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The chicken, broccoli, and rice diet has been a topic of discussion for many years. It’s a popular way of eating in the fitness industry because the foods have a strong macronutrient profile and are easy to meal prep. Throughout this article, we’ll discuss the history of this diet and how it’s become a meme recently.
History of the Diet
It’s hard to put an exact date on when this diet became popular. The foods in question have been around for centuries but it’s unknown whether the three were combined prior to major advancements in nutrition. We do know, however, that chicken, broccoli, and rice became popular during the golden era of bodybuilding (1950s-1970s).
Doctors and nutritionists encouraged a low-fat diet in the United States for several decades as a way to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Plenty of citizens followed this advice and altered their diets to consume less fat. The combination of chicken, broccoli, and rice has very little fat, so it makes sense that the diet became popular during this time.
Nowadays, we know that fats are essential for brain function, hormone regulation, and energy while resting. Despite this, the diet is more mainstream now than ever before.
The rise of the internet throughout the 1990s brought more exposure to chicken, broccoli, and rice. Word got out that successful bodybuilders followed this diet throughout the ’70s and ’80s, and this was intriguing to a lot of people. The idea that three foods could create a great physique caused many people to adopt the diet.
Most people who adhere to this diet are fitness-oriented and focused on tracking their macronutrients. This implies that you’re eating a certain amount of carbs, fats, and protein each day. As you might guess, chicken, broccoli, and rice has an above average macronutrient profile.
Chicken Breast – 100g Serving:
- 165 Calories
- 3.6g Fat
- 0g Carbs
- 0g Fiber
- 31g Protein
White Rice – 100g Serving:
- 130 Calories
- 0.3g Fat
- 28g Carbs
- 0.4g Fiber
- 2.7g Protein
Fresh Broccoli – 100g Serving:
- 35 Calories
- 0.4g Fat
- 7.2g Carbs
- 3.3g Fiber
- 2.4g Protein
Combining one serving of each food into a meal results in 330 calories with 4.3g of fat, 35.2g of carbs, and 36.1g of protein. A staggering 88% of the total calories come from carbs and protein, while the remaining 12% comes from fat. Chicken breast acts as the primary source of fat and protein while broccoli and rice are primarily carbohydrate sources.
You might be wondering why each food was picked instead of another. For example, why broccoli instead of shredded lettuce? Rest assured, it’s not random, so we’ll explain below.
Chicken breast: One of the best, lean sources of protein. Cheap to buy in bulk. Preferable over red meat due to cost and macronutrient profile.
White rice: Easy to digest due to negligible fat and fiber content. Also cheap to buy in bulk.
Broccoli: Has more protein than any other vegetable. Packed with fiber and several essential micronutrients. Preferable over other vegetables mostly because of the high fiber content and year-round accessibility.
Pros And Cons of Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice
Although some people swear by this diet, it’s quite restrictive and not indicative of a balanced nutrition plan. Below we’ll go over some pros and cons to consider before devoting yourself to these foods.
- Easy to meal-prep days in advance
- You’ll hit your daily protein goal via all the chicken breast
- All three foods are relatively inexpensive
- It’s easier to track your macros as you’re constantly eating the same foods
- Beneficial if you live an extremely busy lifestyle
- Broccoli is the only source of fiber in this diet
- Eating the same foods for every meal, every day can quickly become boring
- You’re missing out on essential micronutrients from other food sources
- Only 12% of calories come from fats which doesn’t reflect a balanced diet
Overall, it’s fine to eat chicken, broccoli, and rice regularly but we don’t advise consuming these foods as the entirety of your diet. It’s okay to have preferences, but you’re neglecting fats, fiber, and certain micronutrients by being so restrictive.
How It Became A Meme
The chicken, broccoli, and rice diet is seen as a meme because of the “bro-science” nature behind it. A lot of this started as a joke many years ago on the bodybuilding misc forums where users frequently discussed the diet. Today you’ll still hear baseless claims from celebrities and fitness influencers about eating these foods.
Part of why it became a meme is because most people realize there are several better ways to approach nutrition. We know a lot more about nutrition now than we did 50 years ago, so it makes sense for old ideas to fizzle out. Below is a great portrayal of the meme by YouTube user Arcdelio.
Most people who follow this diet are trying to lose weight. You can argue that it makes sense for weight loss because there’s less food to keep track of. Quite frankly, this diet is fool proof which might explain why so many celebrities are assigned it. Ultimately, however, it’s best to adopt a balanced diet because it’s more sustainable in the long run.
To recap, the chicken, broccoli, and rice diet became popular between the 1950s and 1980s. American doctors and nutritionists were keen on a low-fat diet, and the combination of these three foods fit the bill. The diet was especially popular amongst golden era bodybuilders who were trying to maximize protein while limiting fat.
There’s no doubt that these are clean foods, but it’s naive to think that they check every box of a good nutrition plan. The most concerning aspects are the lack of fiber (other than broccoli) and potential vitamin deficiencies in the long run. A daily multivitamin and fiber supplement make sense if you’re following this diet.
Overall, while this way of eating has its benefits, there are also several downsides. Despite many people considering it a fad diet, there’s some interesting history behind chicken, broccoli, and rice. Thank you for reading, and be sure to share this article if you enjoyed it!