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Mission impossible? Can you cook a healthy chicken wing?

Chicken wings
Traditional Buffalo chicken wings are tough to resist, but nobody every accused them of being a healthy dish. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

By Scott Scanlon -- Refresh Editor

Could there ever really be such a thing as a healthy chicken wing?

It's a question I ask nutritionists and dietitians often when I go about reporting local stories for WNY Refresh.

The answer always is the same: No. There's too much fat on the wing, I'm told, whether they're fried or baked, not to mention that most of us -- including me -- like our wings slathered in blue cheese, regardless of what type of sauce they're bathed in first.

But Drew Cerza, the force behind the National Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival, has proved to the region several times that he's up to tough challenges (the latest was getting opposing sides in the Clarence school budget debate to break bread together last spring, and help pass a revised 2013-14 school spending plan.)

As a warm-up to the festival -- which runs Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 at Coca-Cola Field -- Cerza has teamed up with BlueCross BlueShield of WNY on a hunt for the region's healthiest chicken wing, and accompanying fare.

The duo seek recipes from those who have a healthy “wing-inspired” food item. "It could be a healthy chicken wing dip, a celery and hot sauce blue cheese salad, or a good-for-you chicken wing baked mac n’ cheese," according to a press release.

“For many years, we did not see a place for a health plan at an event that clearly celebrates a food item that when not eaten in moderation, can lead to some health issues,” said Julie Snyder, spokeswoman for the insurer. But BlueCross BlueShield was inspired by Cerza losing 40 pounds during the past year, "eating healthier, and wanting to include some low calorie choices at this year’s Wing Fest,” Snyder said.

"This a partnership that proves opposites attract. You don't have to give up wings, just use healthier ingredients in your other meals," Cerza said.

All healthy wing recipes must be entered online here and include an estimate of “calories per serving.” Four finalists will be chosen to present their recipe to a panel of celebrity judges on stage Aug. 31 at the wing festival.  Finalists will be notified by Monday. The wing king champ will win a trophy, tickets to four Buffalo Bills game and appear on a future edition of the Healthy Zone show on WGRZ-TV, Channel 2.

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About The Refresh Buffalo Blog

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon

Scott Scanlon is an award-winning reporter and editor who has covered various topics in his quarter-century as a journalist in South Florida, Syracuse and Buffalo. He is aiming to pass along what he is learning these days about health, fitness, nutrition and family life.

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