14 Best & Worst Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches, According to a Dietitian
People often talk about fast food being unhealthy, but they don't always discuss the fact that there can be huge variances in the nutritional value of menu items depending on what restaurant you order them from and how they're prepared. Take fast-food chicken sandwiches, for example. These can be drastically different based on what they're made with. You can have a deep-fried chicken sandwich with tons of mayo and calorie-heavy oils, while you can also have a leaner grilled chicken sandwich with veggies served on a whole-grain bun.
Because fast-food restaurants differ so vastly in how they cook and formulate their menu items, it can be helpful for you to know which chicken sandwiches are healthier than others. Doing so can help you make empowered decisions when you're craving something from the drive-thru. To learn more about the best and worst fast-food chicken sandwiches, we talked with registered dietitian Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD.
Before we continue, it's important to note that fast food, in general, is always going to be heavier in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and when consumed on a regular basis has been known to contribute to things like an increased risk of chronic disease. Even the "healthier" items on this list are better consumed in moderation. Read on for a guide to what to order the next time you're craving a chicken sandwich from your favorite fast-food restaurant, and for more, don't miss 14 Best & Worst Fast-Food Burgers, According to Dietitians.
Best Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches
Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich
When it comes to healthy fast-food chicken sandwiches, Chick-fil-A has you covered. "Their Grilled Chicken Sandwich contains moderate levels of saturated fat compared to some of the worst options, and the calories are much lower than most of the other sandwiches," says Sabat. "The chicken is not fried, so it doesn't contain the unhealthy fat profile of the fried version."
Sabat also adds that in regards to its fiber content, "the net carbs are still pretty high, but they will be for all of these fast food choices, and the lower amount of calories makes this a healthier option."
Subway's Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Subway offers a handful of different chicken options, and most of them are on the lighter end, especially when you order a 6-inch size. Sabat suggests ordering their Grilled Chicken Sandwich, "which features grilled, skinless chicken breast, and provides lean protein with less saturated fat compared to other fried options. It also offers vegetables for added nutrition and fiber, making the net carbohydrates lower on this choice," she says.
Subway's Rotisserie Chicken Sandwich
Another healthier choice from Subway is their Rotisserie-Style Chicken Sandwich, "which features sliced, tender roasted chicken breast," says Sabat. "This sandwich is lower in fat and offers a good source of protein." It also contains 5 grams of fiber, whereas many of the sandwiches on our list only have one or two.
Subway's Sweet Onion Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich
If rotisserie-style or classic grilled chicken from Subway doesn't interest you and you'd rather have something on the sweeter end, the Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki is a popular, lighter menu option.
"This sandwich includes grilled chicken with sweet onion teriyaki sauce, vegetables, and whole grain bread," says Sabat, "and it provides a lean protein source and fiber from vegetables and whole grains."
Carl's Jr./Hardee's Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich
Sabat adds that another "healthier" alternative to a deep-fried chicken sandwich is the Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich from Carl's Jr./Hardee's. Even though it is still relatively high in saturated fat and sodium, "it features a charbroiled chicken breast topped with lettuce and tomato, and is a nice alternative to fried options by providing a good source of lean protein."
Even though this sandwich is grilled and not fried, and is on our list of "best fast-food chicken sandwiches," it may not be ideal for those watching their sodium intake, as it still contains 1,330 milligrams of sodium.
Dairy Queen Grilled Chicken Sandwich
The Dairy Queen menu is full of delicious, calorie-and-fat-heavy choices, such as their Blizzards and Signature Stackburgers. But if you find yourself at a DQ and want something on the lighter side, you can opt for their Grilled Chicken Sandwich, which has only 2.5 grams of saturated fat and under 400 calories total.
Worst Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches
Even though the McChicken from McDonald's is moderate in calories, it's still considered one of the worst options due to its high saturated fat content, processed ingredients, and low nutritional value," says Sabat. "For example, it has a high net carbohydrate value with 40 grams of carbs and only 1 gram of fiber," she adds.
Burger King's Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Even higher in calories and saturated fat is the Crispy Chicken Sandwich from Burger King. "This sandwich is high in calories, saturated fat, fat, and sodium, making it an unhealthy choice," says Sabat. In fact, in just one sandwich you're getting around 1,330 milligrams of sodium, which is more than half of the suggested 2,300-milligram limit for your entire day, as set by the FDA.
Wendy's Classic Chicken Sandwich
"Wendy's Classic Chicken Sandwich contains a substantial amount of calories, fat, saturated fat, and carbohydrates, and the chicken patty is typically heavily processed, which can negatively impact the nutritional value," says Sabat.
"This sandwich is also another super low-fiber choice," she adds. Consuming carbohydrates that contain enough fiber is important because your body doesn't process fiber in the same way that it does with other carbs, meaning it won't cause as much of a spike in your blood sugar.
KFC Chicken Sandwich
According to Sabat, another item to put on the list of worst fast-food chicken sandwiches is the classic Chicken Sandwich from KFC, because "it's notorious for its high calorie, fat, saturated fat, and sodium content, and the crispy chicken is deep-fried, leading to excessive greasiness and adding to the overall unhealthy aspects," she says.
Chick-fil-A's Spicy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich
Even though Chick-fil-A offers a healthier chicken sandwich—its Grilled Chicken Sandwich—one of its unhealthiest options is its Spicy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich.
"This sandwich contains a significant amount of sodium and saturated fat, which can contribute to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease," says Sabat. "On top of the fried chicken is a slice of cheese, adding more saturated fat and calories to this meal."
Arby's Crispy Chicken Sandwich
"Arby's Crispy Chicken Sandwich tends to be high in calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and the chicken patty is processed and deep-fried, contributing to its unhealthy profile," says Sabat. "And like most of these fast food sandwiches, this lacks fiber for the high amount of carbohydrates it contains, making it a high net carb meal that may promote fat storage."
If you're really craving some crispy chicken, you can always treat yourself to Arby's 3-Piece Chicken Nuggets, which contain fewer calories and a bit less fat and sodium than the sandwich.
Sonic Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich
With menu items like a bacon double cheeseburger, fried mozzarella sticks, and chili cheese tots, it's no surprise that Sonic would also have a chicken sandwich on the unhealthier side.
"Sonic's Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich is often considered one of the worst due to its high calorie, fat, saturated fat, and sodium content," says Sabat. In fact, in just one sandwich you're getting 6 grams of saturated fat, which is almost half of the 13-gram limit set by the American Heart Association. That's before you add your side of fries or tots.
Popeye's Classic Bacon & Cheese Chicken Sandwich
One of the worst fast-food chicken sandwiches on this list is Popeye's Bacon & Cheese Chicken Sandwich, which comes in at 830 calories, 19 grams of saturated fat, and 1,874 milligrams of sodium.
On top of those less-than-ideal numbers, this sandwich also contains 1.5 grams of trans fat. According to the American Heart Association, a helpful daily limit is no more than around 2 grams, as trans fats have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and chronic illness.
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