CANNED GOOD!

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A: Get ready to pump for joy, because FLEX has a way for you to go from zero to chicken in just seconds. Since you are already practiced in the art of opening cans (what bodybuilder hasn't seen his fair share of tuna cans?), you will be pleased to learn that chicken also comes in a can. Bonus: The taste is surprisingly good.

Canned chicken, sometimes labeled as chunk chicken breast, is usually located near the canned tuna in grocery stores. The chicken comes packed in water with no added fats. The serving size labeled on some cans is a skimpy 56 grams (g), with five servings per can. We know the big boys of FLEX need to eat more protein than that, so we based the following nutrition information on a serving size of the entire container, or approximately 280 g (10 oz, including the water and the chicken). This serving has approximately 300 calories, 5 g of fat, virtually no carbohydrates and 60 g of protein. Depending on the brand, sodium can vary from 500 milligrams (mg) to 1,000 mg. To reduce the sodium level, rinse the chicken in fresh water for a few seconds.

You can use canned chicken just as you would tuna, making it into sandwiches or putting it on a bed of lettuce and adding a few veggies and a light dressing. It can also substitute for cooked chicken breast in your normal recipes, such as in a chicken stir-fry over rice or in a pasta dish. Chicken soft tacos are a great quick dinner for bodybuilders. Begin with warmed corn tortillas, then pile in heated canned chicken (don't heat in the can!) along with fat-free refried beans, cooked bell peppers and lettuce, topped with zesty salsa.

A great feature of canned chicken is that it can be stored for an extremely long period of time and pulled out for emergency meals. According to the Canned Food Alliance (www.mealtime.org), "Commercial canned food is prepared using fresh ingredients that are cooked quickly at high temperatures and sealed in sterile containers." They report that canned foods have a shelf life of at least two years, but have been known to remain microbiologically safe for 100 years (please, don't try this at home).

Canned chicken should not replace home-cooked chicken breasts, but it is a viable alternative when you are in a time crunch and need some protein to keep your muscles growing and your stomach satisfied. Other canned delights you might be overlooking include canned turkey, roast beef, shrimp, salmon and even oft-forgotten but nutrient-packed sardines. Just check the nutrition profile to make sure the variety you choose is bodybuilder friendly.

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