Can Fried Chicken Be Nutritional?

Fried chicken with greens in a plastic basket

There is nothing quite like biting into a nice, crispy chicken drumstick.  Fried chicken is a homemade favorite as well as a common sight in fast-food restaurants. Some of us enjoy it as a side dish, while some build a meal around it. The deeper concern and question would be, can fried chicken be nutritional?

Chicken breasts that have been fried can provide some nutritional benefits over dark meats and hamburgers, but at the end of the day, it’s not really what we can consider as healthy.  Let’s take a look at what you are eating and how, perhaps, you can finally consider air-frying this tasty legend instead.

Calories and Background

The specific nutrients in the fried chicken you make can be based on factors like the size of the serving, whether you decide to keep the skin on and any other ingredients that you use in your recipe. A skinless, fried chicken breast that weighs 86g, will deliver 161 calories onto your plate.

Meanwhile, fried chicken breasts that are breaded and have the skin still attached, will come in at 281 calories. It's important to keep in mind that almost half of these calories come from the starches and fat that are added into the recipe.


Without the skin, a fried chicken breast can offer about 29 grams of the protein you need while keeping the carbohydrate level below 1 gram. It has a total of 4g fat and 1g of saturated fat. Your favorite breaded and fried chicken breast, on the other hand, will offer 21g of protein, 8g of carbohydrates, 11g of fat and 3g of saturated fats.

Fried chicken breasts are notorious for containing trans fats, which transform during the process of frying. Trans fats tend to be considered the least beneficial type of fat, simply because it heightens LDL cholesterol and lowers the healthy HDL cholesterol in the blood.


You'll get 78mg of cholesterol from a fried chicken breast that is cooked without the skin. Meanwhile, there are 71mg in the less healthy, breaded and fried option.

For those who are keen on keeping track of the effects of their diet, it’s important to note that LDL cholesterol is deemed to be more unhealthy, and consuming too much can increase the risks of heart disease later in life. Is a piece of fried chicken really worth that in the end? Consequently, 300mg of cholesterol is the daily limit that most healthy adults should try to stick to. This ingredient is most commonly found in full-fat butter and cheese as well as animal foods that are more fatty.

Vitamins and Minerals

If you choose to avoid skin or breading, a fried chicken breast can offer 65% of your daily value of niacin, or 13mg. It also provides 237mg of potassium as well as 68mg of sodium. It's also important to keep in mind that breading increases the sodium content.

If your diet is too high in sodium and too low in potassium, you can have a higher risk of high blood pressure. As a result, the chances of kidney or heart disease also increase. Chicken also contains 1mg of iron as well as 32% of your daily selenium intake, or 22.5mg.

Now that we have observed what we actually put in our bodies, it’s time to look at 3 simple ways to banish the unhealthy options and provide equally tasty, but healthy alternatives to the traditional fried chicken.

Healthier Alternatives

Crispy Picnic Chicken

If the fried taste is what you are after, then look no further. This is a dish that tastes just like good old Southern fried chicken. The only difference here is that it’s actually baked. And with just 317 calories and 9g of fat, you get all the goodies without having to worry where it’s going to find its place to pack weight onto your body.

Southern “Fried” Chicken Burgers

Say what? If you are in the mood for a burger, but want to try something healthier than the traditional beef, then opt for this oven-fried option. Think buttermilk infused with some garlic or even some hot sauces, if you prefer some bite. All you need to add are grilled vegetables and you’re all set.

Country Oven-Fried Chicken

Cooking Light: Crispy Over Fried Chicken

This dish might even be better than your mom’s homemade chicken and it’s healthier too. Make use of cornflakes and Cajun seasoning to add just the right amount of spice. Serve with steamed or grilled sweet potato fritters.