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The 10 Best & Worst Menu Items at Popeyes, According to a Nutritionist

From fried chicken sandwiches to scrumptious sides, here's what you should order off the Popeyes menu when you want to make healthy choices.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

If you've ever had a craving for a fast-food chicken sandwich, you may have found yourself headed to Popeyes. It's an understatement to say that chicken is their specialty! This Louisiana-based chain is famous for its perfectly battered chicken breast sandwiches, spicy wings, and rich side dishes. I'm a nutritionist and even I think Popeyes' spicy chicken sandwich is one of the best I've ever had.

Still, tasty as Popeyes food may be, the chain doesn't exactly offer a wealth of healthy options. If you're making a pit stop at Popeyes, you may want to scope out the menu ahead of time to see how their food fits in with your dietary goals. Or simply check out my best and worst choices on the Popeyes menu for what to order below! Read on, and for more, don't miss 8 Healthiest Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches, According to an RD.

The 5 Healthiest Popeyes Menu Items

Best: Regular Red Beans and Rice

popeyes red beans and rice
Per order: 250 calories, 16 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (6 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 8 g protein

Popeyes doesn't offer much for vegetarians, but if you're not a meat eater—or even if you are—check out their red beans and rice side dish. It's one of the only menu items that contains a high amount of fiber (6 grams per regular side). You'll also get 8 grams of plant-based protein and just 250 calories from this famous Southern dish.

 The 15 Best High-Protein Fast Food Meals

Best: Chicken Wings

popeyes 6 piece chicken wings
Per order: 210 calories, 14 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 13 g protein

Often, when dining at restaurants, simple is best. That's the case with Popeyes chicken wings, which are only 210 calories each (and that's if you pick them clean). You'll also get a surprising 13 grams of protein per wing. Then again, beware that these chicken "arms" are quite high in sodium with 610 milligrams each.

Best: Popcorn Shrimp

popeyes popcorn shrimp
Per order: 390 calories, 25 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 1,390 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein

Choose the Popeyes shrimp entrée to do right by your health. (At least, more right than most of Popeyes' choices.) Without the sides of sauce, biscuit, and mashed potatoes that come in the 1/4-pound combo, a basket of popcorn shrimp provides a fairly modest 390 calories. Shrimp contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so it's smart to include them in your diet from time to time.

Best: Chicken Leg

popeyes 2Pc Classic Signature Chicken Combo Dark
Per order: 160 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein

Though Popeyes chicken legs generally come in a high-calorie combo meal, you can ask to order them individually. By doing so, you'll shave off hundreds of calories and milligrams of sodium. Each battered leg comes in at just 160 calories and 5 grams of carbs. Build your own healthier combo meal by pairing a couple of legs with better-for-you sides like coleslaw or red beans and rice.

 8 Best & Worst Fast-Food Chicken Tenders, According to Dietitians

Best: Unsweetened Iced Tea

popeyes unsweet tea
Per order: 0 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein

Leave out the sugar from classic sweet tea and enjoy fresh-brewed iced tea at Popeyes. Their unsweetened iced version washes down a spicy, fried meal with zero sugar and zero carbs. Since tea is known for its high antioxidant content, it's also a better choice than soda, hands down.

The 5 Unhealthiest Popeyes Menu Items

Worst: Spicy Chicken Sandwich

popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Per order: 700 calories, 42 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 1,634 mg sodium, 50 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 28 g protein

Again, I personally love Popeyes' Spicy Chicken Sandwich, so it pains me to say that it's among the least healthy options on the chain's menu. Besides its 700 calories, this fiery chicken entrée packs 14 grams of saturated fat, over 100% of the American Heart Association's recommended 13 grams per day. If you choose this one, make it a once in awhile treat—and eat it mindfully to enjoy it thoroughly!

 The #1 Unhealthiest Chicken Sandwich at 11 Major Restaurant Chains

Worst: Large Homestyle Mac & Cheese

popeyes Homestyle Mac & Cheese
Per order: 850 calories, 33 g fat (36 g saturated fat), 1,540 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 33 g protein

It's just a side dish, what could be so bad? Well, when you order the large-sized homestyle mac and cheese, you may get more than you bargained for in terms of calories, saturated fat, sodium, and carbs. Though this noodle dish has a respectable 33 grams of protein, the rest of its nutritional value leaves a lot to be desired.

RELATED: 6 Unhealthiest Fast-Food Mac & Cheese Dishes

Worst: Classic Bacon and Cheese Chicken Sandwich

popeyes Spicy Bacon & Cheese Chicken Sandwich Combo
Per order: 830 calories, 53 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 1,875 mg sodium, 51 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 36 g protein

Served between buttery brioche buns and topped with bacon, cheese, and mayo, it's no surprise that this fried chicken sandwich is a far cry from healthy. It's one of the highest-sodium, highest-calorie items on the Popeyes menu.

Worst: Oreo Cheesecake Cup

popeyes Oreo Cheesecake Cup
Per order: 580 calories, 36 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 520 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (1 g fiber, 41 g sugar), 7 g protein

Nobody expects an Oreo cheesecake cup to be a great choice for health, but this epic dessert at Popeyes is even more calorie-laden than you might anticipate. Be sure to share this one with a friend (or three) to offset its 580 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 19 grams of saturated fat.

Worst: Chilled Mango Lemonade

popeyes Chilled Mango Lemonade
Per order: 350 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 90g carbs (0 g fiber, 86 g sugar), 0 g protein

Step away from the lemonade! Popeyes Mango Lemonade is practically a meal, with 350 calories, 90 grams of carbs, and 86 grams of sugar per serving. (For reference, that's the equivalent of 21.5 teaspoons of sugar.) Sugar-sweetened beverages have been linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and more. And if a beverage ever counted as sugar-sweetened, it's this one.

Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a registered nutrition and dietetic technician, and a health, nutrition, and food writer. Read more about Sarah