Updated: Jul 8, 2021
"How much does it actually matter if I eat a chicken breast vs a thigh"? The answer may surprise you.
I was focused on eating lean proteins; and when it came to chicken, that meant boneless, skinless chicken breast ALWAYS! I believed that all other parts of chicken especially thighs and drumsticks were super high calorie and high fat, and even though I enjoyed the skin, I never bought anything other than boneless, skinless chicken breast.
I don’t exactly remember how long ago I decided to take a good look at chicken, but I certainly remember what I was eating. Indian take-out.
I was eating some sort of ridiculously good dish made with chicken thighs, and I thought "this just wouldn't be the same with chicken breast".
I started to wonder...
How much does it actually make a difference if I eat a chicken thigh instead of a chicken breast?
I looked it up on a few different sites, "Wow, really? Why didn’t I look at this sooner?"
There were 3 things I noticed instantly that blew my mind when comparing chicken breast to other parts of chicken including skin. (chicken details at the bottom)
1. A skinless chicken thigh was only 42 calories more than a chicken breast.
2. I could eat a drumstick with skin for only 53 calories more than a chicken breast.
3. Protein percentages were impressively close.
What all of this meant to me, was that the differences in calories and protein contents were marginal. Marginal enough that the chicken thigh door was no longer closed.
Now, if we want to get all nerdy, the research doesn't conclude whether the 3.5 oz includes the bones, I suspect it does, so yes you are likely getting less meat which of course changes things, but, the point is, if you want to enjoy a drumstick or a thigh GO AHEAD!
“But what about the macro percentages”?
If you’re looking at the macros and going, “yeah, but thighs are still bad”, you'd be correct that it's not the best ratio, however, if you've been eating lean most of the day, you likely have room for higher fat, and depending on your goals, higher fat might actually be a better choice!
I haven't bought chicken breast in quite some time, and when I buy thighs, I do trim the excess fat from them prior to cooking, but only the bits that are easy to access, I don't get obsessive about it.
I'm an advocate to eating the foods you enjoy reasonably in order to sustain long term results, and I'm also a fan of hitting macro targets in order to open up the freedom in your diet.
Check out the chicken comparison below and make your choice.
Chicken Comparison - ranking based on calories per 3.5 oz.
1. Boneless skinless chicken breast
Protein: 31g, 79%
Fat: 3.6g, 21%
2. Drumstick skinless
Protein: 27g, 68%
Fat: 5.7g, 32%
3. Bone in, with skin chicken breast
Protein: 30g, 63%
Fat: 7.8g, 37%
4. Bone in, skinless chicken breast
Protein: 30g, 71%
Fat: 5.5g, 29%
5. Thigh skinless
Protein: 25g, 50%
Fat: 10.9g, 50%
6. Drumstick with skin
Protein: 27g, 52%
Fat: 11.2g, 48%
7. Thigh with skin
Protein: 25g, 57%
Fat: 15g, 43%
*Values listed are an average.
Have a question or comments? Drop it in the comments
Heather Layton – Fitness and Nutrition Coach
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