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How Many Calories Should Chicken Have?

While chicken has earned a reputation as a healthy, low-calorie source of protein, the number of calories in chicken can vary by large amounts—depending how it is baked, grilled, fried, broiled or stewed.  When you get out your calorie counter and compare grams to ounces for a daily plate of chicken, you might be surprised by the difference in the number of calories between fried chicken and broiled chicken.

Fried Chicken Vs. Broiled Chicken Vs. Baked Chicken

One cup of fried chicken breast meat with the skin packs a whopping 350 calories, including 160 calories from fat. One ounce of chicken skin alone has 90 calories, of which 73 are from fat. Meanwhile, one cup of broiled, skinless chicken breast meat contains only 220 total calories, with only 43 of those calories being from fat. And one cup of roasted, skinless chicken breast comes in very close with only 221 calories, and 43 calories from fat. Baked chicken without the skin falls right in between fried and roasted chicken—with 307 calories per cup, including 95 fat calories. 

If you, like many dieters, have been thinking your fried chicken with the skin on it was a low-calorie meal, you’re probably disappointed and feeling misled. No worries--just broil or roast skinless chicken breasts instead of frying chicken breasts with skin, and you’ll be moving in a healthy direction.

Chicken Thighs Vs. Drumsticks Vs. Chicken Breasts

There is more to preparing and eating chicken to lose weight or to maintain a healthy body weight than how you cook it. Even different parts of the chicken provide different amounts of calories. A roasted chicken drumstick contains more calories and fat per cup than a roasted chicken breast. And chicken thighs pack surprisingly more fat.

One cup of skinless, roasted chicken drumstick contains 230 calories, with 68 of those calories being from fat. One cup of skinless, roasted chicken thigh has 280 calories, and 131 fat calories. Whoa! That’s a big difference in calorie and fat intake between chicken thighs, drumsticks, and chicken breasts. For weight loss and healthy weight management, let go of the chicken thighs, and choose the drumsticks or the chicken breasts!

What About Chicken Nuggets?

Low fat chicken nuggets are not as high in calories or fat as you might expect. One cup of chicken nuggets contains 271 calories, including 79 calories from fat. While they are not as low in calories or fat as roasted, skinless chicken breasts or drumsticks, low fat chicken nuggets are still much healthier to eat than fried chicken breasts with skin.

Just because it is poultry, doesn’t mean chicken is good for you. Choose your chicken carefully, and broil or roast it to perfection. Always skip the skin, and remember that the chicken thighs will literally go straight to your thighs.

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