MANY CONSUMERS consider chicken to be a good choice at fast food restaurants because it's traditionally lower in calories and fat than beef or other red meats.
But that's not always the case.
"Often, you'd be better off eating a hamburger," said Marion Franz, a registered dietitian, director of nutrition for the International Diabetic Center and author of "Fast Food Facts" (DCI Publishing, $6.95, 107p.), a guide to making nutrition-wise choices at fast food restaurants. She says one fried chicken sandwich at most fast food restaurants is equal in calories to two regular-sized hamburgers.
Franz says that breading and deep-frying chicken triples its calories for a total of between 500 to 700 calories and between 30 and 40 grams of fat.
A regular-sized hamburger with lettuce and tomatoes has only about 300 to 350 calories and between ten and 15 grams of fat.
Here are some fast-food, fat-cutting tips:
*When ordering chicken, hold the mayonnaise-based sauces. You can trim 90 calories and ten grams of fat off the Burger King's BK Broiler by ordering it without its ranch-style sauce.
Instead, use such fat-free toppings as tomatoes, lettuce, pickles or onions. If you must have a sauce, select mustard, barbecue or sweet-and-sour sauces, which have less fat than mayonnaise sauces. Keep extra calories down by using as little as possible to enhance the taste.
*If you have no choice other than fried chicken, choose regular coating rather than extra crispy and save as much as 86 calories per piece. Kentucky Fried Chicken's Extra Crispy has one to two teaspoons more fat per piece than its Original Recipe, according to Franz.
*Trim an extra 100 calories from your fried chicken by removing the batter-coated skin.
*Round off your chicken dinner with a wise choice of accompaniments. Take advantage of no-fat or low-fat extras, such as plain potatoes, whole grain rolls and fresh vegetable salads. But use salad dressings sparingly and choose reduced-calorie ones when available. At Kentucky Fried Chicken, you can trim 200 calories from your chicken dinner by ordering mashed potatoes and gravy instead of french fries.
*To help health-conscious consumers, some major fast-food chains have printed nutritional information on all food offered, including condiments. If you don't see it, ask for this information and use it to better plan your meals.
If you're eating at home tonight, try this simple chicken dish.
We served the chicken with some leftover rice. We reheated the rice in a skillet with two tablespoons of soy sauce (you may want to add more or less) and some chopped green and red pepper. One serving of cooked rice, about two-thirds of a cup, has 120 calories. That assumes no butter or margarine was used in making the rice. Soy sauce adds a lot of flavor with just 10 calories per tablespoon. However, soy sauce is high in sodium with nearly 900 milligrams per tablespoon.
4 ( 1/4 pound each) boneless and skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup commercial oil-free Italian dressing (we used Weight Watchers brand)
1/4 cup low-sugar orange marmalade
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Place chicken in a nine-inch square baking dish. Pour Italian dressing over chicken, turning to coat evenly. Cover and marinate in refrigerator at least three hours, turning occasionally. Drain and discard marinade, reserving chicken in dish.
Combine orange marmalade, ginger and pepper, stirring to blend, brush marmalade mixture evenly over chicken breast halves. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes or until chicken is done.
Makes four servings of one chicken breast half each. Each serving has 221 calories, 35 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fat, including 1 gram saturated fat, 504 milligrams sodium and 95 milligrams cholesterol
-- "Delicious Ways to Lower
Cholesterol" edited by Joan Erskine Denman;
Oxmoor House -- 1989.