Indulging in a crispy, succulent chicken sandwich is not only a pleasure but an act many of us have convinced ourselves is the healthier option over a burger. However, it's time to confront the cold, hard truth: Not all chicken sandwiches are created equal, especially when it comes to nutritional value. Mashed has delved into the menus of popular restaurant chains to uncover the most nutritionally dubious chicken sandwiches that you might want to think twice before ordering. This isn't about shaming anyone's favorite fast-food joint or date night spot; it's about shedding light on choices that might be more impactful than many diners realize.
And although everyone's nutritional needs vary, there are some aspects of the sandwiches on our list (such as overall calorie count, sodium content, and an uneven balance of carbohydrates and protein) that make these sandwiches less healthy than others. We'll explain more about how we picked the least healthy sandwiches at the end of the article. Knowledge is power — this can help you make the right choice for your lifestyle.
Popeyes Classic Bacon & Cheese Chicken Sandwich
As one of the leaders in the fast-food chicken sandwich wars, Popeyes serves up a mean chicken sandwich. The Louisiana-flavor-loving chain serves up its Classic Bacon & Cheese Chicken Sandwich, complete with a hand-battered and fried chicken breast filet marinated in Popeyes signature seasoning, pickles, mayo, Havarti cheese, and bacon, sandwiched between toasted brioche buns. Although this sandwich sounds delicious, it's earned a spot on our list for a few important nutritional values, including sodium, carbs, and calories.
The FDA recommends not consuming more than 2300 milligrams of sodium per day. This chicken sandwich contains 1874.6 milligrams of sodium, not counting extras like additional sauce, cheese, or a side of fries. Additionally, the sandwich will run you 830 calories, 53 grams of fat, and 51 grams of carbs. In any healthy diet, there should be room for splurging on your favorite items, but if you're trying to live a balanced lifestyle, we can't recommend eating Popeyes' Bacon & Cheese Chicken Sandwich too frequently.
KFC Spicy Chicken Sandwich
Kentucky Fried Chicken may not be the first place you'd head to grab lunch or dinner if you're trying to eat healthy, but if you're looking for a wonderful-tasting chicken sandwich, KFC is a chain that is tried and true. Unfortunately, KFC's Spicy Chicken Sandwich lands on our list of the most unhealthy chicken sandwiches on the market due primarily to its extremely high sodium count.
The sandwich is made with all-white meat chicken breast that is double-breaded for an extra crispy texture, pickles, spicy sauce, and toasted brioche buns. At 650 calories per serving, the calorie count of KFC's Spicy Chicken Sandwich isn't as high as others on our list. The sandwich's 33 grams of fat and 49 grams of carbs could even be passable. However, what undoubtedly knocks this sandwich down in terms of being good for your body is its whopping 2140 milligrams of sodium. That is only around 200 milligrams less than the FDA's recommendation for sodium intake for an entire day. Since most KFC diners are unlikely to eat only the chicken sandwich at one meal, let alone all day long, this is a sandwich to avoid if you're watching your sodium intake.
Jack In The Box Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club
Next on our list is Jack in the Box's Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club sandwich. At first glance, this sandwich may seem like a better alternative to Jack in the Box's other indulgent offerings. After all, it is made with all white meat chicken, lettuce, and tomato. But let's not forget the chicken on the sandwich is breaded and topped with melted Swiss cheese, hickory smoked bacon, and buttermilk ranch. The sandwich is served on a toasted brioche bun, which adds to the sandwich's 60 grams of overall carbs.
The sandwich will run you around 700 calories. Although this is not a low number, it could fit into most people's lifestyles if eaten occasionally. The main issues with consuming this sandwich regularly would primarily be its relatively high amounts of calories, carbs, and sodium. This chicken club sandwich has 1850 milligrams of sodium.
Raising Cane's Chicken Sandwich
If Raising Cane's does something right, it's chicken. The chain is infamous for its fried chicken fingers and signature zesty and creamy dipping sauce. Although most Caniacs head to the drive-through for one of the brand's chicken finger combos, which come with bread, coleslaw, fries, and chicken fingers, some diners may opt for Raising Cane's Chicken Sandwich instead. The sandwich comes with three of Raising Cane's classic chicken fingers, lettuce, Cane's signature sauce, and a toasted bun.
