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Healthy Recipe Doctor

with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Elaine Magee's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Recipe Makeover: Paula Deen’s Chicken & Rice Casserole

I love doing Paula Deen recipe makeovers because:

  1. She rocks the kitchen.
  2. She has a tendency toward my kind of cooking (comfort food).
  3. There are always quite a few changes I can make for a big ticket nutritional pay off.

Today we are making over Paula’s popular Chicken & Rice Casserole. The original recipe calls for canned green beans. I don’t do canned vegetables (not that there is anything wrong with that – except the added sodium); I just would rather use frozen or fresh vegetables. I think they taste better, although it seems that people prefer whatever they were raised with.

I also used skinless roasted chicken breast instead of any type of chicken meat with skin. And I used the 98% fat free condensed cream of chicken soup instead of regular and reduced fat sharp cheddar instead of regular. I made a blend of light mayonnaise and fat free sour cream instead of real mayonnaise, which creates a wonderful tasting mixture with 75% less grams of fat compared to the real thing.

Lastly the original recipe calls for a box of long grain white and wild rice. I used 4 cups of cooked brown rice and it seemed to work great. The pinch of salt (or any salt or that matter) simply isn’t needed with the other ingredients that will contribute some sodium.

We cut the calories by 45% and the total fat and saturated fat were cut by about 70%! Cholesterol was cut in half and the fiber increased by 2 grams per serving.

Here’s the best part…it still tastes terrific – savory and satisfying!

Before After
Calories 646 354
Fat (g) 38 11
Saturated Fat (g) 9 3
Cholesterol (mg) 120 62
Fiber (g) 3.5 5.5
Light & Easy Chicken & Rice Casserole


10 3/4-ounce can condensed cream of chicken or celery soup
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
3 cups frozen green beans
3 cups diced, cooked chicken breast, without skin
1 medium sweet or yellow onion, chopped
8 ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
4 ounce jar or can pimentos, drained (optional)
4 cups cooked brown rice (or cooked brown rice and wild rice blend)
1 cup shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or 3-quart casserole dish) with canola cooking spray.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine condensed soup, light mayonnaise and fat free sour cream.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and combine with mayonnaise mixture. Spread into prepared baking dish and bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Yield: makes 8 servings

Nutritional Information per serving: 354 calories, 25 g protein, 38.5 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 4 g monounsaturated fat, 3 g polyunsaturated fat, 62 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 435 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 28 percent.

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Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 6:58 am

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