Fried Chicken Tenders Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Fried chicken tenders

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Fried chicken tenders are commonly found on fast-food menus or in the frozen food section of the grocery store. Sometimes called chicken strips or chicken nuggets, they may be prepared with boneless chicken breast, rib meat, or with other parts of the chicken. In most, cases the tenders are breaded with seasoning before being fried.

While different parts of chicken provide nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet, fried foods usually provide high amounts of fat and sodium. If you choose fried chicken tenders for a meal or snack, it may be smart to keep portion size in mind.

Fried Chicken Tenders Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a single serving (184g) of fast-food chicken tenders.

  • Calories: 499
  • Fat: 25.7g
  • Sodium: 1410mg
  • Carbohydrates: 31.7g
  • Fiber: 2.2g
  • Sugars: 0.7g
  • Protein: 35.4g

Carbs

A single serving of chicken tenders provides 499 calories and 31.7 grams of carbs. The breading provides a small amount of fiber (2.2 grams) and may even provide a small amount of sugar, although the actual count can vary on the brand that you consume.

The glycemic index of fried chicken tenders may also vary based on the way that they are prepared. However, it is likely to be low because the food is primarily protein and fat. The estimated glycemic load of a 4-piece serving of chicken tenders is estimated to be 5. Glycemic load takes portion size into account when estimating a food's effect on blood sugar

Fats

Even though chicken breast is a low-fat food, fried chicken tenders tend to be high in fat because oil is used to fry them. USDA data indicates that a single serving provides nearly 26 grams of fat. Of that, 4.6 grams is saturated fat, about 9 grams is monounsaturated fat, and about 10.6 is polyunsaturated fat. Again, those numbers can vary based on the brand.

Protein

Fried chicken tenders are a good source of protein with a single serving providing 35.4 grams of the muscle-building nutrient. If you are a young adult, this protein exceeds your needs in a single sitting, with the recommendation between 20-25 grams of protein per meal.

Vitamins and Minerals

Fried chicken tenders are an excellent source of selenium, niacin, vitamin B6, and phosphorus, each providing more than 40% of your daily value set by the FDA.

Health Benefits

While chicken breast and other parts of the chicken can offer many important health benefits, if you choose to consume poultry in the form of fried chicken tenders, you need to balance the health advantages with some drawbacks.

For instance, fried chicken tenders are high in sodium: a single serving provides 1410 mg. The USDA recommends that Americans consume no more than 2,300 mg per day. The average American consumes 3,400 mg per day.

In addition, the food provides almost 26 grams or 234 calories from fat. USDA guidelines suggest consuming no more than 20–35% of total calories from fat. For those who consume 2000 calories per day, a single serving of this food provides more than 10% of that allowance—in just one part of a single meal.

But even given these potential drawbacks, the nutrients in chicken meat will provide certain notable benefits.

Helps to Build Muscle Mass

Protein helps your body maintain muscle mass. Chicken provides the important amino acids your body needs to repair tissue so that you keep the muscles that you have. It also helps your body to build muscle when you participate in a strength training program.

Keeping more muscle mass on your body has several advantages. It can help you to maintain a lean, strong appearance. Strong muscles also help you to move through activities of daily living with greater ease. And research shows that losses in muscle mass and strength are directly associated with mortality rates in older people.

May Help Strengthen Bones

Research shows that protein can work with calcium to help protect bones. So it can be helpful to consume enough protein to keep bones strong and healthy. You can increase your protein intake by consuming both meat and plant-based sources of protein.

Aids in Wound Healing

Certain populations are at special risk for improper wound healing, including the elderly and those with diabetes. Research has shown that a proper diet is essential for proper wound healing in the body. In particular, protein intake plays a special role.

Certain amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are sometimes supplemented to improve wound healing. Different parts of the chicken provide amino acids, including glutamine and methionine, that play a special role in the wound healing process.

Reduces the Risk of Protein Deficiency

While true primary protein deficiency is not common in the U.S., it is the leading cause of death among children under the age of 5 worldwide. Trauma, surgery, eating disorders, and certain medical conditions (such as cancer, AIDS, or some gastrointestinal disorders) can also lead to secondary protein deficiency. Consuming protein—even with the added fat in fried chicken tenders—can provide the much-needed macronutrient to these populations.

