There's no doubt that fried chicken is a popular (like, super wildly popular) meal option. In fact, some people take their love of this food so seriously, that cookbook author and former Top Chef co-host Padma Lakshmi once stated that she "belong[s] to the church of fried chicken," according to the BBC. We're sure she's not alone. That's why you're likely interested in which restaurant chains serve the best fried chicken. At the same time, you might want to be aware of who serves the unhealthiest fried chicken dishes so that you can avoid them or at least make some changes so that they're not so bad for your body. Granted, you should also know what can make fried chicken so unhealthy in the first place.
"Fried chicken is high in calories, fat, and sodium. It may be also high in added sugar," Catherine Gervacio, RD, Registered Dietitian and nutrition writer for Living.Fit tells Eat This, Not That! "They are often coated in batter or breadcrumbs and then deep-fried in oil. This can contribute to excess calorie intake, which may lead to weight gain if not balanced with physical activity."
"Many fried chicken preparations use oils high in saturated and even trans fats," Gervacio also says. "These types of fats can raise levels of 'bad' cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) in the blood, increasing the risk of heart disease. Also, high sodium intake is associated with high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease."
With that in mind, check out the following which are nine of the absolutely unhealthiest fried chicken dishes at major restaurants. Read on, and for more on what to order instead, check out The #1 Healthiest Order at 10 Popular Restaurant Chains.
Bob Evans Honey Butter Chicken and Biscuit
When it comes to Bob Evans Honey Butter Chicken and Biscuit, this dish is high in calories, not only from the deep-fried chicken but also the fixins'. "The honey butter and biscuits contributed substantially to the total calorie content of the dish," says Gervacio. If you really want to order this dish, she notes that you could consider "taking out the honey butter and biscuits and eating a side of fresh fruit or a small salad to add more nutrients to the meal."
Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Fried Chicken
"While this is lower in calories compared to others, it's still high in fat and sodium," says Gervacio. Frankly, Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Fried Chicken has 18 grams of saturated fat and well over 2,000 milligrams of sodium. Ensuring that you don't get too much sodium in your diet lowers the chances of dealing with high blood pressure as well as hypertension while also reducing the risk of fatal cardiovascular diseases, according to a 2019 study that was published in the journal Nutrients. If you still can't resist ordering this dish, Gervacio says that it's "best to choose a side of steamed vegetables, the house salad with a light dressing, and green beans for a healthier balance."
Texas Roadhouse Country Fried Chicken
"The good thing about this is that it's relatively lower in calories compared to others, but it's still high in fat and sodium," says Gervacio while discussing the Texas Roadhouse Country Fried Chicken. She points out that you'll need to be wary of the "sauteed veggies options" which "may also be loaded with fat." As you might expect, consuming bad fat—which includes trans or saturated fats—increases the risk of disease, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Instead, Gervacio says to "choose a healthy side dish like green beans, steamed broccoli, or house salad."
Bojangles 2pc Breast & Wing
The Bojangles 2-pc Breast & Wing meal comes with crispy fried chicken breast, wing, and biscuit, plus two sides, in this case, Seasoned Fries, and a bowl of Macaroni N'Cheese. Although the meal does look mouth-watering it also comes with plenty of fat and carbs which may not be the healthiest dinner choice. This meal already racks up 129 grams of carbohydrates in one sitting when the Cleveland Clinic recommends that your total daily amount of carbs should range between 225 and 325 grams.
Golden Corral/Homeward Kitchen Nashville Fried Chicken
When it comes to high-sodium meals in restaurants, this one may take the cake. The Nashville Fried Chicken meal from Golden Corral's fast-casual spin-off, Homeward Kitchen, is an 18-ounce, four-piece portion of fried chicken that has a whopping 15,650 milligrams of sodium. This far surpasses the daily recommended serving of sodium which should not exceed 2,300 mg according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. A study led by Brock University also links high sodium diets to health complications such as hypertension, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
O'Charley's Honey-Drizzled Southern Fried Chicken
At first glance, the O'Charley's Honey-Drizzled Southern Fried Chicken meal may seem like a relatively healthy option. Served with mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli, you may be wondering why this meal made the list. However, considering the "healthy sides" the fried chicken alone is high in fat, sodium, and carbs. Plus, if you upgrade your sides to their Loaded Baked Potato or Loaded Mac & Cheese, then the calories as well as the fat and sodium would increase exponentially and make this meal even more unhealthy for you.
Cracker Barrel Southern Fried Chicken
Cracker Barrel's Southern Fried Chicken dinner is served with four pieces of fried chicken. This meal is incredibly high in calories reaching 1,640 for just the chicken alone. It also comes with your choice of two sides and a buttermilk biscuit. Depending on your choice these sides can bump up the caloric value by up to 870 additional calories.
KFC 3 Piece Chicken Big Box Meal: 2 Breast, 1 Wing – Extra Crispy
A healthy diet is considered to be one that includes fruit, vegetables, and legumes, while limiting sugar, sodium, and fat, according to the World Health Organization. However, the KFC 3-Piece Chicken Big Box Meal is definitely not one to reduce your intake of the last two. If you do want to get the big box meal on your next trip to KFC, consider getting the three-piece order with two thighs and one drum instead of two breasts with one wing to save calories, fat, and sodium. Ordering it with the original recipe over extra crispy will also save some calories.
Church's Chicken 3 Piece Combo
The Church's Chicken 3 Piece Combo may contain plenty of tasty ingredients, but it doesn't have much going for it at all when it comes to being a wholesome option. Containing a spicy wing, spicy thigh, spicy breast, honey-butter biscuit, and baked macaroni, this dish is very high in calories, fat, and sodium, making it a less healthy option. It has over 4,000 milligrams of sodium. That's right, 1,800 milligrams more than you should have in an entire day! Yikes! That's not to mention the 28 grams of saturated fat.
Popeyes 4 Piece Signature Chicken Combo, Classic
The Popeyes 4 Piece Signature Chicken Combo, Classic is jam-packed with enough fat and saturated fat to be considered very unhealthy. According to the Harvard Medical School people should limit themselves to 17 grams of saturated fat a day. This dinner contains 35 grams of saturated fat, not to mention a staggering 91 grams of fat for the whole meal. A diet that is high in fat and saturated fats can lead to complications in the arteries of your body, which may in turn lead to serious health problems.
- Source: Sodium Intake and Hypertension
- Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health The Nutrition Source: Fats and Cholesterol
- Source: Cleveland Clinic: How Many Carbs Do You Need To Lose Weight?
- Source: Endothelial Damage Arising From High Salt Hypertension Is Elucidated by Vascular Bed Systematic Profiling
- Source: World Health Organization: Healthy diet
- Source: Harvard Health Publishing: Time to fatten up our diets