Few things are more tempting than a whiff of rotisserie chicken at the supermarket. This grocery staple is an affordable and easy way to get dinner on the table, and can be eaten right off the bones or as part of various other recipes like soup or tacos.
While rotisserie chicken is a good source of protein and several vitamins and minerals, it can also be high in sodium and contributes to your daily saturated fat intake (especially if you opt for chicken wings or thighs).
Here are the nutritional benefits and risks to keep in mind before you start carving.
Rotisserie Chicken Nutrition Facts
One serving of rotisserie chicken is 3 ounces. Although various cuts of the chicken vary in nutrition (for instance, the breast meat contains fewer calories and fat than thigh meat), three ounces of rotisserie chicken generally contains:
- Calories: 155
- Total fat: 10.9 g
- Cholesterol: 50.2 mg
- Sodium: 518.8 mg
- Total carbs: 2.7 g
- Dietary fiber: 0 g
- Sugar: 1.8 g
- Protein: 11.8 g
Rotisserie Chicken Macros
- Total fat: Three ounces of rotisserie chicken has 10.9 grams of total fat, which includes 3.2 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat.
- Carbohydrates: Three ounces of rotisserie chicken contains 2.7 grams of carbs, which includes 1.8 grams of sugars and no fiber.
- Protein: Three ounces of rotisserie chicken has 11.8 grams of protein.
Vitamins, Minerals and Other Micronutrients
- Niacin (B3): 35% of your Daily Value (DV)
- Riboflavin (B2): 15% DV
- Pantothenic acid (B5): 15% DV
- Phosphorus: 15% DV
- Vitamin B6: 10% DV
- Potassium: 6% DV
- Zinc: 6% DV
- Vitamin B12: 4% DV
- Vitamin C: 4% DV
- Magnesium: 4% DV
- Three ounces of rotisserie chicken is not a good source of iron (2% DV).
Health Benefits of Rotisserie Chicken
Rotisserie chicken is a healthy source of protein that provides a nutritious alternative to red or processed meats. It offers B vitamins, and can contribute to healthy bones, as well as minerals like phosphorus, potassium and magnesium.
1. It’s a Convenient Source of Protein
Rotisserie chicken is typically a budget-friendly, easy way to add protein to the dinner table. A 3-ounce serving provides 11.8 grams of protein, which is slow-digesting and helps to keep you full for longer, per Harvard Health Publishing.
"Rotisserie chicken is an excellent source of lean protein and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol," says Rebecca Elbaum Jaspan, RD, clinical administrative dietitian at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
While both the thigh meat and breast meat are considered good sources of lean protein, dark chicken meat provides about three times the amount of fat as chicken breast, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
However, poultry (without skin) is still often recommended as a better, lower-fat option than red meat.
You can make your rotisserie chicken leaner by opting for a skinless variety or removing the skin before eating.
Healthy adults typically need to get 10 to 35 percent of their total calories from protein, which equates to about 100 grams of protein (20 percent of total calories) in a 2,000-calorie diet, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Protein makes up every cell in the human body, helping repair cells and make new ones.
2. It Provides Healthy B Vitamins
A serving of rotisserie chicken provides a myriad of B vitamins, including vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6 and B12. B vitamins form red blood cells, and not consuming enough of them can cause health issues like anemia, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
They also affect a number of other processes: "Vitamin B12 is important for cognition, while niacin (vitamin B3) is important for energy production," Jaspan says.
In fact, three ounces of rotisserie chicken offers 35 percent of the daily value of niacin. This B vitamin also keeps your nervous system, digestive system and skin healthy, per the Mayo Clinic.
You'll also get 15 percent of the DV of riboflavin (B2) in a serving of rotisserie chicken. This vitamin is an essential building block of two major coenzymes that are integral for energy production, cellular function and growth, and the metabolism of fats and drugs. It helps to maintain healthy levels of homocysteine, an amino acid found in the blood, per the National Institutes of Health.
3. It Can Contribute to Healthy Bones
The protein, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium in rotisserie chicken can help support a strong skeletal system.
Bone mineral density is positively associated with dietary protein intakes, and lower hip fracture risk is associated with higher dietary protein intakes when calcium intakes are adequate, per a May 2018 review in the journal Osteoporosis International.
Meanwhile, magnesium is a mineral that plays essential structural roles in the body. In fact, 50 to 60 percent of the body's magnesium is found in the bones, per the Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. Magnesium deficiency could impair bone mineralization and increase the risk of osteoporosis — and low dietary intakes of magnesium are common in the United States.
