The tangy, sour and salty flavor balance in sweet and sour chicken makes it a popular menu choice in Chinese restaurants. Though it does have nutritional value, this dish has some drawbacks as well. Practice portion control in restaurants, or make this dish at home so you can control the ingredients.
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Traditionally, sweet and sour chicken consists of battered, deep-fried or pan-fried chunks of chicken tossed in a sauce made with vinegar, sugar, onions, bell peppers and pineapple and thickened with cornstarch. Some sauce recipes call for the use of ketchup or tomato puree. Sweet and sour chicken is commonly served with a side of white rice.
Sweet and sour chicken made with eight skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, one 8-ounce can of pineapple chunks, two green bell peppers, 1/4 cup of cornstarch, 3/4 cup of white sugar, 1/2 tsp. of salt, 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar, 2 1/4 cups of self-rising flour, 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil, 1 egg and 1 quart of vegetable oil for frying makes 8 servings, each of which contains 639 total calories and 166 fat calories, according to All Recipes. A 1/2 cup serving of rice will add 103 calories.
Chicken is high in protein, an essential major nutrient that makes up most of your cells. In fact, at 59 protein grams, the chicken in one serving of sweet and sour chicken contains almost all of the daily protein recommended by Merck's online medical resource. Chicken is also high in iron, calcium, niacin and vitamin B6. The pineapple, onions and bell peppers in sweet and sour chicken make it high in vitamins A and C, which are antioxidants; in potassium, which supports bone health; and insoluble fiber, which supports digestion.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that 30 percent or fewer of your total calories come from fat, which works out to about 66 grams. Seven percent or fewer of your calories should come from saturated fat, which totals about 15 g. Sweet and sour chicken contains 18.4 g of total fat, or a little less than 30 percent of the daily recommended amount, and 3 g of saturated fat, which is about 20 percent of the amount you should consume daily. Sweet and sour chicken contains 762 milligrams of sodium--more than half of the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association. Both saturated fat and excess sodium have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. In addition, this dish is high in sugar, an excess of which is stored as fat by your body.
Adding extra vegetables and exchanging white rice for brown rice will increase the amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals in this dish. Using skinless roasted white meat chicken rather than fried chicken will save you 20 calories and 1 g of fat.