July 27, 2021

Volcano Sushi Vancouver

The Fitness Enthusiasts

Is Chick-fil-A Healthy? Chicken, Sandwiches, Soups, and More

If you’re trying to eat healthier, you may be wondering whether you can still eat at any fast food restaurants.

Fast food — food that’s generally highly processed — doesn’t exactly have a reputation of being healthy. However, many fast food restaurants have made huge strides in adding more nutritious choices to the menu.

Chick-fil-A is one such example. It’s a popular fast food restaurant known for fried chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, but the brand’s menu is also surprisingly packed with fresher options, too.

Here’s how you can make healthier choices at Chick-fil-A.

Chick-fil-A is probably best known for its classic Chicken Sandwich — a fried chicken breast fillet with pickles on a toasted white bun.

The brand offers several variations on this sandwich, like the Spicy Chicken Sandwich and both the regular and spicy Deluxe Sandwiches. These have lettuce, tomato, and cheese.

These sandwiches contain anywhere from 440–550 calories per serving, and are high in carbs (from the bun) and fat (from the fried chicken) (1).

However, Chick-fil-A does offer some options lower in carbs or fat.

The Grilled Chicken Sandwich features lettuce and tomato on a multigrain bun. It’s slightly lower in calories from fat, clocking in at 320 calories. However, the Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich, which has cheese and bacon added, is 520 calories (1).

Chick-fil-A also offers a Cool Wrap that contains lettuce, shredded cheese, and grilled chicken breast in a flaxseed flatbread. With no dipping sauce, it contains 350 calories (1).

Summary

Chick-fil-A offers the Grilled Chicken Sandwich, made with grilled chicken and a multigrain bun, as a lower calorie alternative to the brand’s classic Chicken Sandwich, which is fried and served on a white bun.

Chick-fil-A is known for its chicken, which is flavored with the company’s proprietary seasoning blend.

The brand offers Chicken Nuggets, Grilled Nuggets, and Chick-n-Strips. The strips and regular nuggets are breaded and fried.

The grilled and fried options are about equal in terms of protein content. However, the fried options are higher in calories, fat, and refined carbs due to the breading and the oil they’re fried in.

For example, the 8-count Chicken Nuggets contains 250 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 11 grams of carbs, while the 8-count Grilled Nuggets contains 130 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 1 gram of carbs (1).

Another consideration with Chick-fil-A’s chicken is which sauce you choose. The restaurant offers a huge selection, but some sauces are higher in fat, sugar, or both. Some of the sauce options that are lower in calories from fat and sugar include (1):

  • Zesty Buffalo Sauce
  • Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Sauce
  • Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce
  • Barbecue Sauce

Summary

Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Nuggets are a lower fat and lower carb alternative to its regular Chicken Nuggets and Chick-n-Strips. The brand offers a few sauces that are lower in calories and fat as well.

Chick-fil-A also offers several salads on the menu. These tend to be the best choices if you’re looking for a healthy meal at Chick-fil-A.

The salad options include:

  • Lemon Kale Caesar Salad
  • Cobb Salad
  • Spicy Southwest Salad
  • Market Salad

For each of these salads, you can choose grilled chicken, fried chicken, or no chicken (for a vegetarian option).

As with its sauce selection, Chick-fil-A also boasts an impressive array of salad dressings. As a general rule of thumb, the creamy dressings are higher in fat and calories. However, many of the other options are packed with sugar (1).

These high-sugar dressings include:

  • Light Balsamic
  • Zesty Apple Cider
  • Fat Free Honey Mustard

However, the Light Italian Dressing contains only 25 calories per serving and is lower in sugar than other options (1).

Summary

You can customize Chick-fil-A’s salads with either fried or grilled chicken. The creamy dressings are high in fat and calories, while the Light Italian Dressing is the lowest in fat and calories.

Chick-fil-A’s most popular side is Waffle Fries. These are high in fat, calories, and carbs — like most fast food French fries. Likewise, the side dish of Mac & Cheese is also high in fat, calories, and carbs from the pasta and cheese sauce (1).

However, the restaurant offers several other sides that may be a better choice if you’re trying to eat more nutritious foods. These include:

  • Fruit Cup
  • Side Salad
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Kale Crunch Side
  • Greek Yogurt Parfait
  • Buddy Fruits Apple Sauce

Consider checking the nutrition information for the dishes you’re interested in, since some may work better than others for your nutrition needs.

For example, the Chicken Noodle Soup is high in salt, and the Greek Yogurt Parfait contains about the same amount of sugar as some desserts on the menu, though it also contains 13 grams of protein.

You can also choose Waffle Potato Chips instead of French fries. Although these are still fried, they’re about half the calories of a medium order of Chick-fil-A fries (1).

Summary

Although sides like Waffle Fries and Mac & Cheese are high in fat, carbs, and calories, there are several other side options that are healthier choices.

Chick-fil-A’s Treats menu includes milkshakes, ice cream, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, frozen coffees, and lemonades.

These items are very high in sugar, fat, and calories, so they may not be the best choices. Consider only eating them on occasion if you’re watching your sugar, fat, or calorie intake (1).

Summary

The dessert items on Chick-fil-A’s Treats menu are full of calories, fat, and sugar. In general, they’re not healthy options.

Chick-fil-A’s breakfast menu features some chicken options, like the Chicken Biscuit and Chick-n-Minis, which are miniature biscuits with nuggets.

However, the menu also contains some more traditional breakfast options, like biscuits and English muffins with sausage or bacon, eggs, and cheese. The restaurant also offers a Hash Brown Scramble Burrito and a Hash Brown Scramble Bowl.

These options are rich in protein from chicken, sausage, and eggs, but also full of calories from fat and refined carbs (1).

