When it comes to determining which fast food options are “healthy,” KFC may not be at the top of your list. Sure, chicken is high in protein, but fried chicken is notoriously high calorie and greasy.
However, I’m here to point 2 things out to ya:
1) KFC has a TON of options for you. If you’re not a fan of classic comfort food, there are grilled options available as well.
2) The nutrition may not be nearly as bad as you had previously thought.
I never want to tell you what you should or shouldn’t eat. That’s not my place. I simply want to help you to be able to decide that for yourself!
So, let’s break down the KFC menu to find some options for you.
I should note that this is all based on the United States menu at the time of writing this. I checked the KFC Canada website and saw that there are quite a few exciting options that they offer, but unfortunately, they are not on the menu here, so I could not include them.
It’s called Kentucky Fried Chicken for a reason- because the fried chicken is famously delicious!
But when it comes to KFC chicken, there are actually a few different options:
1) Original Recipe Chicken
2) Extra Crispy Chicken
3) Grilled Chicken
Yes, there are a few other options, like Popcorn Chicken (my personal favorite) but let’s look at those 3 main categories for now.
Original Recipe is the chicken you’ve come to know and love from KFC. This is their classic fried chicken.
Extra Crispy is taking that same original recipe, but laying the breading on extra-thick (and likely frying for longer) to create that extra crispy exterior.
While the idea of extra crispy may sound very appealing to you, if calories are a concern, it’s wise you compare the two to see the differences.
Let’s look at the chicken breast as an example:
Original Recipe Chicken Breast: 390 Calories, 21g Fat, 11g Carbs, & 39g Protein.
Extra Crispy Chicken Breast: 530 Calories, 35g Fat, 18g Carbs, & 35g Protein.
These chicken breasts are the same size, and yet the extra crispy chicken breast contains 140 extra calories and a whopping 14g of fat more than the Original Recipe!
I’m not telling you that you can’t eat the crispy chicken; I mean, it’s delicious. But if you’re watching your calories, be careful of those extra calories sneaking up on you!
Which is the healthiest KFC chicken?
It should come as no surprise that if you’re trying to eat healthy at KFC that the grilled chicken is the way to go.
All of the options in this bucket will yield you the highest protein with the lowest calories, so you get the most bang for your buck, especially if you’re dieting.
The chicken breast has the most calories with 210, but it also packs the most protein with a huge 38g! If you want to eat lower calorie, a chicken thigh is still a great choice. While the fat content (and saturated fat) of a chicken thigh is higher, each thigh only has 150 calories while still containing 17g of protein. Not bad at all!
KFC Chicken Sandwiches & Bowls, and More
Ah the KFC Chicken Sandwich. Once Popeyes and Chick-fil-A burst onto the scene with the chicken sandwiches, sparking a full-on chicken sandwich war, it didn’t take long for KFC to revamp their sandwich menu.
Unfortunately for us, that means they wiped out a bunch of options. No longer can you order the Crispy Colonel Sandwich or the Chicken Littles- just a Classic Chicken Sandwich or its spicy counterpart.
How does the KFC Chicken Sandwich stack up against the other chicken sandwiches out there? Why, I’m glad you asked! Here’s a comparison for ya:
At 650 calories, 35g of Fat, 49g Carbs, and 34g of Protein, it’s certainly not the worst option out there.
But if I can toot my own horn for a minute… I MUCH prefer to make my own at home. I’m just gonna leave this video right here in case you decide you want to make your own fried chicken sandwich at home, too!
This breakdown also would not be complete if we didn’t look at the Famous KFC Bowl, which is basically the definition of “comfort food.” It contains mashed potatoes, gravy, cheese, corn, and popcorn chicken.
Now, don’t get me wrong: it is absolutely delicious. But if you’re in search of a low calorie, low carb, or high protein option, the bowl is not your best option. Not surprisingly, the Chicken Pot Pie actually has very similar nutrition to the bowl, which is less-than-ideal.
If you’re going to enjoy a bucket of chicken, you’re going to want to pair it with some sides, and KFC has no shortage of ’em!
Calorie-wise, I was surprised to see how low many of these options were. I expected something like Mac & Cheese to be extremely high calorie, but a small side is only 140 calories! If you were to order a large Mac & Cheese, that bumps up to 540 calories, but assuming you stick with the individual size, it’s really not bad at all.
One thing that I need to point out, because it makes me so sad, is the lack of potato wedges here. I’ve been praying to the French Fry Gods that they bring back the wedges, but at the time of writing this, they are not available. Instead, we now have these boring Secret Recipe Fries. I’m sure they’re fine… but the potato wedges were SO good!
But, for what it’s worth, the fries at KFC are actually one of the healthier fast food french fries out there in terms of calorie count!
Conclusion: is KFC healthy?
As with any menu breakdown, there is really no definitive answer here, because “healthy” is whatever you make it out to be!
However, if you’re after high-protein options, KFC is actually an excellent choice. If you go the route of grilled chicken, you will really maximize your protein intake, but even the fried chicken options are packed with protein.
If you are watching your cholesterol or need to avoid high levels of saturated fat, most of the options at KFC may not be super appealing to you.
Otherwise, there are some really great options!