Photo: Brie Passano

Our workdays are hectic, and planning dinner is easier and quicker when we choose something familiar. More times than not, chicken it is! If we end up eating a pound or more of chicken each week, are we eating too much? When it comes to a healthy diet, switching your favorite bird for a different protein source may be in your favor.

January 11, 2017

We love chicken because it's both inexpensive and a lean source of protein. Most of us grew up eating chicken, and we're comfortable cooking it. It’s no wonder the National Chicken Council projected that each person will consume about 91 pounds of chicken in 2017. If we're going by that number, it's safe to assume that many families eat chicken multiple times a week—which lead us to ask, how much chicken is too much chicken?

There is no solid evidence available that suggests eating chicken frequently will result in negative heath outcomes if it is prepared in a healthful way. Four ounces of a boneless, skinless chicken breast provides 26 grams of protein, just 1 gram of fat, and 120 calories (before cooking). Talk about getting bang for your buck!

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Now, let's consider beef. Four ounces of lean ground beef provides about 16 grams of protein, 33 grams of fat, and 375 calories. Though the comparison of total calories, fat, and protein makes chicken seem like the better choice, you have other things to consider.

That same serving of chicken has less than half the amount of iron that ground beef provides. Ground beef also has greater amounts of some vitamins and minerals (even if in small amounts) than the chicken breast, like selenium, calcium, and folate. On the other hand, chicken has less saturated fat and cholesterol than lean ground beef. When you look at all nutritional components, both dinner main options have their pros and cons.

Bottom line: No, eating chicken for multiple meals during the week isn’t proven to hurt you, but a diet lacking in variation might. Foods provide more and less of different nutrients, so it’s important to mix it up no matter what you’re eating. Aim for a diet with a variety of meats—neither beef nor chicken have the good unsaturated fats that fish can provide! A diverse diet is always more likely to be a balanced diet.