Fried Chicken > Are fried chicken tenders bad for you

Are Fried Chicken Tenders Bad For You?

Fried chicken tenders are a popular finger food, especially among children. But with their high fat and calorie content, are these crunchy morsels actually bad for your health? Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional pros and cons of fried chicken tenders.

Are fried chicken tenders bad for you?

Fried chicken tenders can be unhealthy if eaten in large amounts or too frequently, but they can be incorporated into an overall healthy diet in moderation. Here is a detailed overview of the pros and cons:

The main downsides of fried chicken tenders are their high calorie and fat content. Frying chicken adds a significant amount of extra calories and fat, especially unhealthy saturated and trans fats. A 4-ounce fried chicken tender contains around 220 calories and 12 grams of fat compared to 110 calories and 1 gram of fat for an equal portion of grilled chicken breast.

The coating, frying oil, and dipping sauces also pile on extra sodium, which could potentially negatively impact blood pressure when eaten in excess. And frying causes the chicken to lose any small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids it naturally contains.

However, fried chicken tenders are not nutritional villains when enjoyed in moderation. The protein provides satiety, the B vitamins benefit energy levels, and an occasional fried chicken tender as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to cause harm. The key is watching portion sizes and not overindulging.

Aim to limit fried chicken tenders to no more than once a week. Be mindful of portion sizes, sticking to just 1-2 tenders maximum per serving. Accompany them with vegetables and whole grains to balance out the meal. And avoid excessive dipping sauces which can double or triple the calories.

Made at home in the oven with just a light brushing of oil, chicken tenders can also be a healthier option. Fried chicken tenders in moderation will not detrimentally impact the health of most people when accompanying an otherwise balanced diet and active lifestyle. Just be cautious of excessive intake leading to weight gain over time.

Related post: Are fried chicken sandwiches healthy?

Does homemade fried chicken make you fat?

Homemade fried chicken can contribute to weight gain and fat accumulation if eaten in large amounts, but it does not inherently cause fat gain on its own. Here is a detailed overview:

Frying chicken at home adds a significant amount of extra calories and fat compared to other cooking methods like baking or grilling. The oil absorbs into the chicken skin, meat, and coating, increasing the calorie density. Just a 3-ounce fried chicken breast contains around 210 calories and 15 grams of fat compared to 140 calories and 3 grams of fat when baked.

The type of oil used matters too. Frying in healthier unsaturated oils like olive oil is better than saturated fats like lard or shortening. And breading or battering the chicken before frying piles on further calories.

When eating fried chicken, our bodies absorb the extra fat and calories. Consuming any food in excess of our energy needs leads to weight gain and fat accumulation over time. So overdoing it on homemade fried chicken could contribute to obesity.

However, enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet and active lifestyle, homemade fried chicken in reasonable portions will not inherently make you gain fat. The key is portion control and not overindulging. Balance fried chicken with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

So, while homemade fried chicken is higher in calories and fat than other cooking methods, the chicken itself does not directly cause fat gain. Eating too much fried food and taking in excess calories compared to your energy expenditure will lead to weight gain over time. Moderation and variety in your diet are key.

What does fried chicken do to your body?

Here is a detailed overview of what eating fried chicken does to your body:

    • Increased calorie and fat intake – The oil used to fry chicken is absorbed into the meat, skin, and coating, increasing the total calorie and fat content. The extra calories and saturated fat can contribute to weight gain if eaten in excess.
    • More saturated and trans fats – Frying causes unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats to form in the oil. These raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing risk of heart disease.
    • Higher sodium intake – Fried chicken, especially from restaurants and fast food chains, often contains a lot of added salt and sodium from seasonings and brine solutions. Excess sodium intake can increase blood pressure.
    • Loss of nutrients – Frying damages and depletes some of the vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids naturally present in chicken. The high heat breaks down nutrients.
    • Digestive issues – The high fat content of fried chicken can slow digestion and lead to upset stomach, diarrhea, reflux, or other GI problems when eaten frequently or in large portions.
    • Inflammation – Fried foods trigger higher inflammatory responses in the body, which can worsen conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Inflammation may also cause lethargy and fatigue.
    • Increased oxidative stress – Heating the oils to high temperatures during frying generates free radicals that cause oxidative stress in the body. This damages cells over time and ages tissues.


