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, or 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, buckets, and combos. 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—simply making a few swaps or adding in more vegetables can help in creating a well-rounded meal.

What Experts Say

“KFC offers a few vegetable side dishes that can be added to your meal, but many of their 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 Breast
Extra Crispy Drumstick Nashville Hot Extra Crispy Breast
Grilled Chicken Wing Nashville Hot Grilled Chicken Breast
Hot Honey Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders Popcorn Nuggets
Chicken Littles Colonel’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich 
Snack-Size KFC Famous Bowl Chicken Pot Pie
Green Beans Potato Salad
Oatmeal Raisin Cookie  Café Valley Mini Chocolate Chip Cake
Sobe Lifewater Code Red Mountain Dew

Most Nutritious Option

For the healthiest dish at KFC, opt for the grilled chicken wings, which delivery 70 calories per wing thanks to the more nutritious 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 began. You can order an iconic bucket of fried chicken in 8, 12, or 16 pieces or as part of meals. Original Recipe also appears in other menu items, like sandwiches.

✓ Original Recipe Chicken Wing

The Original Recipe Chicken Wing (per wing) provides 130 calories, 8g fat, 2g saturated fat, 380 mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 10g protein. While this nutrition information is for one single wing, eating three wings provides the same amount of calories and sodium and more fat than one chicken breast.

✗ Original Recipe Chicken Breast

Meanwhile, the Original Recipe Chicken Breast (one) 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.

Chicken Wings, Tenders, & Nuggets

In addition to KFC’s classic style of serving chicken, you can also order items in other popular fast-food styles, such as 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.

✓ Hot Honey Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders

Hot Honey Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders provide 190 calories, 12g fat, 1.5 saturated fat, 490 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 10g protein per tender. These

✗ 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 flavors of KFC's chicken, like Nashville Hot, Smoky Mountain BBQ, and Georgia Gold, are marinated and therefore may be higher in calories, sodium, and even sugar than the plain versions.

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 Littles

The KFC Chicken Littles sandwich includes 300 calories, 15g fat, 2.5 saturated fat, 620 mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 14g protein. Make sure to opt for the Extra Crispy version—rather than buffalo, BBQ, or Nashville hot—to keep calories and sodium lower.

✗ Colonel’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich

The Colonel’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich provides 460 calories, 25g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 1170 mg sodium, 37g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, and 24g protein. When available, KFC's Crispy Twister wrap is among the highest-calorie menu items. With 630 calories, the sandwich (crispy chicken, pickle, mayo, and hot sauce wrapped in a tortilla), has 53g of carbohydrate, 37g fat, and 1260mg sodium.

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 these choices 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.

✗ Potato Salad

Meanwhile, KFC's potato salad (in individual portions) have 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.

Avoid sides macaroni and cheese, buttermilk biscuits, and cornbread muffins, which add calories, carbs, and fat without leaving room for much of chicken's nutritional benefits—namely protein.

If you’re looking for more protein in your meal, don’t assume a side of BBQ Baked Beans is a healthy choice: while beans can be an excellent source of protein, KFC’s recipe adds 240 calories and 18g of sugar.

Instead of mashed potatoes slathered with gravy, which has 120 calories, opt for a side of plain mashed potatoes for only 90 calories.

The other veggies KFC offers can be better choices: Corn on the Cob has only 90 calories and a side of Whole Kernel Corn only adds 70 calories.

In general, salads can be a healthy option, but KFC only offers two side salads—neither of which come with grilled (rather than fried) chicken. Calorie counts posted on the menu board also don’t include salad dressings or extras like croutons.

The plain house salad (no dressing or toppings) only adds 15 calories and the Caesar salad just 40 calories. Either can make a good base for protein-packed grilled chicken, which you can order from the regular menu and add yourself.

Desserts

KFC only offers two types of dessert items on its menu—cakes and cookies—but these options pack a punch in terms of calories, fat, and sugar.

✓ Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

The Oatmeal Raisin Cookie provides 150 calories, 6g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 90 mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate, 13g sugar, and 2g protein per cookie. Packed with whole grains and soluble fiber, oatmeal is a great and healthy option for baked goods.

✗ Chocolate Chip Cake

The KFC Chocolate Chip Cake has 300 calories, 12g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 190 mg sodium, 49g carbohydrate, 35g sugar, and 3g protein. KFC offers several flavors of cake, each of which is about 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.

Beverages

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

The Sobe Lifewater Yumberry Pomegranate (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 the punch of added sugar.

✗ Code Red Mountain Dew

The Code Red Mountain Dew (30 oz) beverage 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.

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.

Gluten-free

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.”

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.

KFC menu items that may be suitable for a gluten-free diet include:

  • Applesauce (Kids Menu)
  • Green Beans and Coleslaw
  • House and Caesar Side Salad
  • Mashed Potatoes and Potato Salad
  • Corn on the Cob and Sweet Kernel Corn

Low-Carb

  • Hot Wings (1)
  • Green Beans, Coleslaw
  • Original Recipe Drumstick
  • Grilled Chicken (wing, thigh, breast, drumstick)
  • House or Caesar Salad (no dressing, croutons, or meat)

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

Diabetes-Friendly

  • Extra Crispy Whole Wing and Hot Wings (1)
  • Grilled Chicken (wing, thigh, breast, drumstick)
  • Original Recipe and Extra Crispy Bites (Kid’s Menu)
  • Green Beans and House or Caesar Salad (no dressing, croutons, or meat)

Low-Fat

  • Hot Wings
  • Grilled Chicken Drumsticks and Wings
  • House or Caesar Salad (no dressings or toppings)
  • Corn on the Cob (no butter), Sweet Kernel Corn, BBQ Baked Beans
  • Honey Sauce, Lemon Juice, Summertime BBQ Sauce, Sweet ‘n Tangy Sauce

Low-Sodium

  • Hot Wings
  • Grilled Chicken Drumsticks and Wings
  • Honey Sauce, Sweet and Sour Sauce
  • Chocolate Chip or Oatmeal Raisin Cookie
  • House or Caesar Salad (no dressings or toppings)
  • Green Beans, Cole Slaw, Corn on the Cob (no butter), Sweet Kernel Corn,

Vegetarian

  • Biscuits
  • Coleslaw
  • Cornbread
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Mashed Potatoes (without gravy)
  • Cakes, Cookies, and other dessert items

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.”

However, there are a few items on KFC’s menu which may be suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets.

Vegan

  • Green Beans
  • House Salad
  • Potato Wedges
  • Sweet Kernel Corn
  • Corn on the Cob (no butter)
  • Applesauce (from the KFC Kid’s Menu)

Note that KFC doesn’t have designated vegetarian and vegan-friendly options on its menu. As the chain’s primary focus is chicken, even above items on the menu that do not contain meat and are not made with animal products may have come into contact with them during storage, preparation, or cooking.

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:

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.

KFC Allergen Statement

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

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.

Restaurants and employees who handle food prep may be able to take extra precautions to avoid cross-contamination and may even have separate procedures and/or equipment to accommodate food allergies.

A Word From Verywell

KFC is a fast food favorite around the world for “finger-licking 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 basic salads instead of high-fat, high-carb sides.

You might also be interested in getting tips about what to order at Nando's, another chain that's well-known for its chicken.

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