What's the most all-American comfort food sandwich? You might guess the hamburger, but according to a new DoorDash report, the most-ordered meal of the past six months — prime pandemic time — is a chicken sandwich with fries.
While chicken breast is one of the best lean proteins, restaurant chicken sandwiches often come battered, deep-fried and dressed with sugary or fat-laden sauces.
So while you might feel like you're making a wiser choice choosing chicken over beef, that's not always the truth. Case in point: A McDonald's Double Cheeseburger has 450 calories while the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich has 600 calories.
There are ways to transform a chicken sandwich into a well-balanced meal, especially if you DIY, vows Rachel Fine, RD, owner of the nutrition counseling firm To The Pointe Nutrition in New York City.
"Add vegetables and use a whole-grain bun," she says. "A veggie topping like lettuce and tomato will help to boost the fiber and vitamin content and a whole-grain bun — look for one with visible nuts and seeds — lends complex carbohydrates, which promotes steady energy levels."
And whenever possible, skip the crunchy coat to keep both calories and carbs in check. "Aim for a chicken sandwich that uses grilled chicken rather than fried chicken," Fine says.
Speaking of all things fried, we recommend pairing these healthy chicken sandwiches with one of these creative homemade fry recipes rather than resorting to the usual frozen or fast-food varieties.
1. Honey Lime Shredded Chicken Sandwiches
- Calories: 333
Tasty served hot or cold and ideal to make in a slow cooker, Instant Pot or in the oven, these shredded chicken sandwiches are a breeze to make ahead for meal prep purposes as well.
The meat, slaw and vinaigrette can all be assembled up to four days in advance for quick-fix meals with 22 grams of filling protein. The cabbage, carrots and zucchini add fiber and vitamins while the easy, Asian-inspired dressing complements the honey- and lime-infused chicken beautifully.
Get the Honey Lime Shredded Chicken Sandwiches recipe and nutrition info at Sweet Peas and Saffron.
2. Lightened-Up Chicken and Fig Sandwich
- Calories: 472
Dinner for one, done. This healthy chicken sandwich comes together in a mere 5 minutes when you have leftover or rotisserie chicken handy.
Stack that protein powerhouse plus fresh spinach, sweet sliced fig, salty goat cheese and tangy balsamic reduction inside a whole-wheat baguette for a full meal (complete with 40 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber) in a handheld package.
Get the Lightened-Up Chicken and Fig Sandwich recipe and nutrition info here.
3. BBQ Chicken Sandwich
- Calories: 450
No grill or smoker? No problem. With this barbecue chicken recipe, you can prep the saucy chicken sandwich filling in your slow cooker set-and-forget-style.
Paired with crunchy coleslaw and a guacamole-inspired avocado spread, the flavor of this healthy chicken sandwich recipe will convince you to add it to your chicken recipe repertoire all year long.
Get the BBQ Chicken Sandwich recipe and nutrition info at Chelsea’s Messy Apron.
4. Easy Tarragon Lemon Chicken Salad Sandwiches
- Calories: 404
With a bit of mayo but a lot of fresh flavor via lemon juice and zest and fresh tarragon, these easy and healthy chicken sandwiches will be a hit at picnics, for work lunches and beyond. Plus they take just 5 minutes to prepare if you start with leftover or deli chicken.
This recipe is tasty as is, but if tarragon is not your jam, try this same chicken salad sandwich concept with rosemary or thyme. And for an even better-for-you salad dressing, trade plain Greek yogurt for the mayo.
Get the Easy Tarragon Lemon Chicken Salad Sandwiches recipe and nutrition info at Dinner Then Dessert.
5. Healthy Grilled Adobo Chicken Burgers
- Calories: 420
If you ask us, ground chicken patties stuffed inside a bun definitely still count in the healthy chicken sandwich category. Spiced up to taste like both the Filipino and Mexican renditions of adobo, these chicken burgers and their punchy sauce pack way more kick than plain beef and ketchup.
Soy (or tamari for a gluten-free option), red pepper, cumin, oregano and garlic add complexity to these healthy chicken burgers.
Get the Healthy Grilled Adobo Chicken Burgers recipe and nutrition info at Cotter Crunch.