So in moderation, fried chicken won’t cause long-term harm. But regular overconsumption can negatively impact heart health, digestion, inflammation, and energy levels. Using healthier cooking methods provides similar flavor without the unwanted effects.

The Nutritional Downsides of Fried Chicken Tenders

Calories and Fat
The main nutritional downside of fried chicken tenders is their high calorie and fat content. A 4-ounce fried chicken tender contains around 220 calories and 12 grams of fat. Of this fat, around 2-3 grams are saturated.

Frying chicken in oil adds a significant number of calories and fat grams. The same size piece of baked or grilled chicken breast contains only around 110 calories and 1 gram of fat.

Trans Fats
If fried in partially hydrogenated oil, chicken tenders may also contain trans fats. Trans fats raise LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol, increasing your risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fats to less than 1 percent of your total daily calories.

Fried chicken tenders are often seasoned with salt or packaged with dipping sauces high in sodium. Eating high-sodium foods may increase your blood pressure. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams per day.

The Potential Benefits of Fried Chicken Tenders

The upside of chicken tenders is their high protein content. Protein provides satiety and helps preserve or build lean muscle mass when eaten as part of a balanced diet. A 4-ounce chicken tender contains around 20 grams of protein.

Vitamin B12
Chicken tenders supply a significant amount of vitamin B12. This essential vitamin aids in red blood cell formation and neurological function. The vitamin B12 in chicken tenders is easily absorbed by the body.

Is Eating Fried Chicken Tenders Occasionally OK?

Despite their high calorie, fat, and sodium content, enjoying fried chicken tenders occasionally will likely not have an adverse effect on your health. The key is moderation. Stick to a single serving and balance it out with healthier choices for the rest of your meals and snacks. Limit how often you indulge once a week or so.

Baking or grilling chicken tenders at home instead of frying also makes this snack somewhat healthier. You can also prepare tenders baked in the oven in a small amount of oil. Dipping them in lower-fat condiments like barbecue sauce, ketchup, or mustard instead of creamy ranch dressing helps decrease the calories as well.

How Many Calories Are In a Fried Chicken Tender?

The amount of calories in a fried chicken tender varies depending on the size and how it is prepared:

    • A small 3-inch fried chicken tender contains around 130 calories
    • A medium 4-inch fried chicken tender contains around 220 calories
    • A large 5-inch fried chicken tender contains around 350 calories
    • Baked chicken tenders contain 20-30% fewer calories than fried. Baking avoids the extra calories from being submerged in oil.


So a single fried chicken tender can contain anywhere from 130 to 350 calories. Eating multiple large tenders and dipping them in calorie-dense sauces can quickly add up in terms of your daily caloric intake. Practice portion control to keep your calorie consumption in check.

Is fried chicken good for your health?

In moderation, occasional fried chicken can be fine as part of an overall healthy diet. But regularly eating fried chicken is not ideal due to its high calorie, fat, and sodium content. Frying also depletes any healthy omega-3s present in chicken. Grilling, roasting, or baking chicken is healthier.

Do chicken tenders make you fat?

Chicken tenders themselves do not directly make you gain fat. Consuming more calories than you burn leads to weight gain and fat accumulation over time. The high calorie count of fried chicken tenders means eating them frequently and in large portions could potentially contribute to weight gain. Stick to a single serving of tenders at a time and balance with vegetables and activity.

Can you eat fried chicken once a week?

Yes, enjoying fried chicken once per week is unlikely to negatively impact your health if you maintain an otherwise balanced diet. Any more frequently than once weekly and you risk taking in too many calories, saturated fat, sodium and other negative nutritional components. Moderation is key when indulging in fried chicken.

In conclusion, fried chicken tenders are certainly high in calories and fat compared to grilled chicken. But eaten occasionally and in sensible portions, they can be part of an overall balanced diet. Focus on controlling your portion sizes and limiting dipping sauces to keep fried chicken tenders as an occasional indulgence rather than a dietary staple.


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