How many times a week should you eat chicken?

Quick Answer

The recommended amount of chicken to eat per week depends on your specific calorie needs and diet goals. However, health experts generally suggest eating chicken in moderation as part of a balanced diet, somewhere between 2-4 times per week for the average person. Chicken can be a lean, protein-rich addition to a healthy diet. But eating too much may lead to excessive saturated fat or calorie intake. Monitor your portion sizes, prepare chicken in a healthy way, and balance it with other nutritious foods for an optimal diet.

How Much Chicken Per Week is Considered Moderate?

Most health experts recommend limiting chicken intake to no more than 3-4 times per week to get the benefits of chicken without overdoing it. Here is a look at guidelines on moderate chicken consumption per week:

– The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than 6 ounces of cooked lean meat, chicken or fish per day as part of a heart-healthy diet. This would equal about 18-24 ounces per week.

– The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest 5.5-6.5 ounce equivalents of protein foods like chicken daily based on a 2000 calorie diet. This would equal up to around 26-32 ounces of chicken per week.

– Mayo Clinic nutritionists recommend 4-5 servings of protein foods like chicken per week for a healthy balanced diet. With standard 3-4 ounce servings, this would equal 12-20 ounces of chicken per week.

So in general, health authorities suggest limiting weekly chicken intake to about 1.5 to 2 pounds or 24 to 32 ounces per week as a moderate amount for most people. Consuming chicken within these recommended amounts allows you to gain the nutritional benefits of chicken without exceeding dietary saturated fat, cholesterol or calorie limits.

What Are the Benefits of Eating Chicken?

Chicken can be a nutritious part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. Here are some of the top health benefits associated with eating chicken:

– High in Protein: Chicken is an excellent source of protein. A 3-ounce serving of roasted chicken breast contains around 26 grams of protein. Protein provides amino acids essential for building and repairing muscle tissue.

– Low in Saturated Fat: Skinless chicken breast is a lean source of protein that’s relatively low in saturated fat. The saturated fat content ranges from around 1-3 grams per 3-4 ounce serving depending on preparation method.

– Source of Nutrients: Chicken contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. It’s a great source of selenium and vitamin B6 and also contains niacin, phosphorus, and vitamin B12, among others.

– May Help Manage Weight: Protein foods like chicken may help support weight loss and maintenance by promoting fullness and preserving lean muscle mass when losing weight.

– Easy to Cook and Versatile: Chicken can be prepared quickly in many ways and easily incorporated into diverse recipes and meal plans. It’s a dietary staple that provides flexibility in menu planning.

– Relatively Low Cost: Chicken is typically an budget-friendly type of lean protein compared to pricier options like seafood or grass-fed beef. This makes it accessible for most households.

When consumed in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle, chicken can be a nutritious source of high-quality protein that provides a range of potential wellness benefits.

What Are the Downsides of Eating Too Much Chicken?

While chicken can be healthy in moderation, there are some potential downsides associated with overconsumption:

– High in Cholesterol: Chicken contains substantial amounts of dietary cholesterol. A 3-ounce serving of roasted chicken breast has around 80-90 mg of cholesterol, and eating too much can adversely impact blood cholesterol levels.

– Risk of Saturated Fat Intake: The saturated fat content of chicken ranges from about 15-20% depending on cut and preparation method. Overconsuming chicken, especially with skin on, significantly increases saturated fat intake which raises heart disease risk.

– Possible Exposure to Hormones or Antibiotics: Conventionally-raised chickens may contain traces of hormones, antibiotics or other drugs that some experts believe could impact human health. Buying organic chicken can minimize exposure.

– Potential for Foodborne Illness: Raw or undercooked chicken poses a risk for exposure to harmful bacteria like Salmonella. Proper handling and cooking is important to reduce risk of foodborne illnesses.

– High in Sodium: Many processed chicken products like frozen entrees, lunch meats, chicken nuggets, etc. contain very high amounts of added sodium, which may increase hypertension risk.

– Lack of Variety: Over relying on chicken in the diet could lead to fewer servings of other healthy protein sources like seafood, legumes, tofu etc. Varying protein foods is optimal.

To prevent potential downsides, it’s best to keep chicken intake in moderation as part of a varied, balanced diet while also properly handling and preparing chicken.

How Does Chicken Fit into a Balanced Diet?

Chicken can be part of a well-rounded, nutritious eating pattern when incorporated alongside a variety of other healthy foods. Here are some tips for balancing chicken in your diet:

– Watch Portion Sizes: Keep servings to recommended size guidelines, such as 3-4 ounces per meal according to your calorie needs. Measure portions to prevent overeating.

– Use Lean Cuts: Choose leaner cuts like chicken breast or tenderloins and remove skin before cooking to minimize saturated fat and cholesterol.

– Vary Your Proteins: Rotate chicken with other protein sources like fish, beans, eggs, yogurt or tofu over the course of the week.

– Focus on Fiber-Rich Foods: Serve chicken with a heaping side salad, roasted veggies or whole grains to increase fiber, vitamins and minerals.

– Limit Processed Forms: Opt for fresh chicken most often rather than processed versions like frozen nuggets or patties high in sodium.