The chicken sandwich is lower in calories than the chicken finger combos, which range from 1020 calories to 1790 calories depending on how many chicken strips you choose and which sides you add. However, surprisingly, this sandwich tops 700 calories on its own. In addition, the sandwich packs in 39 grams of fat, 66 grams of carbs, and nearly 1500 milligrams of sodium, making it hard to integrate into a healthy diet.
Zaxby's Signature Club Sandwich
Zaxby's, similarly to Raising Cane's, is known for its fried chicken tenders and signature sauce. Unlike Raising Cane's, the fast food chain offers a wider variety of food options for those looking to eat something healthier. From a grilled chicken sandwich to a range of salads, there are a range of healthier choices if you'd like to avoid high-calorie, high-fat, and high-carb. meals. When it comes to the chain's lineup of chicken sandwiches, it's important to note that not all are created equal. Zaxby's Signature Club Sandwich is one of the chain's least healthy options.
Made with a breaded chicken filet, American cheese, smoked bacon, dill pickles, and the chain's signature Zax Sauce on a toasted potato bun, the Signature Club Sandwich will run you 710 calories, 46 grams of carbs, and 40 grams of fat. Startlingly, this sandwich has 2680 milligrams of sodium, more than the FDA's recommendation for an entire day's intake.
Burger King Spicy BK Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Burger King may be known for burgers but the chain also serves up pretty tasty chicken sandwiches. Although it may seem like a healthier choice compared to a bacon cheeseburger or a Whopper, the chain's spicy BK Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich isn't the greatest when it comes to nutritional value. The sandwich alone is 760 calories. In addition, it has 65 grams of fat and 59 grams of carbs, two things that dieters tend to avoid in large amounts. Not to mention, this chicken sandwich has nearly 2000 milligrams of sodium.
It's important to keep in mind, however, that everyone's nutritional concerns are different, and there's always room for a treat. So, if you enjoy a spicy chicken sandwich, this one will likely satisfy with its breaded white meat breast filet, triple pepper spicy glaze, savory sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, and toasted potato bun.
McDonald's Spicy Deluxe McCrispy
McDonald's is not usually known for having the healthiest options on the menu. One of the go-to options at fast food restaurants for those who want to keep an eye on their calories is a chicken sandwich. Unfortunately, McDonald's Spicy Deluxe McCrispy chicken sandwich doesn't quite fit the bill due to its small size and disproportionate nutritional values. If you love McDonald's and a spicy chicken sandwich, this menu item may be worth it for a splurge meal. It's sure to be delicious with its Southern-style fried chicken filet, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and spicy pepper sauce on a potato roll —just know it's a bit indulgent.
Although not overly high in calories (the sandwich is 530 calories on its own) compared to other chicken sandwiches on our list, the McDonald's Spicy Deluxe McCrispy chicken sandwich does pack a large amount of sodium (1200 milligrams) as well as 49 grams of carbs. Its diminutive size means it probably won't fill you up either, so you'll eat more to feel satiated.
Wendy's Ghost Pepper Ranch Chicken Sandwich
Spicy chicken sandwiches seem to be a trend on our list of the most unhealthy chicken sandwiches available at your favorite restaurant chains, and Wendy's chicken sandwich offering is no different. The worst sandwich in terms of health value on Wendy's menu is the chain's Ghost Pepper Ranch Chicken Sandwich. This sandwich is perfect for spicy food lovers. It's complete with a breaded chicken patty, ghost pepper seasoned fried onions, ghost pepper American cheese, ghost pepper ranch, lettuce, and tomatoes on a toasted bun. These three layers of heat make for a lot of flavor, but they likely contribute to the sandwich's high sodium count of 1650 milligrams.
In terms of other nutritional values, the sandwich has 690 calories without sides like fries, a baked potato, or chili. It also has 35 grams of fat and 61 grams of carbs, making this spicy chicken sandwich a choice better saved for cheat days than everyday consumption.
