What to Eat at KFC: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

kfc-meals-for-500-calories-or-less
Verywell Fit / Christian Alzate.

Kentucky Fried Chicken, often known as just KFC, is one of the most popular fast food restaurants in the world. With more than 21,000 locations around the world, KFC's menu is built around chicken, and also includes sides, sandwiches, and desserts.

Most items at KFC are served family-style, which can make portion control difficult. Unless you’re ordering for a group, avoid KFC meals and buckets. Most of the restaurant's menu items can be purchased for $10 or less. While many dishes are high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium, many of the meals at KFC can be enjoyed in moderation. Making a few swaps or adding in more vegetables can help create a well-rounded meal.

What Experts Say

“KFC offers a few vegetable side dishes that can be added to your meal, but many of its options do not contain veggies or much fiber. The sodium levels are also high for many meal options. If eating at KFC often, try to choose your other meals so that they contain less sodium and more veggies, as well as high fiber foods, to help offer daily nutritional balance.”

Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

Navigating the Menu

What to Order & Avoid at KFC
 Most Nutritious Options  Least Nutritious Options
Original Recipe Chicken Wing (Original Recipe Chicken) Original Recipe Chicken Breast (Original Recipe Chicken)
Extra Crispy Drumstick (Extra Crispy Chicken) Nashville Hot Extra Crispy Breast (Extra Crispy Chicken)
Grilled Chicken Wing (Grilled Chicken) Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken Breast (Grilled Chicken)
Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders (Tenders) Popcorn Nuggets (Tenders)
Chicken Little (Sandwiches) Spicy Chicken Sandwich (Sandwiches)
Snack-Size KFC Famous Bowl (Pot Pies & Bowls) Chicken Pot Pie (Pot Pies & Bowls)
6 pc. Beyond Nuggets (Beyond Chicken) 12 pc. Beyond Nuggets Combo (Beyond Chicken)
Green Beans (Sides) Potato Salad (Sides)
Chocolate Chip Cookie (Desserts) Café Valley Mini Chocolate Chip Cake (Desserts)
Sobe Lifewater (Drinks) Code Red Mountain Dew (Drinks)

Most Nutritious Option

For the healthiest dish at KFC, opt for the grilled chicken wings, which deliver 70 calories per wing thanks to the cooking method.

Original Recipe Chicken

KFC’s Original Recipe is hand-breaded and seasoned with a blend of 11 herbs and spices that have been kept secret since the chain's founding. You can order an iconic bucket of fried chicken in 8, 12, or 16 pieces, or get the Original Recipe as part of a meal or sandwich.

✓ Original Recipe Chicken Wing

One Original Recipe Chicken Wing provides 130 calories, 8g fat, 2g saturated fat, 380 mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 10g protein. Eating three wings provides the same amount of calories and sodium and more fat than one chicken breast.

✗ Original Recipe Chicken Breast

The Original Recipe Chicken Breast provides 390 calories, 21g fat, 4g saturated fat, 1190 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 39g protein. Original Recipe Chicken Thighs are a middle-of-the-road option in terms of calories: one Original Recipe chicken thigh has 280 calories and 19g fat, plus 19g protein. Note that breasts are lower in saturated fat and calories per ounce than wings and thighs.

Extra Crispy Chicken

The double-breaded version is a crispier, flakier version of KFC’s original recipe. With more batter and breading, Extra Crispy Chicken is higher in calories than the classic recipe.  

✓ Extra Crispy Chicken Drumstick

The Extra Crispy Chicken Drumstick has 170 calories, 12g fat, 2g saturated fat, 390 mg sodium, 5g carbohydrates, 0g sugar, and 10g protein per drumstick. The extra crispy cooking method adds to the calories and sodium, but still remains a more nutritious option than other chicken menu items.

