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The Best & Worst Menu Items at KFC, According to a Nutritionist

You can still get your fried chicken fix while keeping your health in mind with this guide to the best and worst foods on the KFC menu.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

While Kentucky Fried Chicken has long been known by its initials, back in 1991, the Southern chicken chain officially adopted the acronym "KFC"—in part, to distance itself from the unhealthy connotations that accompany fried foods. It was a smart marketing move, for sure. In the decades since the official switch-over, research has increasingly shown that numerous health harms stem from consuming high amounts of fried food. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension have all been linked to a diet high in greasy, crispy choices.

Despite the name change, though, much of KFC's menu remains fried (and therefore high in concerning nutrients like sodium and saturated fat). If you're looking to eat right at KFC, you'll have to do a little digging to find genuinely healthy options. As a nutritionist, I've taken stock of the chicken joint's entire menu—from to nuggets to dessert—to help you make informed decisions. Here are the 16 best and worst items.

Chicken Types, Ranked Worst to Best

Worst: Extra Crispy

KFC extra crispy chicken
Nutrition (Per 1 breast):
Calories: 530
Fat: 35 g (Saturated fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 1,150 mg
Carbs: 18 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 35 g

Here's where "crispy" is a code word for "steer clear." The extra crispy recipe is by far the least healthful of KFC's chicken options. A single breast will set you back 530 calories, 35 grams of fat, and 6 grams of saturated fat. If you choose this crispy chicken, make sure to round it out with some good-for-you sides like green beans or corn on the cob.

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Worst: Original Recipe

KFC chicken
Nutrition (Per 1 breast):
Calories: 390
Fat: 21 g (Saturated fat: 4 g)
Sodium: 1,190 mg
Carbs: 11 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 39 g

Ah, the original recipe—it's the classic fried chicken that put KFC on the map. Its nutrition profile isn't the worst on KFC's menu, but it isn't the greatest, either. One original recipe chicken breast contains a fairly moderate 390 calories but comes with some serious sodium (52% of the Daily Value).

Best: Spicy Crispy

Kfc nashville hot extra crispy chicken breast
Nutrition (Per 1 breast):
Calories: 350
Fat: 20 g (Saturated fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 1,100 mg
Carbs: 11 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 30 g

Often, the words "spicy" and "crispy" are red flags for health—but KFC's spicy crispy chicken is actually a better choice than either the original recipe or the extra-crispy. It lets you enjoy zippy flavor without a terribly high level of calories or saturated fat.

Best: Kentucky Grilled

kfc grilled chicken green beans
Nutrition (Per 1 breast):
Calories: 210
Fat: 7 g (Saturated fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 710 mg
Carbs: 0 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 38 g

When in doubt, choose grilled chicken! Since it's not battered or fried, it's likely to have superior nutrition. This per-piece option is among the best at KFC for its low calories and (relatively) low sodium. It's also a good choice for anyone watching their carbs, since it contains zero grams.

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Tenders & Nuggets 

Best: Kentucky Fried Nuggets

kfc chicken nuggets
Nutrition (Per 17 g serving):
Calories: 35
Fat: 1.5 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 140 mg
Carbs: 1 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 3 g

As fried foods go, these little nuggets aren't too bad! Each bite-sized piece has just 35 calories and packs 3 grams of protein. Just note that the nuggets are fairly small. Eat them slowly and mindfully to get the most out of each bite.

Worst: Extra Crispy Tenders

kfc chicken tenders
Nutrition (Per 51 g serving):
Calories: 140
Fat: 7 g (Saturated fat: 1 g)
Sodium: 320 mg
Carbs: 8 g (Fiber: 0 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 10 g

It's no surprise that the extra crispy tenders don't top the list of healthiest items at KFC. As a battered, deep-fried food, they could contribute to increased health risks like cardiovascular disease. A 2019 study found that fried chicken was associated with a higher likelihood of cardiovascular mortality. Add high-sugar sauces like barbecue or ketchup and you've got a recipe for an even less healthy choice.

Homestyle Sides

Best: Sweet Kernel Corn

KFC Sweet Corn
Nutrition (Per 1 side):
Calories: 70
Fat: 0.5 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 0 mg
Carbs: 16 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 2 g

Call off the search—there's an actually super-healthy side on KFC's menu! The sweet kernel corn not only contains just 70 calories, it has zero sodium or saturated fat. You'll even get a couple of grams of fiber here.

