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Fried chicken at Mardi Gras is a thing. It’s a quintessential New Orleans tradition, one that’s often non-negotiable, at that. And if Fat Tuesday is the one day a year that you indulge in a few pieces of the crispy goodness, then just get what you love and savor every bite of it.

But – if you’re trying to keep things in check nutritionally, check out our top 3 better-for-you picks for fast-food chicken during Carnival season!

TIP // If you’re going for fried chicken but still sort of want to keep healthy on the front burner, it pays to remove (at least some of) the skin and batter, leaving you with chicken that’s as lean as roasted or grilled skinless chicken.

Popeyes Blackened Tenders

Deep-fried but not breaded, a three-piece serving of these white meat tenders has 26 grams of protein for just 170 calories, 0 saturated fat, and 2 grams of carbs.

Added bonus: The sodium is also lower than regular strips and tenders, with 550 mg sodium per three tenders.

Chick-Fil-A Grilled Nuggets

An eight-piece order has just 130 calories, with 1 gram of saturated fat, 1 gram of carbs, and 25 grams of protein. That’s without any added sauces, which can add a hefty dose of sugar and/or salt.

Added bonus: While the ingredients of the grilled nuggets aren’t exactly “wholesome,” they’re among the cleaner versions of fast food ingredients.

Street Vendor Chicken on a Stick

Keep an eye out for street food offering grilled chicken on a stick for a Carnival snack that’s protein-rich and about as simple as it gets.


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Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.