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Diabetes Fast Food Guide: What to Order at KFC

7 Minute Read

Ever wonder how to survive the drive-thru with diabetes? In our ongoing series, a dietitian walks through the best things to order at top fast food chains. This week, we took a closer look at the menu at KFC.

When it comes to fast food, KFC is a go-to spot for fried chicken. Many have come to know that “It’s finger lickin' good,” as the slogan goes, thanks to Colonel Sanders’ signature bone-in fried chicken with 11 herbs and spices.

Deliciousness aside, making food choices at KFC may be challenging for those with certain health considerations. Thankfully, KFC has adapted its menu over the years, expanding offerings to include lower-fat options such as grilled chicken and adding an interactive nutrition calculator on its website so that customers can customize meals based on their individual preferences. The franchise restaurant chain also has a full nutrition guide that provides comprehensive dietary information, including the carbohydrate, sugar, and fiber contents of every menu item.

Matthew Jaime RD

Matthew Jaime, a San Diego-based registered dietitian and nutrition support clinician who also lives with type 1 diabetes, reviewed KFC’s nutrition guide and found a number of menu options that are lower in carbohydrates, calories, and sugar for easier blood sugar management.

It’s important to mention that fast food is notorious for high amounts of fat and sodium. Ordering and consuming smaller portions will help reduce your overall carbohydrate, fat, sodium, and caloric intake. As a point of reference, the American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes have no more than 2300 mg of sodium per day.

From grilled chicken to vegetable sides to drink offerings, these are the best diabetes-friendly menu options to order at KFC.

Top diabetes-friendly KFC menu items

Original Recipe Chicken Wing

If you skip the bucket or combos and order a la carte fried chicken at KFC, an original whole wing contains less than 5 grams of carbohydrates, less than 10 grams of fat, and under 500 milligrams of sodium.

“It’s a healthier choice than chicken breast, which has over 1000 milligrams of sodium,” Jaime said.

Original Recipe Chicken Wing: 130 calories, 8g fat, 3g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 10g protein, 380 mg sodium

KFC Fried Chicken DrumstickOriginal Recipe Chicken Drumstick

The runner-up to the chicken wing is KFC’s chicken drum, which is still lower in calories than its Original Recipe Chicken Breast (390 calories, 21 grams of fat) or its Original Recipe Chicken Thigh (280 calories and 19 grams of fat).

"With a nutritional profile almost identical to the whole chicken wing, the Chicken Drumstick at KFC has just one extra gram of carbohydrates, limited fat and sodium, and provides two more grams of protein, making it a comparably healthy choice,” Jaime pointed out.

Chicken Drum Stick: 130 calories, 8g fat, 4g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 0g sugars, 12g protein, 430mg sodium

Grilled Chicken Thigh

KFC’s Grilled Chicken Thigh contains relatively low amounts of sodium – less than 500 milligrams – and relatively high amounts of protein (over 15 grams). Jaime pointed out that due to the absence of fried breading, the menu item also contains zero grams of carbs, making it an ideal way to enjoy KFC without blood sugar spikes. “The Grilled Chicken Thighs are a great choice for health-conscious diners,” Jaime said.

Grilled Chicken Thigh: 150 calories, 9g fat, 0g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 0g sugars, 17g protein, 420 mg sodium

Spicy Crispy Chicken Drumstick

KFC Takeout Bag

“The Spicy Chicken Drumstick at KFC, with only 5 grams of carbohydrates and less than 10 grams of fat, is a lower-sodium option that I recommend,” Jaime said.

That being said, the registered dietitian advises against ordering other items from KFC’s Spicy Crispy Chicken menu such as the thigh or chicken breast.

“Both have excessively high levels of sodium and fat,” he noted.

Spicy Chicken Drumstick: 130 calories, 8g fat, 5g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 0g sugars, 9g protein, 420mg sodium

Vegetable-centric side dishes

Whole foods plant-based vegetable sides are another filling and blood sugar-friendly option at KFC.

“The Green Beans are a low-calorie and low-carbohydrate option that provides 3 grams of fiber. Corn on the Cob, although higher in carbohydrates at 17 grams, offers more protein and contains no sodium,” Jaime said, adding: “Both options are nutritionally beneficial.”

Green Beans: 25 calories, 0g fat, 5g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 1g sugars, 1g protein, 300 mg sodium

Corn on the Cob: 70 calories, 0.5g fat, 17g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 3g sugars, 2g protein, 0 mg sodium

Chicken Little Sandwich

KFC Chicken Little SandwichWith a soft bun filled with a crispy strip of chicken, thinly sliced pickles, and a swath of mayonnaise, KFC’s Chicken Little Sandwich Crispy Strip might not jump out as a healthy pick. It’s modestly portioned, however, which makes it a diabetes-friendly choice.

“The Chicken Little Sandwich at KFC is a healthier choice compared to other available sandwiches, as it contains significantly fewer calories, carbohydrates, fats, and less sodium,” Jaime said. Ask for it without the mayo, and you’ll save another 60 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 50 milligrams of sodium.

Chicken Little Sandwich: 300 calories, 15g fat, 27g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 3g sugars, 14g protein, 620 mg sodium

Chicken Little Sandwich without mayonnaise: 240 calories, 9g fat, 26g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 3g sugars, 14g protein, 570 mg sodium

Check back here soon for the next edition of our diabetes fast food guide, which will highlight healthful options at Taco Bell.

Also in this series:

Photo credits: KFC (food stills); Matthew Jaime (headshot); iStock (all other photos).