✗ Nashville Hot Extra Crispy Chicken Breast

The Nashville Hot Extra Crispy Chicken Breast contains 770 calories, 60g fat, 10 saturated fat, 1530 mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate, 1g sugar, and 35g protein. While higher in calories and fat than the grilled options, crispy chicken tenders can be another lower-calorie option compared to the Original Recipe. A single Extra Crispy chicken tender has 140 calories and 7g fat. KFC's tender-size portions are also a great way to add protein to a simple side salad.

Grilled Chicken

While fried chicken is KFC’s focus, there are a few grilled selections on the menu that are healthier options.

✓ Grilled Chicken Wing

KFC's grilled chicken wings contain 70 calories, 3g fat, 1g saturated fat, 180 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 9g protein (note: this nutritional information is per wing). With fewer calories and sodium, these grilled chicken wings pack more nutrition into a single wing.

✗ Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken Breast

A single Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken Breast provides 260 calories, 12g fat, 3g saturated fat, 790 mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 38g protein. Grilled chicken thighs have half the calories and fat of Original Recipe: one grilled chicken thigh has just 150 calories and 9g of fat but is still a good source of protein with 17g per serving.

Tenders

In addition to KFC’s classic style of serving chicken on the bone, you can also order chicken tenders and nuggets. On their own, these smaller-sized options can be lower in calories—just remember that dipping sauces add calories, salt, and sugar and can be difficult to have in moderation.

✓ Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders

With no added sauce and small portion size, the extra crispy chicken tenders are your best option on this part of the menu. One extra crispy chicken tender has 140 calories, 7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 8g carbohydrates, 10g protein, and 320mg sodium.

✗ Popcorn Nuggets

The large-sized popcorn nuggets contain 620 calories, 39g fat, 5g saturated fat, 1820 mg sodium, 39g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 27g protein. Special dipping flavors include KFC sauce, honey BBQ, classic ranch, and honey mustard. Opt for no dipping sauce to keep sugar and sodium levels lower.

Sandwiches

Quick and portable chicken sandwiches are another popular option at KFC, though they aren’t among the healthiest choices. Adding bread to already breaded and battered chicken makes KFC's sandwich options some of the highest carb items on the menu.

✓ Chicken Little

The KFC Chicken Little sandwich comes in at 300 calories, 15g fat, 2.5 saturated fat, 620 mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 14g protein. Opt for the Extra Crispy version—rather than buffalo, BBQ, or Nashville hot—to keep calories and sodium lower.

✗ Spicy Chicken Sandwich

The Spicy Chicken Sandwich provides 650 calories, 35g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 1,260mg sodium, 49g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, and 34g protein. Choose classic over spicy to save nearly 900mg sodium in your meal.

Pot Pies & Bowls

Pot pie is a classic chicken dish and KFC has its own take on the meal. However, these options are among the highest calorie on KFC’s menu and are high in sodium.

✓ Famous Bowl (Snack Size)

The KFC Famous Bowl in a snack size has 270 calories, 13g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 820 mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 1g sugar, and 11g protein. It contains breaded and fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and sweet corn. By opting for the snack size bowl (rather than the regular), you save 470 calories and 21g of fat.

✗ Chicken Pot Pie


KFC's chicken pot pie has 720 calories, 41g fat, 25g saturated fat, 1750 mg sodium, 60g carbohydrate, 5g sugar, and 26g protein. As with sandwiches, combing several carb-heavy ingredients, like mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, and flaky pot pie crust makes this choice high-calorie and high-carb.

Sides

KFC has a menu of classic sides, as well as the occasional limited-time or regional selection. While these options can round out family-style meals, you can also use the smaller portions to build a sensible meal.

✓ Green Beans

The individual green beans at KFC have 25 calories, 0g fat, 260 mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, <1g sugar, and 1g protein. Loaded with vitamins C and A, green beans can be a great source of brain- and bone-boosting benefits.

The other veggies KFC offers can be good choices as well: Corn on the cob has only 90 calories and a side of whole kernel corn only adds 70 calories. The plain house salad (no dressing or toppings) provides just 15 calories and the Caesar salad 40 calories. Either can make a good base for protein-packed grilled chicken, which you can order from the regular menu and add yourself.