– Choose Healthy Cooking Methods: Bake, grill, roast or poach chicken instead of frying in oil to avoid excess calories and fat.

– Watch Overall Diet Quality: Make sure to get adequate produce, low-fat dairy, whole grains and healthy fats from nuts, seeds or oils in your full daily menu.

A well-balanced diet incorporating lean proteins, fiber-rich produce, whole grains, healthy fats and dairy provides optimal nutrition. Chicken can fit into this type of eating pattern when consumed in moderation alongside a variety of other nutritious foods.

How Often Should You Eat Chicken if Following a Low Carb or Keto Diet?

Chicken is often a primary protein source on low-carb, Paleo and ketogenic diets which emphasize meat and limited carbohydrate intake. Here are some guidelines for chicken consumption frequency on low carb or keto diets:

– No Strict Limits Set: Most low carb or keto plans do not set strict limits on protein or chicken intake. As long as carbohydrates are kept low, protein intake is flexible.

– Monitor Your Macros: Those tracking macros or calories on low carb diets should aim to get around 20-30% of total calories from protein foods like chicken. Intake depends on individual calorie needs.

– Increase Your Portions: Low carb dieters often increase chicken serving sizes at meals to around 4-6 ounces or more to stay satisfied, since carbs are reduced.

– Adjust Intake if Active: People who are very active may slightly increase protein like chicken to optimize muscle maintenance and recovery on low carb diets.

– Vary Your Proteins: While increasing chicken, also incorporate fatty fish like salmon or plenty of red meat, which are encouraged for adequate fat intake.

– Supplement Mindfully: In some cases, whey protein powder is used to supplement protein on keto diets if struggling to meet protein needs through whole food sources alone.

In general, low carb or keto dieters may consume chicken more frequently such as 4-6 times per week or even daily, depending on their individual calorie requirements, activity levels and diet preferences.

How Often Should You Eat Chicken if Trying to Build Muscle or Strength Train?

Chicken can be a convenient protein to incorporate into diets for active individuals and strength trainers trying to build lean muscle mass:

– Increase Protein Intake: Active individuals benefit from increased high-quality protein intake from sources like chicken to optimize muscle protein synthesis for growth and repair.

– Get Around 0.5-0.8g Per Pound: General protein intake goals for muscle gain are between 0.5-0.8 grams per pound of body weight. So determine appropriate chicken servings based on your needs and weight.

– Time Protein Around Workouts: Eat a chicken-containing meal shortly after strength workouts to provide amino acids for muscle recovery and growth.

– Include At Each Meal: To spread out protein, include around 3-5 ounces chicken in 3-5 meals/snacks daily rather than just one large serving.

– Combine with Other Proteins: Pair chicken breast with Greek yogurt, protein powder, eggs, cottage cheese or fish to meet higher protein requirements for active lifestyles.

– Don’t Overdo It: While protein needs are increased, exceeding 1 gram per pound is generally unnecessary and may put strain on kidneys.

– Adjust Based on Goals: Those seeking maximum muscle gains may increase chicken intake toward the higher end of recommended protein ranges.

Strength training individuals can include chicken in most daily meals and snacks as part of a high protein diet tailored to their workout regimen and muscle building goals.

How Often Should You Eat Chicken if Following a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet?

On lacto-ovo vegetarian diets that include eggs and dairy, chicken is eliminated completely. Here are some guidelines for meeting protein needs:

– Substitute with Plant Proteins: Replace chicken with higher protein plant foods like beans, lentils, tofu, edamame, tempeh, etc. to meet daily protein requirements.

– Incorporate Eggs and Dairy: Get protein from Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, milk and cheese if including in vegetarian diet.

– Try Meat Substitutes: Use soy- or gluten-based mock meats, veggie burgers etc. in moderation to help mimic chicken’s texture.

– Check Protein Quality: Combine plant proteins in meals for a complete essential amino acid profile. For example, pair beans with rice or peanut butter with whole wheat bread.

– Supplement if Needed: If struggling to eat adequate plant proteins, a pea protein powder supplement can help meet needs.

For vegans avoiding all animal products, meeting protein needs generally requires more planning and care:

– Eat a Wide Variety of Plants: Get protein from nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, whole grains, tofu and other soy products, seitan, etc.

– Be Creative: Make plant-based dishes like chickpea curries, lentil soups, tofu scrambles, nut burgers, protein-rich smoothies, etc.

– Pair Foods: Combine cereals and legumes, such as rice and peas or hummus on whole grain toast, to ensure adequate essential amino acids at meals.

– Check Needs: Protein needs may increase slightly for vegans, to around 0.9 grams per kg body weight as plants are lower in certain amino acids.

– Use a Supplement: A plant-based protein powder, such as soy, pea or rice protein, can help vegans meet needs more easily if eating adequate varied proteins is challenging.

With proper meal planning, both vegetarian and vegan diets can provide sufficient high quality plant-based protein for optimal health without the need for chicken.

What Are the Best Lean Cuts of Chicken?