For a lighter option, you can choose the Egg White Grill, which features grilled chicken, egg whites, and cheese on a toasted English muffin (1).

Summary

Chick-fil-A’s breakfast menu offers many of the standard breakfast items you might expect, with the addition of some chicken items. For a light breakfast, opt for the Egg White Grill, which is made with grilled chicken and egg whites.

Fortunately, the Chick-fil-A menu can suit a wide range of different dietary needs — including low calorie, low carb (keto), low sodium, and vegetarian.

Low calorie

All of the following entrée items contain fewer than 400 calories per serving (1):

  • Egg White Grill (290 calories)
  • Chick-n-Minis (360 calories)
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich (320 calories)
  • 8-count or 12-count Nuggets (250 or 380 calories)
  • 8-count or 12-count Grilled Nuggets (130 or 200 calories)
  • 3-count Chick-n-Strips (310 calories)
  • Cool Wrap (350 calories)
  • Bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup (255 calories)

If you choose a sauce, stick to Zesty Buffalo Sauce for just 25 calories per container (1).

Pair your entrée with a side salad with Light Italian Dressing for an additional 25 calories, or a Fruit Cup for an additional 60 calories (1).

However, you should be aware that all the brand’s entrée salads contain more than 400 calories per serving, even when ordered with grilled chicken. If you want salad, the lowest calorie option is the Lemon Kale Caesar Salad, which contains 470 calories with dressing included (1).

Low carb

It’s surprisingly easy to eat low carb, or keto, at Chick-fil-A. The 8-count Grilled Nuggets contains only 1 gram of total carbs, while the 12-count contains 2 grams.

You can add a Kale Crunch Side for an extra 8 grams of carbs, or opt for a Side Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing for 16 grams of carbs. To lower the carbs further, remove the tomatoes and the brand’s Crispy Red Bell Peppers (1).

It’s also easy to make any of the salads keto-friendly by opting for grilled chicken and removing tomatoes, Crispy Red Bell Peppers, corn, black beans, Seasoned Tortilla Strips, apples, strawberries, blueberries, and granola (1).

One thing to be aware is that the dipping sauces and dressings do often contain added sugar. Creamy sauces and dressings, though higher in calories, are better choices for low carb and keto eaters because they contain fewer carbs (1).

Consider avoiding the following dressings and sauces at Chick-fil-A if you’re on a low carb or keto diet (1):

  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Chick-fil-A Sauce
  • Honey Mustard Sauce
  • Polynesian Sauce
  • Sweet and Spicy Sriracha Sauce
  • Fat Free Honey Mustard Dressing
  • Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
  • Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette Dressing

Low salt

If you’re restricting your salt intake for your blood pressure or heart health, you may already know how difficult it is to find low sodium fast food options (2).

Although Chick-fil-A does have some low sodium menu items, these offerings are fairly limited.

The following menu items contain fewer than 600 mg of sodium (salt) per serving (1):

  • Greek Yogurt Parfait (80 mg)
  • 8-piece Grilled Nuggets (440 mg)
  • Medium Waffle Fries (240 mg)
  • Fruit Cup (0 mg)
  • Kale Crunch Side (140 mg)
  • Waffle Potato Chips (250 mg)
  • Buddy Fruits Apple Sauce (0 mg)

All the items on the Treats menu, like milkshakes, ice cream, and cookies, are also lower in salt. However, they’re very high in sugar, fat, and calories (1).

Finally, with the exception of the Honey Roasted BBQ Sauce, which contains 75 mg of sodium per serving, all the sauces and dressings at Chick-fil-A contain at least 100 mg of sodium per serving, with many containing upward of 400 mg per serving (1).

Vegetarian

While Chick-fil-A features a great deal of chicken on the menu, it’s fairly easy to modify certain meals to be vegetarian, especially if you also eat eggs and dairy. However, Chick-fil-A isn’t a great option for strict vegans.

For vegetarians, the best options are the Cool Wrap with no chicken or salads with no chicken.

In particular, the Cobb Salad contains some protein from eggs and cheese and the Southwest Salad contains protein from black beans and cheese, so these may be the most filling choices if they work for your plant-based eating style (1).

Summary

Chick-fil-A has low calorie, low carb, low sodium, and vegetarian options to suit many different dietary needs.

Compared with many other fast food restaurants, Chick-fil-A offers a wide array of healthier options that can accommodate several different dietary needs — like low calorie, low carb and keto, vegetarian, and low salt.

Additionally, chicken is loaded with protein. One of the huge benefits of Chick-fil-A’s chicken-centric menu is that every menu item that contains chicken provides at least 15 grams of protein per serving — and significantly more than that in most cases.

Protein is important not only for muscle maintenance and growth, but it also helps fill you up. This is because your body digests it more slowly than carbohydrates (1, 3, 4).

However, regardless of the nutrient content of the food Chick-fil-A serves, it’s important to remember that it’s all highly processed. Even the restaurant’s grilled chicken contains additives.

Highly processed food, no matter the nutrient content, appears to be worse for your health than whole foods. That’s why it’s important to have Chick-fil-A only occasionally rather than making it a key part of your diet (5, 6).

Summary

Chicken is a great source of protein, and Chick-fil-A does offer more healthy options than several other fast food restaurants. However, the restaurant’s food is still highly processed, so consider having it only occasionally for optimal health.

While the signature chicken sandwich and French fries from Chick-fil-A may not be the best thing for your health, the company’s menu features a number of lighter options — like grilled chicken sandwiches, Grilled Nuggets, salads, and several side options.

Even better, Chick-fil-A’s menu can accommodate people eating low calorie, low carb, low sodium, and vegetarian.

However, because Chick-fil-A is still highly processed, it should be a once-in-a-while thing instead of a staple in your diet.