✗ Potato Salad

KFC's potato salad (in individual portions) has 340 calories, 28g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 290 mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 2g protein. If you choose to add a side, stick to the individual menu. Family-size orders of sides can easily account for more than a meal’s worth of calories on their own—if not more. KFC’s family-size potato salad has 1,200 calories—almost a day’s worth of calories.

Sides such as macaroni and cheese, buttermilk biscuits, and cornbread muffins add calories, carbs, and fat without leaving room for much of chicken's nutritional benefits—namely protein. If you are looking for a starchy side that's lower in calories, consider an order of plain mashed potatoes (no gravy).

Beyond Chicken

KFC expanded its plant-based menu nationwide in early 2022, and began serving Beyond chicken nuggets in all of its restaurants. Served with the brand's signature KFC sauce, the nuggets can be ordered in 6- or 12-piece portions on their own or in a combo meal.

✓ 6 pc. Beyond Nuggets

An order of six Beyond nuggets comes out to 480 calories, 27g fat, 0g saturated fat, 30g carbohydrates, 36g protein, and 1,440mg sodium. This pick from the Beyond menu may be a good vegan-friendly option at KFC.

✗ 12 pc. Beyond Nuggets Combo

Served with fries and a soft drink, the Beyond nuggets 12-piece meal can add nearly 1,000 calories to your daily intake. The nuggets alone provide 960 calories, 54g fat, 0g saturated fat, 60g carbohydrates, 72g protein, and 2,880mg sodium.

Desserts

KFC offers apple turnovers, cookies, and multiple cake and pie options. These options pack a punch in terms of calories, fat, and sugar.

✓ Chocolate Chip Cookie

The chocolate chip cookie provides 120 calories, 6g fat, 3g saturated fat, 18g carbohydrates, 1g protein, and 70mg sodium. A single cookie also provides 12g sugar. This is the lowest-calorie and lowest-sugar option on the dessert menu.

✗ Café Valley Mini Chocolate Chip Cake

The Café Valley mini chocolate chip cake is the highest-calorie pick. It provides 300 calories, 12g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 49g carbohydrates, 3g protein, and 190mg sodium, as well as 35g sugar.

In addition to chocolate, KFC offers several flavors of cake and pie, each of which is about 220 to 300 calories per slice. They do vary in sugar content, though. The lowest sugar slice you’ll find is the Lemon Cake, which has 20g sugar.

Drinks

As with most fast food restaurants, KFC offers a typical selection of fountain sodas, as well as lemonade and iced tea. Even when presented with options, it’s usually best to drink water when you’re dining out—especially when eating a meal high in sodium, such as fried foods.

✓ Sobe Lifewater Yumberry Pomegranate

Sobe Lifewater's Yumberry Pomegranate flavor (12 oz) has 0 calories, 0g fat, 45 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 0g protein. The unsweetened beverage is a good option if you want a little extra flavor without added sugar.

✗ Code Red Mountain Dew

Code Red Mountain Dew (30 oz) has 430 calories, 0g fat, 125 mg sodium, 116g carbohydrate, 115g sugar, and 0g protein. In addition to adding calories to your meal, soda can also be a source of sodium and sugar. Diet beverages may not add calories, but they’re usually made with artificial sweeteners and preservatives like aspartame, which you may prefer to avoid.

Diet-Specific Options

If you have special dietary considerations or are adhering to a specific diet, you may be able to find options that suit your tastes and your needs at KFC. Overall, KFC has options for diners following a gluten-free, low-carb, diabetes-friendly, low-fat, low-sodium, and vegetarian diet, but does not have many items for low-FODMAP and vegan diners.

KFC’s menu isn’t as customizable as other fast food restaurants, but the chain does make information about its ingredients and nutrition available to consumers to help guide their choices. However, it warns that cross-contamination is possible.

KFC Food Allergy Statement

“We cannot guarantee that cross-contact with allergens will not occur and neither KFC, our employees, or our franchisees assume any responsibility for a person’s sensitivity or allergy to any food item provided in our restaurants."