The leanest cuts of chicken are generally found in the breast area, since the legs and thighs contain more fat. Here are some of the top lean, protein-packed chicken cuts:

– Chicken Breast: Skinless, boneless chicken breast is one of the leanest cuts. A 3-ounce serving contains around 110 calories and 3 grams of fat, making it ideal for a low-fat diet.

– Chicken Tenderloins: Also called chicken tenders, these are elongated strips from the breast. They’re equally as lean and usually boneless.

– Chicken Cutlets: Thinly sliced chicken breasts, known as chicken cutlets or scallopini, make for quick cooking, lean meals.

– Grilled Chicken Breast: Choose grilled over fried chicken breast for maximum leanness. Grilling helps drain fat while providing great flavor.

– Rotisserie Chicken Breast: Store-bought rotisserie chicken tends to be slightly higher in sodium. But removing the skin provides a quick lean chicken breast option.

– Ground Chicken Breast: Ground or minced chicken breast has a texture ideal for lean burger patties, tacos, meatballs and other versatile recipes.

When selecting lean cuts, look for the terms “breast” or “tenderloin” and choose unskinned options. Chicken labeled simply “chicken” often contains a mix of dark and white meat.

Healthiest Ways to Cook Chicken

Preparation method can alter chicken’s nutrition profile. Here are the top cooking methods for keeping chicken lean and healthy:

– Grilling: Grilling helps drain excess fat from chicken while adding delicious flavor from the BBQ sauce or spices.

– Baking: Baking chicken in the oven with little added oil also minimizes fat and calories while providing juicy, tender meat.

– Roasting: Roasting chicken slowly with vegetables in the oven brings out delicious flavor and keeps it lean.

– Poaching: Simmering chicken breast in broth or water with herbs and spices allows it to cook gently while retaining moisture.

– Steaming: Quickly steaming chicken breasts lightly seasoned with lime juice, spices or herbs makes for a healthy weeknight dinner.

– Broiling: Broiling chicken for a few minutes per side under direct high heat in the oven cooks it quickly while draining fat.

– Sautéing: Cooking chicken in a small amount of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice adds tons of flavor for relatively few calories.

Minimizing added oils, butter and breading while allowing rendered fat to drain away are the keys to keeping chicken recipes lean and waistline-friendly.

How Much Chicken Can You Safely Eat Per Day?

While up to 6-8 ounces of chicken per day can be healthy in some circumstances, it’s generally best to limit daily intake to:

– 3-4 Ounces for Diets Under 2,000 Calories: For lower calorie diets, 3-4 ounces of chicken per meal containing protein provides sufficient daily intake without excess.

– 4-6 Ounces for Diets Over 2,000 Calories: Moderately active people with higher calorie needs may safely consume 4-6 ounces of chicken at one or two meals as part of their daily protein allowance.

– Avoid More Than 6 Ounces at One Sitting: Protein is best digested in smaller amounts over the day rather than one large serving.

– No More Than 12 Ounces Total: Maximal safe daily intake is around 12 total ounces consumed over the course of three or more meals spaced out.

– Increase Variety: Include diverse proteins like seafood, eggs, beans, nuts or dairy rather than just chicken every single day for optimal nutrition.

Some athletes or highly active people with greater protein needs may require up to 8-12 ounces per day when combined with other protein sources as part of an appropriate diet for their activity level. But for most people, sticking to 3-6 ounce servings as part of balanced nutrition is a healthier target.

Signs You May Be Eating Too Much Chicken

Consuming excessive amounts of chicken could take a toll on your health and waistline. Here are some signs you may be overdoing it:

– Weight Gain: Chicken contains calories and fat. Eating very large portions can lead to excessive calorie intake and weight gain over time, especially if fried or served with high-calorie sauces.

– High Blood Cholesterol: Overconsuming chicken may adversely raise blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL or “bad” cholesterol, due to its high dietary cholesterol content.

– Digestive Issues: Some people experience bloating, gas or diarrhea when eating too much protein from chicken, red meat or other sources due to difficulties properly digesting protein.

– Reduced Appetite: Since protein is very filling, eating large amounts of chicken daily may lead to reduced appetite and inadequate intake of other important food groups like fruits and vegetables.

– Higher Purine Levels: People with gout are advised to limit chicken, since compounds called purines in chicken may trigger gout attacks.

– Food Safety Concerns: Preparing and eating undercooked chicken, especially low-quality chicken, heightens risk for exposure to Salmonella and foodborne illness.

If experiencing any signs of excessive chicken intake, cut back on portions, frequency, or preparation methods to determine if it provides relief. Focus on a balanced diet with plenty of produce, whole grains and plant proteins as well.


Chicken can be incorporated into a healthy diet that includes a variety of lean protein foods. While no strict guidelines exist, limiting intake to no more than 3 to 4 times per week allows you to gain chicken’s nutritional benefits without the downsides of overconsumption. When buying chicken, opt for leaner breast cuts and prepare using low-fat cooking methods. Monitor your portion sizes according to your calorie needs, increase plant proteins for greater diet variety, and balance chicken with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and healthy fats. With some simple strategies, chicken can be part of your weekly menu planning while optimizing overall diet quality.

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