May Aid Weight Loss

Consuming foods with protein can help you to feel full, which may reduce food cravings and prevent overeating. For example, in a small study of overweight men on reduced-calorie diets, researchers found that those who ate more protein showed "improved appetite control and satiety."

However, because fried chicken tenders are also high in calories and fat, they may not be the best choice when choosing a protein source for weight loss. While they do provide satiating protein, they provide substantial calories—especially when combined with a dipping sauce. In addition, studies have shown that some chicken nuggets are more fat than protein.

Allergies

Medical experts are unsure of the prevalence of poultry allergy but assert that consuming chicken can induce severe allergic reactions. With chicken consumption on the rise, researchers are continuing to explore the way in which this allergy may affect the body. Earlier studies indicate that symptoms may include abdominal cramping, hives, chest tightness, and trouble breathing.

Sometimes people with egg allergy have a secondary allergy to poultry. In this kind of allergy, reactions usually happen when coming into contact with raw meat, not consuming cooked meat.

Adverse Effects

Those who are watching their salt intake should be careful when consuming fried chicken tenders as the sodium content is very high. Even those who are not sensitive to salt may notice bloating after consuming a high sodium meal.

Varieties

There are different types of chicken tenders and most of them are fried. Even if you purchase most brands of frozen chicken tenders, they are pre-breaded and pre-fried even if you bake them in the oven before eating them.

Ingredients vary from brand to brand and nutrition information can also vary depending on where you buy them.

  • A chicken tenders platter at Applebees provides 1440 calories, 50 grams of protein, 81 grams of fat, and 130 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains 3200 mg of sodium.
  • A single serving (84g) of Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips provides 210 calories, 13 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, and 17 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains 500 mg of sodium.
  • A six-piece order of McDonald's chicken nuggets has 250 calories, 14 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, and 15 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains 500 mg of sodium.
  • A six-piece serving of chicken nuggets at Burger King has 260 calories, 12 grams of protein, 16 grams of fat, and 16 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains 470 mg of sodium.
  • At Popeye's the 3-piece spicy or mild handcrafted chicken tenders provide 445 calories, 21 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 38 grams of protein, and 1,821mg of sodium.
  • Six extra crispy chicken tenders at Kentucky Fried Chicken have 810 calories, 59 grams of protein, 43 grams of fat, and 48 grams of carbohydrate. They also contain 1890 mg of sodium.

Storage and Food Safety

The way you properly store and handle fried chicken tenders depends on where you buy them. If you buy fast food tenders, you'll likely consume them (or share them with a friend) at the restaurant. If you save them for later, they should be refrigerated and consumed within three to four days.

If you buy frozen chicken tenders to make at home, they will stay fresh for one to three months when sealed in an air-tight container and kept in the freezer. Most brands will also include a "best by" date that you can use for guidance.

If you make fried chicken tenders at home, you should follow safe food handling practices as raw chicken can harbor bacteria, such as salmonella. You should never wash or rinse raw chicken (as it can spray bacteria to nearby surfaces), and always thoroughly clean hands, utensils, and surfaces after handling raw chicken. Cook chicken to at least 165 degrees to kill bacteria.

Uncooked chicken should be kept in the refrigerator, where it will stay fresh for one to two days. If you don't plan to use it right away, store raw poultry in the freezer for up to nine months.

How to Prepare

If you want to gain the health benefits of chicken tenders without the disadvantages that come from consuming excess sodium or fat, you can make them at home. While they have the taste of fried chicken tenders, you can bake them in the oven to make them crispy.

You can use any part of the chicken to make chicken strips, but there is a part of the chicken known as the tender. It is the strip of meat that is attached to the underside of the breast. If you buy boneless, skinless breasts at your local grocer, this is the part that is easiest to pull off the breast. This meat tastes the same as the breast but it already has a perfect finger-food shape so no cutting is required.

Once you have your chicken tenders ready, simply roll them in seasoned breadcrumbs and place on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.

Recipes

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