Is Rotisserie Chicken Healthy? Here's What a Dietitian Says
It's a classic dinner staple that's versatile and budget-friendly, but is it actually good for you? Here, we break it down for you.
If you're a busy parent (or just like fast, no-fuss meals), you probably know the value of a rotisserie chicken. It feels like a home-cooked meal, but you didn't actually have to do any cooking (what could be better?). Plus, it's filling, budget-friendly and generally a crowd-pleaser for all ages. Not to mention, it's incredibly versatile. Sure, you can serve it straight from the package with your favorite veggies and starch for a quick, easy, balanced meal, but it can also be used in dozens of other dishes to save time. "Use it to make nutritious and veggie-packed grain bowls, soups, salads, tacos and pasta dishes in a fraction of the time," recommends Beth Stark, RDN, LDN a registered dietitian based in Pennsylvania. (Try these 11 Rotisserie Chicken Dinner Recipe to Get Dinner on the Table ASAP.)
The rotisserie chicken may sound like a busy person's dream, but is it too good to be true? Read on for what to know about preparation, serving it and how to make sure it's actually contributing to your health.
Rotisserie Chicken Nutrition
The nutritional breakdown depends on a few things: which part you eat (white or dark meat), whether or not you eat the skin, and how much sodium was used in preparation. Here's a breakdown for a 3-ounce serving, according to the USDA.
Total fat: 13g
Saturated fat: 3.5g
Total fat: 9g
Saturated fat: 2.5g
Total Fat: 6.5g
Saturated fat: 1.5g
Total Fat: 3g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Both the white and dark meat are also good sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, selenium, zinc, copper and phosphorus, and the dark meat provides a good source of iron (double that of white meat).
What are the benefits of eating rotisserie chicken?
"Rotisserie chicken is a healthy choice for people that want a lean source of protein but either don't have the time, interest or skill to cook. It's a low-fat cooking method and the chicken can be used in a variety of ways." says Lisa Andrews, M.Ed., RD, LD, owner of Sound Bites Nutrition. Protein plays many important roles in the body, from building and maintaining muscle to regulating hormones and controlling blood sugar. Protein is also digested more slowly than carbohydrates, so getting enough of it at a meal helps you stay full for several hours.
Beyond the fact that it's a lean protein, rotisserie chicken also offers a variety of other important nutrients. The vitamins and minerals found in rotisserie chicken "play a role in everything from blood cell development to nervous system function, skin health, cognition and energy production," notes Stark. "Because it's usually enjoyed as a quick meal starter, rotisserie chicken is also a fabulous vehicle for boosting your intake of other nutritious foods like whole grains, vegetables and healthy fats," she adds. (DIY your dinner with our recipe for Air-Fryer Rotisserie Chicken.)
Can you eat the skin of a rotisserie chicken?
You've probably been told to avoid the skin on any kind of poultry, and in general, that's good advice. While it may be tasty, "I generally advise people to skip the skin due to its saturated fat content," says Andrews.
In fact, removing the skin can cut the saturated fat in half if you're eating the breast and by a third if you're eating dark meat. Eating saturated fat has been shown to increase LDL cholesterol, which may increase risk for cardiovascular disease.
But if you truly enjoy the skin and can't imagine eating a rotisserie chicken without it, it's OK to have some. Just make sure to account for it in your total saturated fat intake for the day. The American Heart Association recommends keeping saturated fat intake below 5 to 6% of calories, which is about 13 grams per day for those eating around 2,000 calories.
Anything else to consider?
The sodium content of a rotisserie chicken can vary significantly depending on the preparation. Some chickens may be brined or soaked in a saline (salt) solution before cooking to make them juicier. Others may use a rub or seasoning that contains a lot of salt on both the skin and the innards of the bird. It can be hard to know exactly how much sodium is in a chicken unless the grocery store provides a nutrition label, but you can look for words like brined or saline solution on the label.
Speaking of the label, you may want to "take some time to read it to see where your chicken comes from if you're concerned about eating organic or free range," notes Andrews. These things don't play a major role in the nutritional value (though there may be minor micronutrient differences), but may be important to you for other reasons like environmental impact or treatment of animals.
How to use a rotisserie chicken
As we've said, it's an incredibly versatile protein and you can use it in almost any recipe that calls for chicken, whether that's in a sandwich, burrito, salad, casserole, soup, chili or more. Of course, how you use it can determine how healthy the meal is, so we recommend emphasizing veggies and whole grains for the rest of the meal to build a healthy plate.
You can use rotisserie chicken the same way you can use leftover chicken. Get inspired with our 57 Delicious & Healthy Ways to Use Leftover Chicken.
Rotisserie chicken can be an easy way to add protein and other important nutrients to your meals with little effort. Just be mindful of the saturated fat found in both the skin and the dark meat, as well as any hidden sodium.