Best: Green Beans

KFC green beans in a white bowl
Nutrition (Per 1 side):
Calories: 25
Fat: 0 g (Saturated fat: 0 g)
Sodium: 300 mg
Carbs: 5 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 1 g

It's hard to go wrong with a green vegetable as your side dish. When you choose the green beans at KFC, you'll get a low-calorie, high-fiber veggie to lighten up your meal.

Worst: Secret Recipe Fries

kfc secret recipe fries
Nutrition (Per 1 side):
Calories: 320
Fat: 15 g (Saturated fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 1,100 mg
Carbs: 41 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 5 g

I couldn't tell you what's in KFC's secret recipe fries, but here's what I can tell you: this heavy side is a no-go for health. If you've already ordered fried chicken, it's smart not to add the high sodium and hefty calorie count of these fries.

Worst: Biscuit

kfc biscuit
Nutrition (Per 1 biscuit):
Calories: 180
Fat: 8 g (Saturated fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 520 mg
Carbs: 22 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 1 g)
Protein: 4 g

The flaky, buttery biscuit may be a classic KFC side, but it won't do your health any favors. All that flaky-ness comes with 23% of the recommended Daily Value of saturated fat—and that's before you top it with any extra butter. Diets high in saturated fat may not be as harmful to heart health as we once believed, but the American Heart Association still recommends limiting them.

Sandwiches, Pot Pie, and Bowls 

Best: Chicken Littles

kfc chicken littles on plate
Nutrition (Per 1 sandwich):
Calories: 300
Fat: 15 g (Saturated fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 620 mg
Carbs: 27 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 14 g

KFC's Chicken Little sliders are a fun choice for their petite size—but that's not all they have going for them. Though their chicken is fried, their small portion size keeps calories under control. For a light lunch or dinner, pair one with a veggie side for a meal that's as healthy as fast food gets.

Best: KFC Famous Bowl

KFC Famous Bowl
Nutrition (Per 1 bowl):
Calories: 590
Fat: 23 g (Saturated fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 2,160 mg
Carbs: 67 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 31 g

Contrary to what you might expect (considering that it's a bowl of mashed potatoes topped with fried chicken), the KFC Famous Bowl isn't the worst of the chain's specialty menu items. Then again, in this category, healthfulness is relative. Though lower in calories and fat than some other options, the Famous Bowl is still a sodium bomb with nearly a full day's worth of salt.

Worst: Chicken Pot Pie

KFC chicken pot pie
Nutrition (Per 1 pie):
Calories: 720
Fat: 41 g (Saturated fat: 25 g)
Sodium: 1,750 mg
Carbs: 60 g (Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 26 g

As a chicken pot pie lover myself, it pains me to say it, but KFC's version of this comfort food is quite possibly the worst option on the entire menu. The saturated fat alone (192% of the American Heart Association's recommended daily limit) is enough to pass on this one.

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Worst: Spicy Chicken Sandwich

KFC Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Nutrition (Per 1 sandwich):
Calories: 620
Fat: 32 g (Saturated fat: 4 g)
Sodium: 2,140 mg
Carbs: 49 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 6 g)
Protein: 34 g

Served on a buttery brioche bun and fried with extra spices for a kick, KFC's Spicy Chicken Sandwich will satisfy your hot chicken cravings. Still, if you're looking for a healthy order, this isn't it. It's a sodium knockout with over 2,100 milligrams per sandwich, and it barely offers any fiber at just 1 gram.

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Best: Apple Turnover

KFC Apple Turnover
Nutrition (Per 81 g serving):
Calories: 230
Fat: 10g (Saturated fat: 2.5g)
Sodium: 140mg
Carbs: 32g (Fiber: <1g, Sugar: 12g)
Protein: 2g

It's rare to find a restaurant dessert under 250 calories, but KFC's apple turnover fits the bill. If you have room left after your chicken dinner, choose this light, sweet ending to your meal.

Worst: Café Valley Mini Chocolate Chip Cake

KFC chocolate cake
Nutrition (Per 85 g serving):
Calories: 300
Fat: 12 g (Saturated fat: 2.5g)
Sodium: 190 mg
Carbs: 49 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 35 g)
Protein: 3 g

Even the worst of KFC's desserts, the Café Valley mini chocolate chip cake, isn't as big of a health offender as you might expect. Though it's definitely loaded with sugar, it's moderate in saturated fat and pleasantly low in sodium. Still, since there are better choices on the dessert menu, opt for something else instead.

This story has been updated to include new information, fact-checking, and copyedits.

Sarah Garone, NDTR, CNC
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a registered nutrition and dietetic technician, and a health, nutrition, and food writer. Read more about Sarah
Sources referenced in this article
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