Chow Line: Count up fat, calories for chicken with skin (for 2/28/10)

February 19, 2010

I was at a friend's for dinner and she served chicken breast – with the skin on. It was tender and delicious, but I've always had skinless chicken breast because I thought the skin contained a lot of fat and calories. Is there that much of a difference?

You're right – the skin on poultry does add to the fat and calories you consume. Whether it's "a lot" depends on your perspective and if you can make up for the extra intake by trimming other elements of your diet.

A quick look at figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database makes it easy to compare roasted chicken breast with and without the skin.

First, without skin: A 3-ounce chicken breast has 142 calories, 3 grams of total fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat. For the same size breast with skin, you'll get about 3.5 ounces of chicken -- the skin weighs about a half-ounce -- and you'll consume 193 calories, 8 grams of total fat, and 2 grams of saturated fat. That's a 36 percent increase in calories, a 166 percent increase in total fat, and a 100 percent increase in saturated fat.

While those percentages pack a wallop, the actual numbers we're talking about are an extra 51 calories, 5 grams of total fat, and 1 gram of saturated fat. Looking at the actual numbers, you might easily find ways to reduce fat and calorie intake from other foods to make up the difference.

But even those relatively small numbers can add up. Let's say you eat chicken breast once a week. If you eat it with skin, you'll be adding about 2,600 calories to your intake over the course of a year. That alone could add about a pound to your body weight every year if you don't have any corresponding increase in activity or decrease calorie intake in some other way. Plus, you'll be increasing up your intake of total fat, which should be kept below 30 percent of your total calorie intake each day, and of saturated fat, which should be kept below 10 percent of your daily calories.

You can try two ideas to get that tender, juicy meat without the extra fat and calories: First, cook the chicken with the skin on, but remove the skin before eating. The skin will help keep the chicken breast from drying out during cooking. Second, no matter which kind of chicken breast you choose, do not overcook it. Chicken breast is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Cooking times will vary, so always use a meat thermometer (stick it in the thickest part of the meat) to test for doneness. When done, let it sit for a few minutes to let the juices settle before cutting into the meat -- then, enjoy.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or filipic.3@cfaes.osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Julie Shertzer, registered dietitian and program specialist for Ohio State University Extension in the Department of Human Nutrition, in the College of Education and Human Ecology.

Author(s): 
Martha Filipic
Source(s): 
Julie Shertzer