Chicken: the “go-to” protein for most of us.
Being one of leanest meats to eat, completely versatile, appetizing, and economical are just some of the reasons we turn to this protein source. However, I must clarify that our “go-to healthy chicken” can also be very high in fat depending on the part of the chicken you eat and if there is skin on it. Before I go any further, know that I do not believe in “good” or “bad” foods. My clarification on different parts of chicken is simply for men and women (or dogs, cats, penguins, and reptiles!) that are watching their calorie and fat content for health or general weight loss/maintenance.
Lets start with what part of the chicken you choose off the passed around platter at the dinner table. As with most animals, organ meats contain the highest amount of fats. In chickens, organ meats and chicken thighs contain the most fat because they undergo more activity and require more fat and oxygen carrying compounds. So think about the breast meat. There isn’t much activity or function required by the breasts of a sweet little chicken running around. Therefore, it is the leanest part of the chicken. Let’s look at the difference (nutritional values are from the National Chicken Council):
- Per 3.5 oz a boneless skinless chicken breast has 165 calories, 31 grams of protein, and 3.6g of fat
- Per 3.5 oz a skinless chicken thigh contains 209 calories, 26 g protein and 11g fat. That is almost 30% higher in calories than skinless boneless chicken breast
- Per 3.5 oz a skinless chicken wing contains 290 calories (43% higher in calories than a chicken breast), 27 g protein, and 8g fat (double the amount of fat in the boneless skinless chicken breast)
I am not stating that you shouldn’t eat those succulent chicken thighs, drumsticks, or wings. This is just a reminder that calories and fat content add up quickly in that small portion size. On that note, are you actually only eating the USDA recommended portion size of 3.5 oz (when cooked)?? That’s the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. Yikes.
SKIN ON OR OFF?
Now, does that chicken you munch on have skin on it? We all love that glorious, crispy, brown skin that seems to melt in our mouths when eaten. Unfortunately, it does have a bad rap for a high fat nutrition content. There’s good news and there is bad news.
Good news: When it comes to chicken breast, chicken breast with the skin on, only adds another 35-50 calories. It does have 8 g of fat versus 4 g of fat in the skinless chicken breast, however the skin is mostly monounsaturated fat which is the healthy fat. Keeping the skin on can help flavor the routine chicken you are possibly eating every day.
Bad news: Depending on the part of the chicken, calories and fat can be quite high and add up very quickly. Chicken thighs with the skin on has 229 calories (per 3.5 oz) and 15.5 g of fat. That is double the amount of fat in chicken breast with the skin on and 5 times the amount of fat of skinless chicken breast without skin!
Are you tired of reading the word chicken yet? You are probably just as tired of reading that word as you are eating the same boring and dry chicken most nights of the week. So in summary:
- Spice up your chicken recipes every once in a while by leaving the skin on, but don’t make it a habit.
- Watch what parts of the chicken you are eating. Your best bet is to choose the leanest part which is the skinless chicken breast.
We love to eat and the great part is that you can eat quite a bigger portion of skinless chicken breast than the other parts of chicken with skin on or a serving of beef or pork.
Don’t be a chicken and keep making healthy choices!