The potassium in rotisserie chicken may also benefit bone health, and is thought to mitigate the negative effect of excessively acidic diets (like the Western diet) on the skeleton.
Phosphorus is yet another micronutrient present in rotisserie chicken that's important to bone health, per Oregon State University.
Rotisserie Chicken Health Risks
One serving of rotisserie chicken packs 518.8 milligrams of sodium, or 35 percent of the preferred daily limit for adults.
The limit for sodium is no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, with an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams daily for most adults (especially those with high blood pressure), per the American Heart Association (AHA).
"Depending on how the rotisserie chicken is seasoned, it may be very high in sodium," Jaspan says. "Some chickens are also injected with a saline solution in order to brine the meat and make it juicy."
Too much sodium can elevate blood pressure, and most Americans are over-consuming it, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). High blood pressure is a major risk for heart disease and stroke.
If rotisserie chicken is part of a dish, it may lend enough flavor that you don't need to add additional salt. Remember to stick to a 3-ounce serving — about the size of a deck of cards — so you don't inadvertently eat extra sodium.
When you have rotisserie chicken at a meal, you may need to limit the amount of sodium you have throughout the rest of the day. Keep a close eye on packaged, processed foods, which are the biggest source of sodium in American diets, per the AHA.
2. Saturated Fat
Although chicken has less saturated fat than most red meat, the darker meat on chicken — such as the thighs — is higher in saturated fat than the breast meat.
For instance, a 3-ounce serving of skinless chicken breast provides just 1 gram of saturated fat, while the same amount of dark chicken meat without skin provides 3 grams of saturated fat, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Too much saturated fat in your diet can cause a build-up of LDL (bad) cholesterol in your arteries, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
This increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Because fat also contains more than double the calories per gram than carbohydrates and protein, it can add extra calories to your diet and cause weight gain.
Allergy to chicken has been reported, mostly in those who are also allergic to eggs. Individuals with this syndrome react to a substance in egg yolk and chicken serum albumin, also known as alpha-livetin, per the NY Allergy & Sinus Centers.
"Chicken allergies are not common, but they can cause an itchy and runny nose, difficulty breathing, vomiting or diarrhea," Jaspan says.
In rare cases, chicken allergy can also cause anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction. It's important to speak to an allergist if you think you have a food allergy. You may need to have epinephrine available at all times in case of anaphylaxis.
4. Drug Interactions
There are currently no known drug interactions with chicken. Be sure to discuss any medication and food interactions with your health professional.
Rotisserie Chicken Recipes
Rotisserie Chicken Preparation and Helpful Tips
Because you can pick it up ready-to-eat from the supermarket, rotisserie chicken takes very little prep time. Follow these tips to best enjoy it and keep leftovers fresh.
Use it as a time-saver: It can be difficult to fit healthy sources of protein into your diet when your schedule is tight, but rotisserie chicken helps you quickly prepare a healthy meal when paired with other nutritious ingredients.
"I love using rotisserie chicken for easy chicken salads, tacos, quesadillas and soups," Jaspan says. "It's an excellent time saver on busy weeknights."
Store it properly: Cooked poultry leftovers can last three to four days in the refrigerator at 35 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, per the University of Illinois Extension. You can also freeze leftovers for four to six months at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
Alternatives to Rotisserie Chicken
There are several ways to meet your daily protein needs, and many alternatives to rotisserie chicken.
"Any lean protein is a great substitute," Jaspan says.
"Turkey or fish are good animal options, and beans and lentils are good plant-based alternatives. The more variety of foods we eat, the more variety of nutrients we get, so it's always a good idea to vary your intake of different proteins."
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- Harvard Medical School: "Extra protein is a decent dietary choice, but don’t overdo it"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Breasts vs Thighs Which Is More Nutritious"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Protein in diet"
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- National Institutes of Health: "Riboflavin"
- Osteoporosis International: "Benefits and safety of dietary protein for bone health—an expert consensus paper endorsed by the European Society for Clinical and Economical Aspects of Osteopororosis, Osteoarthritis, and Musculoskeletal Diseases and by the International Osteoporosis Foundation"
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: "Bone Health In Depth"
- Mayo Clinic: "Bone health: Tips to keep your bones healthy"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Sodium"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Facts about saturated fats"
- NY Allergy & Sinus Centers: "Chicken Allergy"
- University of Illinois Extension: "Storing Meat in Your Refrigerator"
- University of Illinois Extension: "Refrigerator Storage"