Fried chicken sandwiches might be a comfort food, but we know they probably aren’t the best option for our health. Every now and then, eating fast food is certainly no big deal and is a blip on the radar in the grand scheme of your diet; however, if you’re regularly consuming these chicken sandwiches, you might want to consider a lower-fat and lower-sodium option.
We spoke to dietitians and nutrition experts to find out exactly which chicken sandwiches you might want to avoid. Jocelyn Rodriguez, RDN, CLC, a dietitian in South Texas recommends keeping these two factors in mind the next time a craving for a fast-food chicken sandwich strikes: “First, assess the amounts of sodium. The American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day. However, 1,500 milligrams of sodium is adequate for most adults. Secondly, check for saturated fats. Both the recommended daily limit for saturated fat is 6 to 10 percent of total daily calories, respectively. If you’re following a 2,000 calorie diet per day, that would mean consuming anywhere from 13 to 20 grams per day.”
Most fast food restaurants offer some type of grilled chicken alternative that will at least be lower and fat as it is not deep fried in oil. Further, some chains offer a higher fiber, multi-grain bun that will boost the nutrition of your overall sandwich and may have a better impact on your health.
“The Popeyes Classic Chicken Sandwich alone contains 1,765 milligrams of sodium and 14 grams of saturated fat. Accounting for 117% of sodium and 100% of saturated fat of the recommended daily value,” Rodriguez shares.
Ashley Harpst, RDN, a sports dietitian and owner of Go for the Gold Nutrition, agrees. She recommends you choose grilled chicken made with whole wheat bread sandwiches instead of fried chicken sandwiches made with white bread. “Whole wheat bread is higher in fiber and fiber has properties that will help you stay full longer. Wendy’s has a delicious herb, marinated grilled chicken sandwich on a whole wheat bun. Ask employees to give you the sandwich dry (no condiments) and ask them to add avocado instead of mayonnaise to your sandwich for a healthy fat,” Harpst recommends.
“The Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Pub Classic Sandwich contains 1,910 milligrams of sodium and 12 grams of saturated fat. This accounts for 127% of the recommended daily value for sodium and the borderline daily limit for the saturated fat content,” Rodriguez tells us.
Choosing foods high in sodium and fat can increase your risk for chronic metabolic conditions like high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and high cholesterol.
Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES shares, “Choosing the Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Pub Classic Chicken sandwich regularly could raise your risk for elevated cholesterol and blood pressure since it is high in both saturated fat and sodium. The sandwich contains 13 grams of saturated fat, which is equivalent to the daily saturated fat limit recommended by The American Heart Association. The sodium in the sandwich is beyond what we should eat in a meal or even a day for most people.”
Raising Cane’s chicken sandwich is certainly not the worst variety out there, but that doesn’t necessarily make it healthy either. With 41 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, and 1,470 milligrams of sodium, this sandwich easily meets 50 percent of your daily limit for saturated fat and sodium.
Eating a diet that is high in sodium and fat contributes to your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes over time. Alternatively, we know that a diet low in fat and sodium and high in fruit and vegetables can lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease over time.
“McDonald’s Spicy McCrispy clocks in at 530 calories and 1,320 milligrams of sodium. Frequent consumption of high-sodium foods like breaded and fried meats commonly served at fast food chains may put you at a greater risk for developing high blood pressure. If left untreated, high blood pressure may raise your chances of having a heart attack or stroke,” shares Catherine Karnatz, RD, a dietitian based in Hampton, VA.
Karnatz offers an alternative option to McDonald’s otherwise sodium-laden menu: “The next time you’re looking for a quick bite to eat at McDonald’s, consider choosing the Salsa Roja Snack Wrap with grilled chicken. At 490 milligrams of sodium per wrap, this menu item provides a lot of flavor without adding a ton of salt.”
The Chick-fil-A Spicy Deluxe Sandwich clocks in at 550 calories, 25 grams of total fat, and 1,810 milligrams of sodium. If you add one serving of the Chick-fil-A sauce on the side, you increase your fat intake by 13 grams and sodium by another 170 milligrams.