Dr. Thomas Dwan - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Thomas Dwan

Are Chicken Cutlets Bad For You?



Short answer

Chicken cutlets can be a healthy protein source, offering essential nutrients like B vitamins, phosphorus, and selenium. Skinless and grilled options are lower in fat and calories, making them suitable for various diets. However, breading and frying increase calories, fats, and sodium, which could pose health risks if consumed excessively. Moderation, especially when it comes to breaded and fried cutlets, is key to incorporating them healthily into your diet.



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Long answer

Nutritional Content of Chicken Cutlets

When assessing the health implications of chicken cutlets, it is crucial to examine their nutritional content. Chicken, known for being a rich source of protein, also provides a range of essential nutrients vital for maintaining good health. Here, we will delve into what constitutes a typical serving of chicken cutlets and its associated nutritional benefits and considerations.

1. Macronutrient Composition:

  • Protein: Chicken is primarily recognized for its high protein content. A 4-ounce serving of cooked chicken cutlet can provide approximately 35 grams of protein, which is essential for muscle repair, immune function, and the production of enzymes and hormones.
  • Fat: The fat content can vary depending on whether the skin is left on or removed. Skinless chicken cutlets are lower in fat, providing around 4 grams per serving, whereas skin-on cutlets contain more. It is worth noting that chicken is relatively low in saturated fat, with the majority being heart-healthier unsaturated fats.
  • Carbohydrates: Chicken cutlets are naturally carb-free, making them suitable for low-carb and ketogenic diets.

2. Vitamins and Minerals:

  • B Vitamins: Particularly rich in niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin B6, chicken cutlets support energy metabolism and brain health.
  • Phosphorus: This mineral is crucial for maintaining strong bones and teeth, and chicken is an excellent source of it.
  • Selenium: An important antioxidant, selenium in chicken helps protect cells from damage and supports immune function.
  • Iron: While not as high in iron as red meat, chicken still contributes to the daily requirement, helping to prevent anemia.
  • Zinc: Essential for immune function and wound healing, chicken cutlets are a good source of zinc.

3. Caloric Content:

Calorically, chicken cutlets are relatively low in energy density, especially when skinless and trimmed of visible fat. For example, a skinless, boneless chicken cutlet can contain around 165 calories per 4-ounce serving. Including the skin increases the caloric content due to higher fat levels.

4. Dietary Considerations:

  • Sodium: Naturally, chicken contains moderate amounts of sodium, but it can be considerably higher when prepared with brines or seasonings.
  • Cholesterol: Chicken cutlets contain some dietary cholesterol, but recent studies suggest the impact of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels is less than previously thought.
  • Additives: Processed or pre-packaged chicken cutlets may contain added preservatives or flavor enhancers, which can affect their nutritional profile.

Each component of the chicken cutlets' nutrition plays a pivotal role in dictating their place within a balanced diet. One must consider the preparation method, such as grilling, baking, or frying, as it greatly affects the overall healthfulness of the meal. It's recommended to employ cooking methods that require less added fat, avoiding breaded or deep-fried varieties which can significantly increase calorie and fat content.

For those tracking their nutrient intake, here's a brief overview of the nutritional content of a skinless, boneless chicken cutlet (approximately 4 ounces, cooked):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 165
Protein 35 g
Total Fat 4 g
Saturated Fat 1 g
Cholesterol 85 mg
Sodium 74 mg
Carbohydrates 0 g
Fiber 0 g
Sugar 0 g
Niacin (Vitamin B3) 14.4 mg
Vitamin B6 0.6 mg
Phosphorus 259 mg
Zinc 1.3 mg
Selenium 39.2 µg

This table provides a concise nutritional snapshot but bear in mind individual brand and preparation variations can alter these values. Additionally, sourcing from free-range, organic chicken can impact nutritional content, particularly in terms of fatty acid profiles, with higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fats.

Understanding this nutritional content is just a piece of the puzzle. It is essential to consider this information in the context of overall dietary patterns and personal health goals, such as maintaining weight, building muscle, or managing dietary restrictions.

Breading and Frying: Added Calories and Fats

When analyzing the nutritional profile of chicken cutlets, a significant factor to consider is the method of preparation -- specifically, breading and frying. This popular preparation can turn a lean source of protein into a high-calorie dish with a considerably higher fat content.

Breading: The breading process usually involves coating chicken in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs can add a significant amount of carbohydrates to the chicken, which may affect blood sugar levels. Additionally, the type of breadcrumbs used can make a difference; for instance, whole wheat breadcrumbs offer more fiber and nutrients compared to refined white breadcrumbs, potentially mitigating the blood sugar impact.

