green salad and lemon wedge to serve


Zap the sweet potato wedges in your microwave for 4 minutes, rest for 2 minutes, then blast for another 4 minutes. (If you are using the oven instead as I did, boil the sweet potatoes for around 10 minutes until they are partially soft. Then place on a mesh tray, spray with fry light, and cook for around 15 minutes on 220 degrees Celsius).

Meanwhile, place the chicken between two pieces of cling film or baking parchment on a chopping board. Using a rolling pin, meat mallet or any other blunt instrument, bash the chicken until it is about 1cm thick all over

Mix the quinoa, paprika, garlic granules, onion granules and dried oregano together in a bowl and then tip the mixture onto a plate, spreading it out a little.

how to cook healthy for beginners, southern style quinoa coated chicken, joe wicks lean in 15 the body coach, by healthista (2)
The spice infused quinoa

Crack the egg into a separate bowl and whisk with a fork. Dip the chicken into the egg, making sure as much of the flesh is covered as possible. Lay the chicken in the spiced quinoa mixture and press it down to make sure the breast is coated all over.

Melt half of the coconut oil in one frying pan and the other half in a second, both over a medium to high heat. Lay the chicken down in one and sweet potato wedges in the second. The chicken will need about 4 minutes on each side, while the wedges will be ready when they are browned all over. Check the chicken is cooked by slicing into a thicker part to make sure the meat is white all the way through, with no raw pink bits left.

how to cook healthy for beginners, southern style quinoa coated chicken, joe wicks lean in 15 the body coach, by healthista (3)

When you’re ready to eat, blot both the chicken and the wedges with a piece of kitchen roll before serving. Dish up your fried chicken and wedges with a side salad and lemon wedges.

how to cook healthy for beginners, southern style quinoa coated chicken, joe wicks lean in 15 the body coach, by healthista (4)
I served my chicken with spinach because I seem to have an obsession with it at the moment

I made this dish for four people, as I normally do, and my kitchen looked like it had been hit by a bomb. I would stick to doing this recipe for one or two, as the quinoa can get quite messy. As you can see from the photo, the quinoa doesn’t stick to the chicken that well and can fall off in the pan. I coated one side of the breast, placed it in the pan, and as it was cooking covered the side facing up. Then I attempted to flip it over without the coating on the cooked side completely falling off. It was hit and miss. I sort of ended up serving chicken with some paprika flavoured quinoa, but you get the jist of it.

It wasn’t quite fried chicken, obviously. But with the lemon juice a good serving of ketchup (one day we will get to making our own healthy tomato sauce, guys), it was the succulent crispy coated chicken I had been craving. You could go overboard with your salad as much as you like, the more greens the better. The sweet potatoes are a good low-GI alternative to white potatoes, and acing the method of how you like them cooked can be your next challenge.

MORE: Joe Wicks DVD review: The Body Coach’s workout gets the thumbs up from Healthista – ‘perfect for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) training lovers’

Three things I learnt this week:

1. A recipe takes longer than 15 minutes if the ingredients include ‘pre-cooked quinoa’.

2. A Body Coach HIIT workout will make this meal even more fulfilling and delicious, as Joe Wicks’ recipes are all based on post-workout (with carbs) or reduced-carb (if you haven’t worked out) recipes.

3. Ketchup is hard to let go of because it makes everything taste fabulous.

Buy Lean in 15 – The Sustain Plan: 15 Minute Meals and Workouts to Get You Lean for Life for £8

Have you tried a Lean in 15 recipe? Share your photos with us on Twitter! @HealthistaTV

Vanessa Chalmers

Vanessa Chalmers is a Food and Lifestyle Writer at Healthista, and enjoys finding new healthy living hacks, especially when it comes to her favourite thing – food. Her column How To Cook Healthy For Beginners is every Friday, for the busy everyday woman who is nothing more than an amateur chef, but loves food and to cook.

Follow on Instagram and Twitter to watch her healthy living journey.

Read More:

How To Cook Healthy For Beginners: The easiest chicken curry recipe EVER

How To Cook Healthy For Beginners: Herbed turkey meatballs with courgetti pomodoro

How To Cook Healthy For Beginners: Mediterranean Cod Bake

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