Which Fried Chicken Sandwich Is the Least Unhealthy?
When Popeye’s tweeted about their new fried chicken sandwich, Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, Zaxby’s, and Shake Shack all had some choice words to say about their own sandwiches — and each other’s. And the internet’s great debate rages on: Which one is the most delicious?
But we want to know: Which of these fried chicken sandwiches is the healthiest?
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Or, well, not healthy — this is fast food we’re talking about. Which of these sandwiches is the least unhealthy?
A representative from Popeye’s confirms that their new Original Chicken Sandwich contains 690 calories — but would neither confirm nor deny the existence of fat, carbs, or sodium in their most recent menu addition. And the nutrition information is not yet available on their website.
However, they appear to be using the same large breaded-and-fried breast piece they offer as an entrée, topped with two pickles and mayo, and delivered in a brioche bun with mayo or a special sauce — or at the very least, it’s useful for an estimate. That breast alone has 1,230 mg of sodium — and the American Heart Association recommends that you don’t consume more than 2,300 mg per day, ideally no more than 1,500 mg per day.
In comparison, Wendy’s Homestyle Chicken Sandwich is the relative winner in the sodium department with 1,020 mg — though that’s still a lot of sodium for one meal. Shake Shack’s Chick’n Shack comes in at 1,170 mg, Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Sandwich comes in at 1,350 mg, and Zaxby’s Southern TLC Sandwich is the highest at a whopping 1,470 mg.
(Remember, the Popeye’s number was for a fried breast alone, so the real number for the whole sandwich is likely higher than 1,230 mg — but isn’t likely lower than the Wendy’s sandwich.)
The Chick-fil-A sandwich contains the fewest calories — 440 calories — and the fewest grams of fat (19 g) among the four Popeye’s competitors.
If carbs are your top consideration, Shake Shack’s sandwich is lowest of the four competitors at 34 g; Chick-fil-A has 40 g and the Wendy’s sandwich has the highest carb count at 49 g, all according to the nutritional information provided online (and linked above).
What else should you look out for? To get to the bottom of the great fried chicken sandwich debate, we sought the advice of Atlanta-area registered dietitian Zeithun Abas, M.S., R.D., L.D., C.D.E. She couldn’t explicitly recommend eating fast food, but if you must, she says, “Look for a balance of lower fat, higher protein, and higher fiber.”
Abas suggests splitting the Popeye’s sandwich in half if you want to give it a try — but she says the best thing you could do would be to step away from the fried chicken entirely.
“Choose grilled over fried chicken,” she says, “and, if you can, opt for a whole wheat bun. To boost the health factor of your meal, look for a side that adds fiber, like a salad or apple slices.”