Can a chicken sandwich be healthy?

Chicken sandwiches are a popular menu item at many fast food restaurants. The classic chicken sandwich contains a breaded and fried chicken cutlet, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on a bun. While tasty, fried chicken and mayonnaise pack a lot of calories, fat, and sodium. This leads many to wonder – can you make a chicken sandwich that is actually good for you?

Can chicken sandwiches be part of a healthy diet?

The short answer is yes, chicken sandwiches can be part of a healthy diet. Chicken is a lean source of protein that contains important nutrients like niacin, vitamin B6, and selenium. When prepared in a healthy way, such as grilled or roasted, chicken can be the star ingredient in a nutritious sandwich.

The key is choosing whole grain bread, lots of veggies, and healthy condiments like mustard or avocado. By opting for grilled chicken over fried chicken, and limiting high-fat condiments, you can easily make a chicken sandwich that provides important nutrients without too many calories or unhealthy fats.

According to nutrition experts, a healthy chicken sandwich should have about 300-400 calories, 25-30g of protein, and less than 10g of saturated fat. As long as your chicken sandwich fits within these nutrition guidelines, it can be part of an overall balanced diet.

Healthy alternatives to fried chicken

Fried chicken is the most common way chicken is prepared in fast food chicken sandwiches. Frying adds a lot of extra fat and calories. For a healthier sandwich, consider these alternatives to fried chicken:

Grilled chicken

Grilling chicken results in a juicy, flavorful cutlet without needing to add any extra oil or breading. Choose boneless, skinless chicken breasts and grill until cooked through. Grilled chicken contains significantly less fat and calories compared to fried chicken.

Roasted chicken

Roasting chicken in the oven allows the fat to drip away while the chicken cooks. Roast a whole chicken and shred or slice the meat to add into your sandwich. Alternatively, roast boneless chicken breasts in the oven at 400°F until cooked through and slightly browned on the outside.

Rotisserie chicken

Rotisserie chicken is a pre-cooked roasted chicken you can often find at grocery stores. It offers an easy shortcut to get roasted chicken for your sandwich without having to cook it yourself. Remove the skin before making your sandwich to reduce the fat and calories.

Baked chicken

Coat chicken breasts lightly in breadcrumbs or panko and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Baking gives you the crunch of breading without the added fat and calories of frying. Make sure to use whole grain breadcrumbs for extra fiber.

Healthy alternatives to mayonnaise

Traditional mayonnaise adds a creamy texture but packs nearly 100 calories and 10g of fat into every tablespoon. Switch out regular mayo for one of these healthier condiment options:


Yellow mustard, honey mustard, spicy brown mustard, and Dijon all add flavor for almost no calories or fat.


The creaminess of hummus makes it a great healthy replacement for mayo. Look for varieties without added oil.


Smashed avocado offers creaminess and heart-healthy fats.

Non-fat Greek yogurt

Plain non-fat Greek yogurt makes a tangy, nutritious substitute for mayo.


Nutrient-rich pesto adds big flavor for under 100 calories per tablespoon.

Choosing healthy bread

The bun or bread you choose for your chicken sandwich makes a big impact. Here are some healthy bread options:

Whole wheat bread

Whole wheat bread provides 3-4g of fiber per slice, unlike white bread which has minimal fiber. The whole grains give you nutrients like B vitamins, iron, and magnesium.

Sprouted grain bread

This bread is made from whole grains that have been sprouted, which increases the bioavailability of nutrients. Popular varieties include Ezekial and Dave’s Killer Bread.

Whole grain pita

Whole wheat or sprouted grain pita pockets are a healthy alternative to sliced bread. Look for varieties with at least 3g of fiber.

Lettuce wrap

Using lettuce leaves such as romaine or butter lettuce in place of bread eliminates the carbs and calories.

Picking healthy toppings and veggies

Piling your chicken sandwich high with fresh veggies boosts the nutritional value. Some healthy toppings choices include:


The base of any good sandwich. Romaine, green leaf, arugula, iceberg are all low-calorie options.


Fresh tomato slices add nutrition without adding many calories.


Sliced red, yellow or white onion gives flavor for few calories.


Dill pickles, banana peppers, sauerkraut provide crunch and tang without fat.

Bell pepper

Thinly sliced bell peppers add color, crunch and vitamin C.


Sliced mushrooms add nutrient density. Opt for raw over fried.


Add a kick of heat and capsaicin, which may have metabolism-boosting effects.

Putting it all together

Now that you know what makes a chicken sandwich healthy, it’s easy to assemble your own nutritious version at home.

