We all know that chicken salad is a healthy way to feed our bodies. But, is it good for weight loss? The answer to this question depends on what you put in the sandwich. Chicken salad can be a healthy food for weight loss if you make it with the right ingredients.
What is chicken salad?
The first thing that may come to mind when you hear “chicken salad” is the classic creamy American-style dish that dates back to the mid-1800s.
This version of chicken salad often uses a standard set of ingredients like boiled eggs, celery, apples, grapes, and almonds or pecans. These staples are combined with cooked chicken and typically held together with mayonnaise.
Chicken salad can have many different flavor profiles and ingredients mixed in. It’s typically served cold and made with cooked chicken, a dressing, and sometimes extra vegetables, nuts, seeds, or fruit for flavor and crunch.
For example, chicken salad can be Thai-inspired, combining chopped chicken and cucumber with the flavors of peanut, ginger, garlic, chili oil, and rice vinegar.
A traditional Mexican chicken salad, known as ensalada de pollo, uses sour cream and mayo to bind together chicken and mixed vegetables such as beans, corn, and potatoes.
You can find chicken salad at delis and restaurants, buy it premade at the grocery store, or make your own chicken salad at home.
Chicken salad uses a binder like mayonnaise, yogurt, or salad dressing to combine cooked chicken with various other fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices.
Chicken salad nutrition
Chicken salad is packed with lean protein, vitamins, and minerals, and it can certainly be part of a healthy meal and an overall healthy diet.
Just how healthy is chicken salad? That boils down to the ingredients used to make it and the amount you eat at one time.
Certain ingredients, like the type and amount of mayo used, may significantly increase the calorie and saturated fat content of chicken salad, which may ultimately make it less nutritious than it could be.
Just one small 1/2-cup (about 4-ounce) serving of chicken salad often contains 400 calories or more. And despite having “salad” in its name, it’s often served on bread or in a wrap, rather than on a bed of leafy greens.
Here’s an example of how the nutritional value of chicken salad varies based on its ingredients
|Chicken salad made with mayonnaise||Chicken salad made with light mayonnaise||Chicken salad on a croissant|
|Serving size||1/2 cup (113 grams or 4 ounces)||1/2 cup (108 grams or 3.8 ounces)||1 sandwich (187 grams or 6.6 ounces)|
|Total fat (grams)||21||9||42|
|Saturated fat (grams)||4||2||11|
|Calcium||2% of the Daily Value (DV)||2% of the DV||4% of the DV|
|Iron||3% of the DV||3% of the DV||15% of the DV|
|Potassium||5% of the DV||5% of the DV||6% of the DV|
Chicken salad tends to be is relatively low in carbs, fiber, and sugar and higher in protein, calories, and fat.
The role of saturated fat in nutrition remains somewhat controversial, but many experts agree that replacing saturated fat in your diet with polyunsaturated fats — like those found in nuts and seeds — could help reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, these are only general estimates of the nutritional value of chicken salad, as the nutrients vary depending on how it’s made.
Adding ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds or using a lower-calorie binder like yogurt could easily change these values.
Chicken salad is a good source of lean protein. Additions such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds provide even more nutritious vitamins and minerals. However, chicken salad typically contains a fair amount of calories.
Calories in this Chicken Salad Recipe
It’s easy to add up the calories in any chicken salad recipe.
Start with your base. There’s about 20 calories per cup of lettuce. This salad has about two cups of lettuce for the base.
Then for the veggies, you’ll use about 1/16 or an 1/8 of a red onion. For a half a red onion, there’s about 23 calories, so for an eighth of a red onion you can budget about 8 or 9 calories.
I generally place about half a cup of broccoli on my salad, which comes to about 15 calories.
Add in a whole tomato (remove the seeds to keep your salad from getting soggy) and add in another 22 calories for the tomato.
The pan-fried chicken breast will clock in at about 200 calories for about 4.5 to 5 oz of chicken.
Before adding dressing and croutons, your salad will be about 285 calories, not including the dressing of your choice. Add in your favorite dressing and croutons if desired.
Veggies to Add to your Salad
The best part of a salad is that you can add any kind of vegetable you’d like to it.
- : Adding in diced or sliced red onions is an easy way to add color to your salad.
- : Wash and well-washed and chopped florets of broccoli.
- : I used chicken for my salad, but you can use any lean protein, such as steak or fish.
- : Add in baby corn or corn kernels.