“No allergen or nutritional information on our website should be considered a guarantee, but simply a good faith effort to serve our customers.”

Gluten-Free

Several items on KFC’s menu do not contain gluten or wheat. However, these dishes are stored and prepared in a cooking area, and by employees, who also handle ingredients that do contain gluten. If you are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease, exercise caution when ordering.

  • Applesauce (kids' menu)
  • Green beans
  • Coleslaw
  • House salad
  • Caesar side salad
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Potato salad
  • Corn on the cob
  • Sweet kernel corn

Low-Carb

Removing the skin from KFC chicken reduces the carb content. Without breading, chicken can be part of a low-carb fast food meal.

  • Hot wings
  • Original Recipe drumstick
  • Grilled chicken (wing, thigh, breast, drumstick)
  • Green beans
  • Coleslaw
  • House or Caesar Salad (no dressing, croutons, or fried chicken)

Diabetes-Friendly

For a diabetes-friendly meal, order the kids' portion of the popcorn nuggets and pair them with the house salad.

  • Extra Crispy Whole Wing and Hot Wings
  • Grilled chicken (wing, thigh, breast, drumstick)
  • Original Recipe and Extra Crispy Bites (Kid’s Menu)
  • Green beans
  • House or Caesar Salad (no dressing, croutons, or chicken)

Low-Fat

Keep your meal lower in fat by ordering grilled chicken drumsticks alongside BBQ baked beans or sweet kernel corn.

  • Hot Wings
  • Grilled chicken drumsticks or wings
  • House or Caesar salad (no dressings or toppings)
  • Corn on the cob (no butter)
  • Sweet kernel corn
  • BBQ baked beans

Low-Sodium

A low-sodium meal at KFC is possible if you watch portion sizes and order carefully from the sides menu. To create a meal that's lower in sodium, select grilled chicken wings and order them with coleslaw.

  • Hot Wings
  • Grilled chicken drumsticks or wings
  • Chocolate chip cookie
  • House or Caesar salad (no dressings or toppings)
  • Green beans
  • Coleslaw
  • Corn on the cob (no butter)
  • Sweet kernel corn

Vegetarian

KFC's website notes: "All vegetarian ingredients are handled by our employees in common with meat ingredients, which may not be acceptable to certain types of vegetarian diets.” But these items do not contain meat:

  • Biscuits
  • Coleslaw
  • Cornbread
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Mashed potatoes (without gravy)
  • Cakes, cookies, and other dessert items

Vegan

KFC has partnered with Beyond Meat to launch its own vegan-friendly option: the Beyond nuggets. These plant-based nuggets provide meatless protein options that you can pair with any selection of sides.

  • Beyond chicken nuggets
  • Green beans
  • House salad
  • Potato wedges
  • Sweet kernel corn
  • Corn on the cob (no butter)
  • Applesauce (kids' menu)

Food Allergies and Safety

If you have food allergies or are adhering to a specific diet, KFC lets you search for menu options according to which ingredients or allergens you want to avoid on its website, including:

  • Soy
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Gluten
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Most, but not all, KFC menu items are included. For some limited-time or regional items, you may need to ask for the most up-to-date nutrition information or ingredients list. As a general best practice, let employees know if you have a food allergy when you place your order.

Sometimes, even when a menu item says it does not include an ingredient, your meal may have come into contact with the food allergen in another way. This is referred to as “cross-contamination.” It can happen during production, transport, storage, or prep of ingredients.

A Word From Verywell

KFC is a fast food favorite around the world for “finger-lickin' good” fried chicken, but if you’re following a special diet or have food allergies, the chain’s menu can present some challenges. High-calorie, high-fat, and high-sodium meals served in large sizes can make keeping track of nutrition and portions tricky.

Viewing the menu online and using KFC’s nutrition calculator can help you plan your order ahead of time. You can create healthier options at KFC if you choose grilled rather than fried chicken and stick with basic salads instead of high-fat, high-carb sides.

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