Start with 100% whole grain bread, toasted if desired. Smear one slice with 1-2 Tbsp of hummus, smashed avocado or mustard. Top with 3-4 oz of grilled, baked or roasted chicken breast, sliced or shredded.

Pile on the veggies like tomato slices, onion, lettuce leaves, pickles, bell peppers, mushrooms, or anything else you enjoy. For an extra flavor punch, add pesto, salsa, or hot sauce.

Add the second slice of toasted bread on top and you have a complete 300-400 calorie chicken sandwich with around 30g of protein and at least 3-5g of fiber.

Healthy store-bought options

If you don’t have time to prepare your own healthy chicken sandwich, there are some store-bought options to look for:

Rotisserie chicken sandwich

Many grocery stores sell pre-made sandwiches with rotisserie chicken. Look for varieties with whole grain bread and lots of veggie toppings.

Grilled chicken sandwich

Choose a grilled chicken sandwich and load up with extra veggies at sandwich shops or fast casual restaurants like Panera, Subway or McAlister’s Deli.

Chick-fil-A grilled chicken sandwich

A classic grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato. Order it without mayo or on a whole grain bun to make it healthier.

Wendy’s grilled chicken sandwich

Wendy’s offers a grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato and honey mustard. Leave off the fried chicken topping for a healthier pick.

KFC grilled chicken sandwich

KFC’s grilled chicken sandwich comes topped with lettuce and mayo. Ask for no mayo and add extra lettuce to cut calories.

Healthy homemade chicken salad sandwiches

Chicken salad made with Greek yogurt instead of mayo makes for an easy healthy chicken sandwich filling. Here are some healthy homemade chicken salad ideas:

Greek yogurt chicken salad

Combine shredded chicken breast with 0% plain Greek yogurt, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. For crunchy texture, add diced celery and onion.

Curry chicken salad

Mix shredded chicken with nonfat Greek yogurt, curry powder, raisins, diced apple, fresh cilantro and lime juice.

Mexican chicken salad

Shredded chicken, Greek yogurt, diced tomato, onion, jalapeno, cumin, smoked paprika, cilantro and lime.

Buffalo chicken salad

Shredded chicken, Greek yogurt, hot sauce, diced celery, shredded carrots, crumbled blue cheese.

Healthy chicken sandwich recipes

To get all the flavor without the fat and calories, try these slimmed-down chicken sandwich recipes:

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

– 1⁄4 cup shredded barbecue chicken (bake or grill chicken seasoned with barbecue spice blend)
– 1 whole wheat hamburger bun
– 1⁄4 avocado, sliced
– 2 tomato slices
– 1⁄4 cup cooked corn kernels
– 2 leaves green leaf lettuce

Southwest Chicken Sandwich

– 1 whole wheat pita pocket, halved
– 3 ounces grilled chicken breast, sliced
– 2 tablespoons salsa
– 1 tablespoon sliced black olives
– 1⁄4 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
– 1⁄4 cup shredded lettuce
– 2 tablespoons shredded reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend

Chicken Caesar Wrap

– 1 (8-inch) whole wheat tortilla
– 3 ounces sliced grilled chicken breast
– 2 tablespoons light Caesar dressing
– 1⁄4 cup chopped romaine lettuce
– 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese
– 1 tablespoon croutons

Chicken Pesto Sandwich

– 2 slices whole grain bread, toasted
– 1⁄4 cup fresh pesto
– 1 grilled chicken breast, sliced
– 4 tomato slices
– 4 fresh basil leaves
– 1⁄4 cup roasted red peppers

Healthy kids’ chicken sandwiches

You can make kid-friendly chicken sandwiches healthier too by using whole grain bread, baking chicken instead of frying, and packing on the veggies. Here are some healthy recipes to try:

Chicken Salad Pinwheels

Spread whole wheat tortillas with chicken salad and roll up with shredded lettuce and tomatoes inside. Slice into pinwheels.

Chicken Veggie Sliders

Top mini whole grain buns with baked chicken tenders, lettuce, tomato and avocado slices.

Grilled Chicken Finger Sandwiches

Sandwich baked chicken fingers between whole grain bread with lettuce, tomato and mustard.

Baked Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

Use lightly breaded baked chicken cutlets and part-skim mozzarella between whole grain buns.


With some simple substitutions, it is definitely possible to make chicken sandwiches that are good for you. Choosing healthy ingredients like grilled chicken, whole grain bread, lots of veggies, and nutritious condiments allows you to enjoy the great taste of a chicken sandwich as part of a balanced diet. Pay attention to calories, protein, fiber and saturated fat to meet nutrition goals. With endless healthy possibilities for homemade and store-bought chicken sandwiches, you don’t have to sacrifice taste or nutrition.

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