Deep Frying: During frying, chicken cutlets absorb cooking oil, which increases their overall fat and calorie content. The type of oil used is crucial as it affects the types of fats absorbed. Oils that are high in saturated and trans fats, such as palm oil or partially hydrogenated oils, can negatively impact cardiovascular health when consumed in excess.

Let's look at the nutritional impact in numbers:

Cooking Method Calories (per serving) Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g)
Baked Chicken Cutlet (no breading) 165 3.57 0.96
Breaded and Fried Chicken Cutlet 330 15.00 3.00

As shown, frying chicken cutlets can effectively double the calorie intake and more than quadruple the fat content, with a significant portion being possibly unhealthy fats, depending on the cooking oil used.

Experts recommend moderation when consuming fried foods. According to a study published in The BMJ, frequent consumption of fried foods is associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular events. The American Heart Association also advises cooking methods such as baking, broiling, or grilling over frying to promote heart health.

An alternative method of "frying" is to use an air fryer which requires significantly less oil. This can lower the calorie and fat content and may be a healthier choice for individuals watching their calorie or fat intake for weight management or heart health.

In conclusion, while breading and frying can enhance the taste and texture of chicken cutlets, they introduce added calories and fats that can impact an individual's nutritional intake and overall health. Choosing alternative cooking methods and being mindful of the type of breadcrumbs and oil used can help maintain the nutritional integrity of chicken as a lean protein source.

Sodium Content in Breaded Chicken Cutlets

Sodium is an essential mineral that our bodies need to function properly – it helps with nerve transmission, muscle function, and regulating our body's fluid balance. However, as with many things, too much sodium can lead to health problems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and stroke. When it comes to breaded chicken cutlets, sodium levels can be a significant concern.

Breading and seasoning, which are intrinsic to chicken cutlets, often contain high amounts of sodium. This is not just from table salt (sodium chloride) but can also come from other sodium-containing compounds used in food processing such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), and various preservatives.

Factors Affecting Sodium Content:

  • Preparation Method: Homemade chicken cutlets can have less sodium if you control the amount of salt and choose low-sodium breading. Meanwhile, pre-packaged or restaurant-prepared cutlets tend to have higher sodium content to enhance flavor and shelf-life.
  • Brands: Different brands have varying levels of sodium in their breaded chicken cutlets. If you purchase pre-made cutlets, it's important to read the nutrition labels carefully.
  • Portion Size: The amount of breaded chicken cutlet you consume directly impacts your sodium intake. A larger serving size will naturally increase sodium consumption.

Nutritional Information:

On average, a typical breaded chicken cutlet could contain anywhere from 400 to 700 mg of sodium per serving. To put this into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.

Let's break this down with a hypothetical nutritional table for pre-packaged breaded chicken cutlets:

Serving Size Total Sodium (mg)
1 Cutlet (approx. 100g) 500
2 Cutlets (approx. 200g) 1000

Research indicates that consuming high-sodium foods can contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that higher intake of sodium could be associated with significant impacts on heart health.

We can apply some practical steps to reduce our sodium intake when it comes to breaded chicken cutlets. For instance, making them at home gives you the control to limit added sodium by using less salt or substituting with herbs and spices for flavor. If you're purchasing pre-made options, look for 'low sodium' or 'no salt added' labels, and be attentive to serving sizes.

Always remember to check with a healthcare provider or dietitian before making significant changes to your dietary sodium intake, especially if you have existing health conditions that require sodium management.

Cooking Methods: The Health Impact of Grilling vs. Frying

How we prepare chicken cutlets can significantly impact their nutritional value and potential health effects. Two popular cooking methods are grilling and frying, each with its distinct implications for health.

Grilling Chicken Cutlets:

  • Reduces Fat Content: Grilling allows fat to drip off the cutlets, reducing the overall fat content of the meal.
  • Potential Formation of Harmful Compounds: However, grilling at high temperatures can lead to the creation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heterocyclic amines (HCAs). PAHs form when fat and juices from the chicken cutlets drip onto the fire, causing flames. These flames contain PAHs that can then adhere to the surface of the chicken. HCAs are formed during the cooking of muscles from meat, including chicken, at high temperatures. These compounds have been linked to an increased risk of cancer as per research reported by the National Cancer Institute.
  • May Retain More Nutrients: Compared to frying, grilling can preserve more of certain vitamins like B vitamins that are important for energy metabolism and overall health.
  • Lower Caloric Density: A grilled chicken cutlet is often seen as a healthier option due to its lower caloric content, as it doesn't require additional fats or oils to cook.

