Healthier Fried Chicken Options for Mardi Gras

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It’s Mardi Gras y’all, and you know what that means – beads, masks, drinks and friiiiiieeed chicken! This parade snack is an undisputed favorite among Mardi Gras veterans, but we all know that it might not be the healthiest for our bodies. Instead of skipping fried chicken altogether, consider some healthier options that will satisfy your craving but cut some of the grease and calories.

As seen in Molly Kimball’s “Mardi Gras Fried Chicken: 3 Healthiest Fast-Food Options” for New Orleans Healthy Eating/, check out these alternative options.

  1. Popeyes Blackened Tenders. Deep-fried but not breaded, a three-piece serving of these white meat tenders has 26 grams of protein for just 170 calories, 0 saturated fat, and 2 grams of carbs. Added bonus: The sodium is also lower than regular strips and tenders, with 550 mg sodium per three tenders.
  2. KFC Kentucky Grilled Chicken. Available as grilled chicken breast, thigh, drumstick or wing, it's all grilled and it's skinless, so the stats are super-low, ranging from 70 calories for a wing to 210 calories for a breast. The saturated fat is low, between 1 and 3 grams per piece, and all have zero carbs. The main drawback (as with pretty much all fast food chicken) is the sodium (from 180 mg for a wing to 710 mg for a breast), so just watch how much you have if you're keeping an eye on sodium.
  3. Chick-Fil-A Grilled Nuggets. An eight-piece order has just 140 calories, with 1 gram of saturated fat, 2 grams of carbs, and 25 grams of protein. That's without any added sauces, which can add a hefty dose of sugar and/or salt. Added bonus: While the ingredients of the grilled nuggets aren't exactly "wholesome," they're among the cleaner versions of fast food ingredients.

As noted in the article, also keep these points in mind:

  • Keep it to one or two pieces – not the bucket. Skip the sides, since chicken is already a splurge.
  • Pulling off the skin can shave calories, fat and sodium from every piece.
  • Though it’s hard to rank which pieces are best, strips and tenders typically range from 310 to 380 calories for a three-piece order, which can be a good bet in comparison to chicken breasts and wings, which tend to be a bit higher.

Happy eating, and have a safe and happy Mardi Gras, y’all!

Editor's note: Registered dietitian Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she does not solicit product samples nor is paid to recommend items.

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