Chick-Fil-A Spicy Deluxe Sandwich
If you're choosing between various fast food restaurants and you're looking for healthier options, Chick-fil-A is generally a good pick. The chain has a variety of healthier choices on the menu, including wraps, soups, and sides like fruit cups and side salads. However, like any fast food restaurant, Chick-fil-A certainly has its share of high-calorie and not-so-nutritious choices as well.
As for the chain's chicken sandwiches, the least healthy pick is the Spicy Deluxe Sandwich. This sandwich comes with a spicy breaded chicken patty, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes on a bun. Although tamer in calorie count than many chicken sandwiches on our list (this sandwich has 520 calories total) the spicy deluxe chicken sandwich does have 25 grams of fat, 46 grams of carbs, and a not-so-subtle amount of sodium at 1790 milligrams. The sandwich isn't the worst choice on our list, but does have some things to watch out for if you're trying to stay low-sodium and low-carb.
Cheesecake Factory Chicken Parmesan Sandwich
The Cheesecake Factory is a celebratory restaurant for many, and rightly so, particularly because the food served at the chain is typically indulgent. The Cheesecake Factory's chicken parmesan sandwich is certainly one of the heavier entrees when it comes to the sandwiches section of the menu. This Italian-inspired sandwich is served on a grilled French roll and features breaded chicken cutlets that have been coated in parmesan breadcrumbs and topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese.
All of this flavor comes at a high caloric price tag, though. The entire sandwich is 1960 calories. In addition, the sandwich has 126 grams of fat, 99 grams of carbs, and a startling 3510 milligrams of sodium. And that is all without additional sides or cheesecake for dessert. This sandwich isn't for those who are watching what they eat or those who need to stick to a lower-sodium diet.
Chili's Big Mouth Crispy Chicken Sandwich
If you find yourself at your local Chili's looking for a healthy chicken sandwich, we have to recommend staying away from the restaurant's Big Mouth Crispy Chicken Sandwich. This sandwich is made with hand-breaded crispy chicken, lettuce, tomato, Chili's secret sauce, and a brioche bun. It sounds fairly tame compared to some of the more indulgent offerings on our list, however, it still has high values in several of the top nutritional categories that concern people who are on a healthy living journey.
The Chili's Big Mouth Crispy Chicken Sandwich has a high calorie count at 1040 calories total, without sides or a drink. In addition, it has 90 grams of carbs, 56 grams of fat, and a large sodium value of 2530 milligrams, which is more than the FDA recommends people to eat in one day. When you think about how much more sodium, carbs, and calories would be added if you ate fries on the side as well, it's clear that this chicken sandwich isn't something that you should have regularly if you're looking to eat healthy.
Applebee's Sweet & Spicy Chicken Sandwich (With Crispy Chicken)
Coming in at a whopping 1350 calories on its own is Applebee's take on a crispy chicken sandwich. The chain's Sweet & Spicy Chicken Sandwich is made with a crispy breaded chicken breast that has been smothered in a sweet Asian chile sauce and topped with signature coleslaw on a brioche bun. Although this sandwich is bursting with great flavors, it's also bursting with high nutritional values in key areas. Alongside the high calorie count, this sandwich has 62 grams of fat, 3520 milligrams of sodium, and 159 grams of carbs. Those numbers are quite high, especially considering they don't include the side of fries that typically comes with the meals.
In general, this chicken sandwich isn't the best choice for a healthy lifestyle. However, if you like slightly sweet yet spicy things, the Applebee's it may be worth ordering occasionally.
Buffalo Wild Wings Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich
Buffalo Wild Wings knows how to do chicken. The chain is known for its buffalo wings, however, Buffalo Wild Wings also serves up an array of sandwiches for the chicken sandwich lover in all of us. The chain's Buffalo Ranch Chicken Sandwich is a fun take on boneless chicken, but it is not the healthiest chicken sandwich option. For a big game day splurge, this sandwich is probably pretty satisfying, as it comes complete with Buffalo Wild Wings' hand-breaded boneless chicken that is slathered in the chain's signature medium-spiced buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, and a challah bun.
