Chicken is a common choice amongst those watching what they eat, because it provides an inexpensive source of lean protein. However, the choice between purchasing chicken breasts and a whole chicken is difficult, because some believe a whole chicken is the better deal. If managing your weight is your primary concern, the deciding factor might be the fat in whole chicken versus chicken breast.
Based on the United States Department of Agriculture, or USDA, dietary guidelines for Americans, one serving of chicken is about 3 ounces of meat. An average chicken breast weighs between 6 and 8 ounces, and a whole chicken yields between 2 and 5 pounds of meat depending on its size. For accurate nutritional information, always use a kitchen scale to weigh your serving sizes.
Fat in Whole Chicken
To determine the fat in a whole chicken accurately, the calculation is made on the assumption that all the bird’s meat is blended together. That means stripping all meat from the cooked chicken’s carcass and combining it evenly, then taking 3 ounces from that blend. This does not include fat from the chicken’s skin. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, one 3-ounce serving of meat from a whole chicken contains about 2.6 grams of fat. About 0.6 grams of it is saturated, 0.7 grams is monounsaturated and 0.6 is polyunsaturated. Based on a daily recommended intake, or DRI, of 48 grams, that is a little over 5 percent of one day’s fat.
Fat in Chicken Breast
According to the USDA Nutrient Database, one 3-ounce serving of boneless, skinless chicken breast contains approximately 2.2 grams of fat. Of those 2.2 grams, 0.4 grams of fat is saturated, 0.6 grams is monounsaturated and 0.3 grams is polyunsaturated. That is just over 4 percent of a DRI of 48 grams.
The fat estimations for whole chicken meat and chicken breast are without skin. Chicken skin is very high in fat, containing 27 grams in 3 ounces. Of that, 7.7 grams is saturated, 11.5 grams is monounsaturated and 5.7 grams is polyunsaturated. You consume more than 56 percent of a DRI of 48 grams of fat in 3 ounces of chicken skin. If you are watching your fat intake, it is in your best interest to remove skin from chicken before eating it.
When making the choice between chicken breast and whole chicken meat, the difference in fat content is not substantial. Chicken breast is often easier to prepare and can be used quickly in many dishes. However, a whole roasted chicken provides variety with both dark and white meat. It yields a larger amount of usable meat you can save in the refrigerator for up to four days for other meals. The carcass can be boiled for making low-sodium stock. Depending on how much you enjoy cooking and your available time, either a whole chicken or chicken breasts could be the better deal.
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Serena Styles is a Colorado-based writer who specializes in health, fitness and food. Speaking three languages and working on a fourth, Styles is pursuing a Bachelor's in Linguistics and preparing to travel the world. When Styles isn't writing, she can be found hiking, cooking or working as a certified nutritionist.