Kentucky Fried Chicken has been around for a while. They first opened their doors in 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah where it was an instant success, and diners have been enjoying buckets of fried chicken with sides of mashed potatoes and gravy ever since. And while the chain has had its fair share of controversy over the years, the public loves fried chicken and the iconic fast-food place has a huge fanbase. But for anyone trying to eat healthy and watch their diet, there are better places to eat clean than KFC. It's more of a cheat day restaurant. But sometimes our busy lifestyle calls for a quick and convenient meal, and if you find yourself at KFC but want to stick to your healthy food habits, then you should know about the most unhealthy items at KFC so you can avoid these high-calorie, high sodium foods and make good choices while still enjoying those eleven herbs and spices that Colonel Sanders does so well.
Our list of unhealthy items at KFC is based on the nutritional content that the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation shares on their website. We looked at calories and sodium content as well as carbs and protein. None of these food items has to be avoided every time you visit KFC, but knowledge is power, so knowing more about classic fast food favorites can help you decide if you want to limit or completely avoid these items. Dietary choices are personal, and this list is only to inform and educate. KFC is a franchise, and some items may or may not be available in specific regions.
1. Smoky Mountain BBQ Sandwich
Does it get any better than a crispy chicken sandwich covered in smoky, tangy barbecue sauce? It doesn't. This sandwich is a fan favorite, and it should be because it is really good. But unfortunately, it makes the list because it has 540 calories with 31 grams of fat and 41 grams of carbs. But the real kicker here is not the spicy barbecue sauce; instead, it's the sodium with 1,200 milligrams of sodium. To put that in perspective, The American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. So, this sandwich is almost your entire daily sodium allotment. On the upside, the sandwich has 24 grams of protein, but there are other ways to get protein without the sodium.
2. Famous Bowl
The new trend that is becoming more and more popular is to skip the bread or tortilla and make bowls like burrito bowls and sushi bowls, but the KFC bowl is not one of those healthy bowls. The Famous Bowl starts with mashed potatoes, then there are chicken nuggets mixed in with corn, and the whole thing is covered in cheese and gravy. The large Famous Bowl has 720 calories with 79 grams of carbs. But it is not just the calories and carbs; the dish has 2,370 grams of sodium. The high sodium level lands this dish on the list of unhealthy items at KFC. Even if you share the Famous Bowl, it's still a tremendous amount of sodium. But if you just can't resist, consider the smaller version with 270 calories and 27 carbs with 820 milligrams of sodium. It's still a lot, but if it is a once in a while indulgence, it might be ok for you, depending on your diet. Just make sure to drink plenty of water to offset the excessive salt.
3. Classic Chicken Sandwich
We are sorry to report that the Classic Chicken Sandwich, one of the most popular items on the KFC menu, is on the list, but it is. The sandwich has 650 calories, which is a lot for a sandwich, but the sodium is the main problem, with 1,260 milligrams of sodium. If you really want a chicken sandwich, opt for the grilled chicken sandwich. Unfortunately, in some areas, the grilled chicken sandwich is not on the menu anymore. But you can always ask if they can make it. If you want to lose some of the carbs, ask if they will wrap it in lettuce.
4. Chicken Pot Pie
Nothing says comfort food like a warm chicken pot pie. Unfortunately, you might want to save the chicken pot pie for special occasions because it is a calorie-heavy item with too much sodium. The chicken pot pie has 720 calories with 60 grams of carbs, 41 grams of fat, and 1,750 milligrams of sodium. That is all the sodium for one person for one day. So even if it were the only thing you ate in a day, it would still put you 250 milligrams over the daily recommended amount. If you really love chicken pot pie, you might consider learning how to make it yourself so you can limit the sodium and even add more vegetables to make a healthier version of the classic comfort food.
5. Crispy Twister
The Crispy Twister seems like a good thing to order with its fun name, but don't be fooled; this is one of the most unhealthy items at KFC. The Crispy Twister is technically a wrap, not a sandwich, and is filled with crispy chicken pieces. The whole thing has 630 calories and 1,260 milligrams of sodium. Wrapping breaded chicken in a tortilla ups the carbs, too, and the carb count is 53 grams of carbs. There are better choices on the menu, or just order the crispy chicken minus the tortilla.
6. Spicy Chicken Sandwich
You might think that a little spice on your chicken sandwich will make it healthier since there has been evidence that spicy foods speed up metabolism, but in this case, the spice doesn't add much. The spicy chicken sandwich is not a great choice; it has 620 calories and 2,140 milligrams of sodium. If you love spicy, there are other options that have much less sodium, like the Nashville Hot Chicken thigh, drum, or wing.
7. Secret Recipe Fries
It's hard to know which fast food place has the best fries because fast food fries are all so good. The deep fryer and excess salt are what makes fast food fries better than homemade fries, but all of that goodness comes at a cost. The KFC fries have 320 calories with 1,100 milligrams of sodium and 41 grams of carbs. Life is short, so enjoy your fries, but maybe share them with a friend to spread out some of that sodium.
8. Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders
Chicken tenders are a KFC staple; they are perfect for dipping in sauce and sharing with friends. But did you know that just one single chicken tender has 140 calories with 320 milligrams of sodium? That is a lot of calories and sodium, considering nobody eats just one chicken tender. Most people order the 5, 8, or 12-piece chicken tenders, which adds up quickly. So, if you are the rare person who can eat just a few chicken tenders, then that equates to a meal, albeit a high-sodium meal. But when you consider you will probably be using dipping sauce like honey mustard, barbecue, or Ranch, then the calories and sodium are even higher. These chicken tenders might be one to skip at KFC. Instead, learn how to make chicken tenders at home to control the salt.
9. Potato Salad
The nice thing about KFC is all of the sides they offer. But all of those sides are not equal. The best sides you can order are green beans or corn. The creamy coleslaw or macaroni salad are both great choices too However, there is one side that you might reconsider: the potato salad. Potato salad and fried chicken go together like peanut butter and jelly. It is hard to imagine a picnic with a bucket of KFC fried chicken without potato salad, but you might want to stick with the coleslaw or macaroni salad because the potato salad has 350 calories and 290 milligrams of sodium. The salad has 3 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein, which isn't much to keep you full. Those 19 grams of carbs won't do you any favors, either. We suggest that you make your own potato salad or skip it altogether.
10. Double Down Sandwich
This sandwich is wild. The Double Down sandwich swaps out bread for fried chicken fillets that hold together bacon and cheese. It is a decadent mouthful and only available sometimes. You might think you want it, and it may seem like a specialty because it isn't always available, but this sandwich is not your friend. It has 930 calories; that is not a typo. And 2,380 milligrams of sodium. On the bright side, it has 67 grams of protein, but there are better ways to get your protein than this over-the-top sandwich. For low-carb and keto folks, the sandwich has 28 grams of carbs, but you will need to consider if it's worth the calories and sodium.
Kentucky Fried Chicken isn't going anywhere. The famous Colonel and his tasty chicken have proven over and over again that they make a good product. But for those watching their sodium and calories, it's a good idea to weigh your options before visiting to make sure your choice of chicken doesn't derail your healthy diet.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©NARUDON ATSAWALARPSAKUN/Shutterstock.com.