Although the sandwich is not the one with the highest calorie count on the Buffalo Wild Wings menu (that spot goes to the chain's Southern Chicken Sandwich), it has the most sodium, at 3440 milligrams, which is more than 100% of the recommended daily value. In addition, the sandwich has 730 calories, 41 grams of fat, and 59 grams of carbs.
Wingstop Chicken Sandwich (With Garlic Parmesan Sauce)
When Wingstop introduced its take on a chicken sandwich, which could be customized with any one of the chain's dozen unique flavors, fans of the wing chain were excited, and for good reason. The sandwiches include pickles as well as a dip of choice like ranch dressing, blue cheese dressing, and honey mustard. Although they sound delicious, it's always important to check a chain's available nutrition information to see if a menu item will fit into your diet.
When it comes to the Wingstop chicken sandwiches, the worst choice in terms of nutritional value is the chicken sandwich with garlic parmesan sauce. The sandwich alone maxes out at 890 calories, but that could go up depending on if you add more toppings or your choice of dipping sauce. In addition, the sandwich has 52 grams of fat, 71 grams of carbs, and a shockingly high sodium value of 2060 milligrams.
TGI Fridays Signature Whiskey-Glaze Chicken Sandwich
When eating out at TGI Fridays, you might think that you're making a health-conscious choice if you select the restaurant's Signature Whiskey-Glaze Chicken Sandwich over some of the restaurant's more clearly indulgent choices like fried appetizers or burgers loaded with cheese and bacon. After all, it features grilled chicken instead of fried. However, you might be surprised to find out that this particular grilled chicken sandwich has 1160 calories, and that is without the fries that come with the meal. Additionally, the sandwich has 56 grams of fat and 107 grams of carbs. Perhaps most shockingly is the sandwich's sodium count, which tops out at 3140 milligrams.
The Signature Whiskey-Glaze Chicken Sandwich is surely one to avoid if you're watching sodium, carbs, and calories. However, for those who have a little more wiggle room in their diets, the sandwich's flavorful combination of grilled chicken, whiskey glaze, bacon, cheddar cheese, Cajun-spiced onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and whiskey glaze-flavored mayo may be worth the splurge.
Cracker Barrel Homestyle Fried Chicken BLT
Cracker Barrel is most well-known for its filling breakfast offerings and menu of Southern-style staples for lunch and dinner. However, it's not particularly renowned for its healthy food options. The chain's Homestyle Fried Chicken BLT is no exception. This chicken sandwich is complete with a crispy fried chicken patty, a drizzle of maple glaze, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and sweet and smoky mayo, all on a toasted bun. If that sounds like a lot of flavor, it is. But in this case, extra flavor also results in extra calories, carbs, and fat.
The Cracker Barrel homestyle chicken BLT has a whopping 1180 calories. On top of that high caloric intake, the sandwich will run you 60 grams of fat, 106 grams of carbs, and 2560 milligrams of sodium. These numbers are startling, especially considering that they apply to the sandwich alone without any sides.
What Qualifies As Unhealthy?
Every person's nutritional needs differ and every individual has their own idea of what is or is not healthy. When we discuss what is or isn't healthy when it comes to chicken sandwiches, we are referring to overall calorie count, the grams of fat each sandwich contains, the grams of carbohydrates each item has, and the overall sodium in each sandwich. Armed with FDA recommendations regarding daily dietary values as well as the nutritional information straight from restaurants' websites, we wanted to find the truth about just how indulgent many chain chicken sandwiches can be.
Overconsumption of calories, fat, carbs, and sodium can have lasting health impacts if the habit is consistent, not balanced by enough physical activity, or complicated by other risk factors like certain health conditions. Regardless, it's important to remember that everyone's caloric needs differ. The FDA has a calculator to help determine your ideal recommended calorie range per day based on factors like your age, height, weight, sex, and physical activity.
Read the original article on Mashed.