Fast Food Chicken Do's and Don'ts

Most people assume the chicken sandwich is the healthiest choice at fast food restaurants, but is it? From her book Eat Out, Eat Right, nutrition expert Hope Warshaw gives you the lowdown on fast food chicken.

Chicken Sandwiches

Today, most of the chains whose roots were in burgers and fries now also serve at least one grilled and one fried chicken sandwich. KFC, the chicken king among restaurant chains, serves three reasonably healthy chicken sandwiches—Tender Roast, Honey BBQ and Oven Roasted Twister. Any of them are healthier (lower in fat) if you skip the sandwiches’ special sauce. Chick-Fil-A, which is not as commonplace as KFC, also offers healthier chicken options, including chargrilled chicken sandwiches and wraps. McDonald’s and Burger King also offer grilled chicken sandwiches.

If you ask the cashier to hold the sauce, a grilled chicken sandwich is healthier than a loaded hamburger, fried chicken sandwich, or fried chicken pieces, such as nuggets or tenders.
Always look for the word grilled in the description: If you don’t see it, you can bet that the chicken is fried. Today, most restaurants that serve a grilled chicken sandwich also offer fried chicken pieces with lowfat sauces like barbecue or honey mustard. Request some of this sauce for your grilled chicken sandwich (they’re tasty on burgers, too).

Chicken Pieces (Nuggets or Tenders)

Fried chicken pieces were first introduced by McDonald’s and are now offered by most chains. They are a hit with kids because they are easy to eat, but they are coated, deep-fried, and loaded with fat—about 50 percent of their calories come from fat. (A few chains, such as Chick-Fil-A, do offer these grilled, which is a healthy choice.) There are too many healthy alternatives to even consider eating these.

Fried Chicken

A few chains specialize in serving fried chicken. Several of them tried doing roast chicken, but it didn’t last. Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC, as it now wants to be called to avoid the “F” word, is the leader in the field. There’s little nutritional value in fried chicken. If you eat fried chicken once in a blue moon, eat no more than one or two pieces and always choose the breast. Save fat and calories by removing the skin before eating the chicken, and complement it with healthier sides: mashed
potatoes, corn on the cob, green beans, or baked beans.

Excerpted from Eat Out, Eat Right by Hope S. Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE. Copyright © 2008 by Hope S. Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE. Excerpted by permission of Surrey Books, a division of Agate Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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