Chicken is a common ingredient in many recipes because it's high in protein and tastes great. Not all chicken meat is alike. The truth is that certain cuts of chicken meat are much healthier than others. In addition, fried chicken or chicken prepared with lots of oil, sugar or other fatty ingredients pack a lot of calories.
Dark Meat Chicken vs. White Meat Chicken
Many diet plans recommend dieters abstain from eating dark meat chicken, because dark meat usually contains more calories than white meat. But dark meat chicken isn't quite as unhealthy as you may have been led to believe. Dark meat chicken is rich in myoglobin, a compound packed with iron found in muscle cells. The dark meat parts of the chicken, like the chicken's legs, are rich in myoglobin, whereas white meat chicken contains no myoglobin at all. In addition, dark meat chicken contains more zinc and B vitamins than white meat chicken.
The bottom line is dark meat chicken still contains more calories and fat than white meat, although dark meat does pack greater nutritional value. If you're watching your weight, you'll probably want to eat mostly white meat chicken. Occasional consumption of dark meat chicken is also a healthy option.
Calories in Chicken Skin
On average, a 6 oz. piece of white meat chicken breast with skin has approximately 340 calories. If you remove the skin from that same piece of chicken breast, it will contain only 240 calories. Chicken skin mostly consists of fat, so by removing it you'll be able to save at least 100 calories per 6 oz. serving. In addition, chicken skin contains an alarming amount of fat. A 6 oz. skinless piece of chicken breast contains a mere 3 g of fat, but that same piece of chicken with skin contains a whopping 14 g of fat.
Nutrients in Chicken
Chicken is a great source of protein. One 6 oz. serving of chicken contains 48 g of protein. Chicken is also rich in potassium, calcium and contains no carbohydrates. The nutritional makeup of chicken makes it a healthy, filling food option. By eating healthy cuts of chicken, you'll consume only a small amount of calories and your stomach will stay full for hours. This decreases your likelihood of snacking on unhealthy foods later in the day.
Unhealthy Chicken Options
Although chicken is a naturally healthy food, it's easy to mistakenly consume unhealthy chicken dishes. The best way to prepare chicken is to simply grill it or bake it. You should avoid deep frying or stir frying chicken, as this imparts a ton of calories and grams of fat. If you'd like to marinate the chicken beforehand, avoid fatty dressings and instead try just a little bit of lemon juice, salt and pepper. If you need to use oil to prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan, it's best to use a light coating of nonstick spray.