Mix in fruits, veggies, and more
Veggies, nuts, and seeds not only add flavor, crunch, and color to chicken salad, but they’re also a big part of what makes the dish nutritious.
Nuts, seeds, and fruits do add calories, but they also provide extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals that make them a healthy addition when eaten in moderate portions.
Plus, this is where you can get creative with your chicken salad recipe.
The usual grapes, celery, apples, and pecans are a great starting point, but you might also want to explore other ingredients like fennel, radishes, chickpeas, cucumber, shredded cabbage, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and more.
Chicken salad is high in protein
Protein is one of the primary nutrients your body needs to build and maintain bone, muscle, cartilage, and more (7).
Most adults need to eat 45–65 grams of protein each day, though factors like age, sex, physical activity, and general health status could further increase or decrease those requirements (8).
Thus, just one portion of chicken salad could account for nearly one-third of your entire protein requirements for the day.
In addition to being essential for bone health and muscle strength, protein:
Chicken salad also contains many beneficial micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
One 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of roasted chicken is a particularly good source of (15):
Therefore, eating chicken salad could help you meet the daily recommendations for many nutrients.
Chicken salad often starts out with a healthy foundation of lean protein, crunchy vegetables, and nutrient-dense fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Eating a large portion of chicken salad at one time or adding a lot of higher-calorie ingredients may reduce some of the health benefits of the dish.
Mayonnaise is often the chosen binder for chicken salad. Though it provides a creamy, rich texture, it may also add a significant number of calories.
Though many of the nuts and dried fruits added to chicken salad are plenty nutritious — rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals — they also tend to be higher in calories than other fruits and vegetables.
In addition to the ingredients in the chicken salad itself, what you serve your chicken salad with will affect the calorie content of the dish.
Serving a chicken salad sandwich on a buttery croissant or another refined grain product, such as white bread, adds more calories without a lot of nutrition. Serving your chicken with nutrient-rich vegetables might be a better option.
Chicken salad recipes tend to contain a few foods in particular — cooked chicken, fresh vegetables, and the dairy- or egg-based binders that hold the salad together — that may cause food poisoning if contaminated with certain types of bacteria (16).
In fact, there have been multiple instances in which chicken salad in particular has been deemed the culprit in outbreaks of Listeria and Salmonella (17, 18, 19, 20).
Listeria and Salmonella infections from contaminated foods can cause severe illness, hospitalization, and even death in some cases for high-risk individuals (21, 22).
Thus, it’s important to use caution when preparing, storing, and serving chicken salad.
Ready-to-eat prepared salads should always be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or below and eaten within 3–4 days of opening (23, 24).
Also, to prevent food poisoning, chicken salad should not be kept outside of refrigeration temperatures for longer than 2 hours, or for longer than 1 hour if the temperature outside is 90°F (32°C) or higher — which might be the case at a picnic or potluck event.
Chicken salad is a food that has both pros and cons when it comes to weight loss.
Chicken salad might help some people lose weight, while it could hinder the process for others.
The protein content of chicken salad may help keep you feeling full longer. It might also assist in regulating your appetite and food cravings — each of which can help with weight loss (9, 10, 13, 14).
Some studies have even found that high protein diets are particularly helpful for losing weight and maintaining weight loss long-term (25, 26, 27).
Still, even though chicken salad is high in protein, one dish alone isn’t super impactful for weight loss.
Instead, eating an overall healthy diet that is within your daily calorie needs and is rich in lean protein, healthy fats, fiber, and nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables is best for weight loss. In moderation, chicken salad easily fits into a diet like this.
Chicken salad can be part of a filling meal that contains lean protein, fiber, and many vitamins and minerals.
Here are some suggestions for making sure the positive health effects of your chicken salad outweigh the downsides.
Chicken and other types of poultry, like turkey, are naturally lean, or lower in fat.
Using chicken that has been poached, broiled, baked, grilled, microwaved, or steamed helps keep calories lower since these cooking methods typically do not require much added fat.
On the other hand, fried, breaded, canned, and processed types of chicken tend to be higher in fat, salt, and calories per serving.
If you’re looking for a chicken salad with fewer calories, you may want to avoid binders like mayonnaise.
Instead, you could try using Greek yogurt, avocado, sour cream, Dijon mustard, or a vinaigrette dressing.
Though some of these alternatives also contain fat, they tend to be lower in calories and saturated fat than mayo.
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