Frying Chicken Cutlets:

  • Increased Fat and Calorie Content: Frying chicken cutlets, particularly deep-frying, significantly increases the fat and calorie content as the chicken absorbs the cooking oil.
  • Potential Risk for Heart Disease: Frequently consuming fried foods has been linked to various health risks, including heart disease, mainly if the oil used for frying is high in saturated or trans fats. A study published in the journal Heart in 2012 observed that regular consumption of fried foods was associated with an increased risk of coronary artery disease.
  • Formation of Acrylamide: Frying starchy foods like breaded chicken cutlets can also produce acrylamide, a chemical that forms in some foods during high-temperature cooking processes, as reported by the FDA. Acrylamide has raised health concerns as it is classified as a probable human carcinogen.
  • Potential for Lower Nutrient Retention: The high temperatures and prolonged cooking times often involved in frying can lead to a depletion of heat-sensitive vitamins and antioxidants in chicken.

When considering the health impact of grilling versus frying chicken cutlets, it becomes apparent that both methods have their pros and cons. Choosing leaner cooking methods more often, such as grilling, and taking preventive measures like marinating the chicken or grilling at lower temperatures to reduce the formation of PAHs and HCAs, can be a healthier choice. On the contrast, enjoying fried chicken cutlets in moderation, ideally cooked with healthier oils and correct temperatures, can mitigate some of the negative health impacts associated with the frying method.

Ultimately, it’s the frequency and the cooking methods combined with the overall dietary pattern that determine the healthfulness of including chicken cutlets in one’s diet. Balance and moderation remain key principles for a healthy diet.

Portion Control and Frequency of Consumption

When considering whether chicken cutlets are bad for you, understanding portion control and the frequency of consumption is crucial. Chicken, known for its high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals, can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet when consumed in appropriate portions. However, consuming large quantities or eating chicken cutlets too frequently, especially if they're breaded and fried, can lead to potential health issues.

Recommended Portion Size

The recommended serving size for meat products, including chicken cutlets, as per the USDA's dietary guidelines, is approximately 3 to 4 ounces for adults. This portion size is roughly the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. Keeping to this serving size can help maintain a balanced diet and prevent overconsumption of calories and fats. Educating yourself on proper portion sizes can contribute significantly to a healthy eating pattern.

Caloric Concerns

A typical breaded chicken cutlet can contain significantly more calories than its grilled or baked counterpart due to the addition of breading and oil from frying. A single medium-sized fried chicken cutlet can contain upwards of 300 calories, and that number only increases with larger portions. Monitoring your intake is important if you're watching your caloric balance for weight management or other health concerns.

Fat Content and Frequency

Breaded and fried chicken cutlets contain not just higher calories but also increased fat content, including potentially harmful trans and saturated fats depending on the cooking method and ingredients used. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the intake of saturated fats to less than 5-6% of total daily calories. Considering this, it's advisable to limit the frequency of consuming fried chicken cutlets to prevent an excessive intake of unhealthy fats, which are detrimental to cardiovascular health.

Balancing Meals

Including chicken cutlets in a balanced meal can mitigate some health concerns. Accompanying your cutlets with a generous serving of vegetables and whole grains can not only provide essential fiber and nutrients but also help with satiety, reducing the likelihood of overeating. Ideally, the chicken cutlet should not be the focal point of the meal, but part of a larger, nutrient-dense plate.

Cooking Alternatives

If chicken cutlets are a preferred food, consider healthier cooking alternatives such as baking, grilling, or air frying to reduce the amount of added fat. Opting for whole grain or alternative flour for breading and using egg whites or buttermilk as a binder can also decrease the calorie count and improve the nutritional profile of your chicken cutlets.


When it comes to eating chicken cutlets, portion control and frequency of consumption are key factors to consider. Integrating these principles with a comprehensive understanding of your individual health goals will guide you in making informed decisions about including chicken cutlets in your diet.

Healthier Alternatives to Traditional Chicken Cutlets

For those who enjoy chicken cutlets but are looking to make healthier choices, there is an assortment of alternatives that can provide a nutritious twist on the traditional recipe. These options not only help in reducing fat and calorie intake but also include additional nutrients beneficial to one's overall diet. Here are some healthier alternatives to consider:

  • Baked Chicken Cutlets: Instead of frying, try baking your chicken cutlets. Baking reduces the amount of oil needed, cutting down on excess fats. For added texture, coat with almond flour or whole-wheat breadcrumbs.
  • Air-Fryer Chicken Cutlets: An air fryer can create a crispy exterior similar to frying but with significantly less oil. Air-frying is a healthier cooking method that can contribute to a reduced calorie intake.
  • Grilled Chicken Cutlets: Grilling imbues the meat with a smoky flavor while keeping fat content low. Marinade with herbs and spices instead of relying on breading for flavor.
  • Whole Grain Coating: Use crushed whole-grain flakes or breadcrumbs for a fiber-rich alternative to white flour or breadcrumbs. This can improve digestion and support a healthy gut.
  • Leaner Meat Options: Opt for skinless, boneless chicken breasts that are inherently lower in fat. Ensure that any excess fat is trimmed away before preparation.
  • Plant-Based 'Chicken' Cutlets: For vegetarians or those looking to cut down on meat consumption, there are numerous plant-based alternatives that mimic the taste and texture of chicken but with a different nutritional profile.
  • Nut-Based Crusts: Crushed nuts like almonds or pistachios can offer a nutrient-packed, crunchy coating rich in healthy fats and proteins.

When incorporating these alternatives into your diet, remember the importance of balance and moderation. Additionally, pay attention to the other ingredients in your meal, such as sauces and sides, to ensure that the entire dish remains a healthier choice.

Studies suggest that methods of cooking like baking and grilling can preserve more nutrients in chicken, such as B vitamins, which are essential for energy metabolism (Jones et al., 2014). Moreover, opting for whole grains can aid in maintaining a lower glycemic index for meals (Reynolds et al., 2019), contributing to better blood sugar control. With mindful substitutions, you can enjoy chicken cutlets in a way that supports your health without sacrificing flavor.

Alternative Benefits
Baked Chicken Cutlets Lower in fat, retains moisture without excess oil
Air-Fryer Chicken Cutlets Minimal oil usage, lower calories, and a crispy texture
Grilled Chicken Cutlets Low-fat content, enriched with smoky flavors
Whole Grain Coating Higher fiber content, supports digestive health
Leaner Meat Options Reduced fat intake, focus on lean proteins
Plant-Based 'Chicken' Cutlets Vegan-friendly, diverse nutrient composition
Nut-Based Crusts Increase in healthy fats and protein, crunchy texture

Remember that individual nutritional needs vary, and it's important to consider personal health goals and dietary restrictions when choosing an alternative. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a dietitian can help determine the best options for your unique situation.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, chicken cutlets are an excellent source of high-quality protein, providing about 35 grams per 4-ounce serving, which is beneficial for muscle repair and growth. They are a popular choice among athletes and those looking to increase muscle mass due to their high protein and low carbohydrate content.

While chicken cutlets do contain some dietary cholesterol, the effect of dietary cholesterol on blood cholesterol levels is less significant than once thought. However, individuals with high cholesterol should be mindful of preparation methods and consume skinless, non-breaded cutlets cooked using healthier methods like grilling or baking, instead of frying, to limit saturated fat intake.

Chicken cutlets can be a valuable addition to a weight loss diet due to their high protein content and low energy density, especially when skinless and not breaded or fried. Protein promotes satiety, which can help with portion control and reducing overall calorie intake. Opt for grilled or baked cutlets over fried to keep the calorie count down.

The cooking method significantly impacts the nutritional profile of chicken cutlets. Grilling and baking maintain more of the meat's inherent nutrients while minimizing additional fat. Frying, especially deep-frying, introduces more fat and calories, potentially diminishing the cutlets' nutritional value. Cooking methods like air frying offer a healthier alternative by reducing fat and calorie content.

Ask a question about Chicken Cutlets and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased calorie and fat intake
  • higher risk of exposure to unhealthy fats
  • sodium intake spikes
  • potential blood sugar impact
  • formation of potentially harmful compounds (pahs, hcas, acrylamide)

Possible long-term side effects

  • risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • increased cancer risk
  • weight gain
  • hypertension
  • heart disease
  • stroke

Ingredients to be aware of

  • sodium
  • saturated fats
  • cholesterol
  • trans fats
  • additives and preservatives
  • breading carbohydrates


  • high protein content
  • rich in b vitamins, phosphorus, selenium, iron, and zinc
  • low in carbohydrates
  • low caloric density (when skinless)
  • can retain more nutrients through baking/grilling

Healthier alternatives

  • baked chicken cutlets
  • air-fryer chicken cutlets
  • grilled chicken cutlets
  • whole grain coating
  • leaner meat options
  • plant-based 'chicken' cutlets
  • nut-based crusts

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Beyond Chicken Tenders

  • Plant-Based Protein
  • Breaded Delight
  • Convenient 8oz Bag
  • Meal Prep Friendly
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Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-19-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 03-19-2024

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