If you’ve ever wanted a fast food chicken sandwich, you may have headed to Popeyes. To say their specialty is chicken is an understatement! This Louisiana-based chain is known for its perfectly battered chicken breast sandwiches, spicy wings, and rich side dishes. I’m a nutritionist and even I think the Popeyes spicy chicken sandwich is one of the best I’ve ever had.
Still, as delicious as Popeyes food can be, the chain doesn’t offer a wealth of healthy options. If you’re stopping at Popeyes, you might want to scope out the menu ahead of time to see how their food fits your dietary goals. Or check out my best and worst picks on the Popeyes menu for what to order below! Read on, and for more, don’t miss 8 Quickest and Healthiest Food Chicken Sandwiches, According to RD.
The 5 Healthiest Popeyes Menu Items
Best For: Regular Red Beans and Rice
Against the order: 250 calories, 16 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (6 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 8 g protein
Popeyes doesn’t offer much for vegetarians, but if you don’t eat meat – or even if you do – check out their red beans and rice side dish. It is one of the only menu items that has a high amount of fiber (6 grams per regular side). You’ll also get 8 grams of plant-based protein and just 250 calories from this famous southern dish.
Favorite: Chicken Wings
Against the order: 210 calories, 14 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 610 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 13 g protein
Often, when you are eating in restaurants, it is best to keep it simple. That’s the case with Popeyes chicken wings, which only have 210 calories each (and that’s if you choose them clean). You’ll also get a whopping 13 grams of protein per wing. Then again, note that these chicken “arms” are pretty high in sodium with 610 milligrams each.
Favorite: Popcorn Shrimp
Against the order: 390 calories, 25 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 1,390 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein
Choose the Popeyes shrimp entrée to suit your health. (At least, better than most Popeyes options.) Without the sides of sauce, crackers, and mashed potatoes that come in the 1/4-pound combo, a basket of popcorn shrimp provides a modest 390 calories. Shrimp contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s smart to include them in your diet from time to time.
Favorite: Chicken legs
Against the order: 160 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein
Although Popeyes chicken legs generally come in a high-calorie combo meal, you can ask to order them individually. In doing so, you’ll shave off hundreds of calories and milligrams of sodium. Each pounded leg comes in at just 160 calories and 5 grams of carbs. Build your own combo meal healthier by pairing a few legs with better-for-you sides like coleslaw or red beans and rice.
Best for: Unsweetened Iced Tea
Against the order: 0 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein
Leave out the sugar from classic sweet tea and enjoy freshly brewed iced tea at Popeyes. Their unsweetened iced version washes down a spicy, fried meal with zero sugar and zero carbs. Since tea is known for its high antioxidant content, it’s also a better choice than soda, hands down.
The 5 Unhealthiest Popeyes Menu Items
Worst: Spicy chicken sandwich
Against the order: 700 calories, 42 g fat (14 g saturated fat), 1,634 mg sodium, 50 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 28 g protein
Again, I personally love Popeyes’ Spicy Chicken Sandwich, so it pains me to say that it’s one of the least healthy options on the chain’s menu. Besides its 700 calories, this fiery chicken entrée packs 14 grams of saturated fat, more than 100% of the 13 grams per day recommended by the American Heart Association. If you choose this one, treat it once in a while – and eat it mindfully to enjoy it!
Worst: Homestyle Big Mac & Cheese
Against the order: 850 calories, 33 g fat (36 g saturated fat), 1,540 mg sodium, 48 g carbs (1 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 33 g protein
It’s just a side dish, what could be so bad? Well, when you order the large house style mac and cheese, you may find more than you bargained for in terms of calories, saturated fat, sodium and carbs. While this noodle dish has a respectable 33 grams of protein, the rest of its nutritional value leaves a lot to be desired.
Worst: Classic Chicken Bacon and Cheese Sandwich
Against the order: 830 calories, 53 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 1,875 mg sodium, 51 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 36 g protein
Served between buttery brioche buns and bacon, cheese, and mayo, it’s no surprise that this fried chicken sandwich is far from healthy. It is one of the highest sodium, highest calorie items on the Popeyes menu.
Worst: Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes
Against the order: 580 calories, 36 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 520 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (1 g fiber, 41 g sugar), 7 g protein
No one expects a cup of Oreo cheesecake to be a great health option, but this epic dessert at Popeyes is even more calorie-laden than you might expect. Be sure to share this one with a friend (or three) to offset its 580 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 19 grams of saturated fat.
Worst: Chilled Mango lemonade
Against the order: 350 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 90g carbs (0 g fiber, 86 g sugar), 0 g protein
Step away from the lemonade! Popeyes Mango Lemonade is practically a meal, with 350 calories, 90 grams of carbohydrates, and 86 grams of sugar per serving. (For reference, that’s the equivalent of 21.5 teaspoons of sugar.) Sugar-sweetened beverages have been linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and more. And if ever a drink was considered sugar-sweetened, it’s this one.