- : Another way to add in color to your salad is sliced tomatoes. Slice them anyway you’d like and add them in.
- : Artichoke hearts are a great way to add a tangy flavor that are full of vitamins to your salad.
The benefits of chicken salad
Aside from being so tasty, chicken salad has a number of other benefits, such as being relatively affordable and simple to make at home.
Its benefits don’t stop there, though — chicken salad has a few noteworthy positive health effects.
Chicken salad is high in protein
Protein is one of the primary nutrients your body needs to build and maintain bone, muscle, cartilage, and more
Most adults need to eat 45–65 grams of protein each day, though factors like age, sex, physical activity, and general health status could further increase or decrease those requirements
Thus, just one portion of chicken salad could account for nearly one-third of your entire protein requirements for the day.
In addition to being essential for bone health and muscle strength, protein:
- regulates appetite
- helps your body heal
- may limit food cravings
Chicken salad is nutrient-dense
Chicken salad also contains many beneficial micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
One 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of roasted chicken is a particularly good source of
- niacin: 51% of the DV
- selenium: 36% of the DV
- phosphorus: 17% of the DV
- vitamin B6: 16% of the DV
Therefore, eating chicken salad could help you meet the daily recommendations for many nutrients.
Chicken salad is an affordable and nutrient-dense source of lean protein that is easy to make at home.
The downsides of chicken salad
Chicken salad often starts out with a healthy foundation of lean protein, crunchy vegetables, and nutrient-dense fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Eating a large portion of chicken salad at one time or adding a lot of higher-calorie ingredients may reduce some of the health benefits of the dish.
May be high in calories
Mayonnaise is often the chosen binder for chicken salad. Though it provides a creamy, rich texture, it may also add a significant number of calories.
Though many of the nuts and dried fruits added to chicken salad are plenty nutritious — rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals — they also tend to be higher in calories than other fruits and vegetables.
In addition to the ingredients in the chicken salad itself, what you serve your chicken salad with will affect the calorie content of the dish.
Serving a chicken salad sandwich on a buttery croissant or another refined grain product, such as white bread, adds more calories without a lot of nutrition. Serving your chicken with nutrient-rich vegetables might be a better option.
Chicken Salad Is More Nutritious Than You Might Have Thought
A staple at any deli, a highly requested sandwich for school lunches, and a recipe that ranges from household to household, chicken salad is a beloved and classic dish as popular today as it was over 50 years ago. Flavorful and filling, chicken salad can be paired with your favorite greens or married together between two slices of bread.
One of the best parts of chicken salad is the fixings and ingredients you dress it with. Traditionally based with mayonnaise, chicken salad can be prepared in various ways depending on your dietary preferences. Take on a Mediterranean approach with olive oil, or opt for a more modern approach and swap out the mayo for Greek yogurt.
The sky’s the limit for ingredients to add to a chicken salad, from a Waldorf salad (via Food Network) with apples, grapes, celery, and walnuts, to an almond chicken salad with shaved Marcona almonds and dried cranberries. Each preparation is sure to make your mouth water and your stomach satisfied.
What if we told you, though, that not only does each addition to your chicken salad make it more delicious — but nutritious as well. As Healthline notes, chicken salad is, in fact, one of the healthiest snacks or meals you can choose when perusing a menu or planning a meal.
A blend of lean protein and healthy fat macronutrients
On its own, chicken salad can serve as a low-calorie, protein-packed dish. According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Food & Nutrition Research, poultry (like chicken) may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease when paired with a vegetable-rich diet. Additionally, because chicken is a lean source of protein, it can prevent the risk of becoming overweight with consumption, unlike other forms of meat-based protein.
When it comes to the base of your chicken salad, this is where you can introduce more healthy and fat macronutrients into your diet — and cut the calorie count. For example, by opting for homemade mayonnaise using avocado oil or olive oil, you can reduce your risk of consuming hydrogenated vegetable oils found in many ready-made foods (via Healthline), including packaged mayonnaise.
Once you’ve mixed in your healthier fat base with your protein, it’s time to add in fun. Here is where you can get creative with your chicken salad and add in even more nutrients. According to the American Heart Association, additions like nuts and seeds can elevate your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, reducing your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. If you want a little sweetness, fruit can be a tasty addition to chicken salad as well, while at the same time offering a serving of antioxidants.
So indulge in your favorite lunchtime dish without the guilt. Chicken salad, when prepared the right way, is a great staple to add to your routine meal plan.