Are Chicken Wings Good for Weight Loss? (Drums vs Flats vs Boneless)

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 22 June 2022

Before going on a diet, one of the first things fans of WingStop, Buffalo Wild Wing, KFC, or Church’s Chicken ask is “are chicken wings good for weight loss?”

The good news is that wings can be cooked in different ways and from different cuts (drums vs flats vs boneless), either becoming a healthy protein alternative to red meat or fish, or becoming a fatty and fried option.

Where does your favorite type of wing lie? 

Can I Lose Weight By Eating Chicken Wings?

Chicken is a popular option for many people around the world and dieting is becoming all the craze as well. But how chicken wings are made can either make or break your diet. So are chicken wings good for weight loss or what’s the best way to make them?

It all depends on what part of the chicken is eaten and how the chicken wings are prepared. If the chicken wing is plain, not smothered in sauce, or fried, they can become a staple in a healthy diet plan but watch out for the skin and unhealthy cuts.

Which Is Better: Drumsticks vs. Flats vs. Boneless?

Whether or not chicken wings are good for weight loss depends on which cut of chicken you choose and the way it’s cooked. The nutrition of chicken widely varies based on the preparation method and cut, such as drumsticks, flats, and breasts. 

  • The nutrition of a raw and skinless chicken drumstick is 107 calories, 18.5 grams of protein, and 3.7 grams of fat.
  • The nutrition of a skinless and roasted chicken drumstick is 175 calories, 29.9 grams of protein, and 6.2 grams of fat. 
  • The nutrition of a chicken flat is 210 calories, 20 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fat. 
  • The nutrition of a raw chicken breast (what boneless wings are made of) is 100 calories, 23.3 grams of protein, and 0.8 grams of fat. 
  • The nutrition of a roasted chicken breast (what boneless wings are made of) is 129 calories, 30.2 grams of protein, and 0.9 grams of fat. 

Boneless Chicken Wings Are Lowest in Fat

The chicken’s lipid (fat) content is lowest in the chicken breast cut, making this the optimal choice for a low-fat and healthy diet. 

When compared to other popular protein options, like beef stir-fry tips, trim lamb stir-fry tips, pork leg strips, and veal, chicken breast is the lowest in calories, highest in protein concentration, and lowest in total fats [1]. 

You can start your quest to learn how to get rid of upper belly fat by eating chicken breast instead of chicken with skin, fried chicken, or fatty drumsticks. 

Chicken Drumsticks For Highest Protein

However, roasted chicken drumsticks may be the best option for protein. 

Cooking chicken drumsticks can increase the protein concentration up to 60% for a skinless chicken drumstick instead of between 15-35% for a raw and skinless chicken drumstick. Studies have shown that high protein diets are effective for short-term and long-term weight loss [2]. 

Individuals must keep in mind that cooking not only increases protein concentration but also increases energetic value — meaning a cooked or roasted chicken drumstick, breast, or flat can have a higher calorie count [3]. 

For comparison, take note of the protein and calorie counts in the bullet lists above. 

How Many Calories Are In Chicken Wings?

The number of calories in chicken wings directly correlates to the cooking method. The most popular cooking methods for chicken wings are frying or baking. 

  • Deep-fried – The nutrition facts for deep-fried chicken wings is 159 calories, 9.7 grams of protein, and 11 grams of fat per 49-gram wing with the bone removed. 
  • Air fryer – The nutrition facts for air-fryer buffalo wings is 105 calories, 20 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fat per 49-gram wing.  
  • Baking chicken wings – The nutrition facts for baked chicken wings is 174 calories, 9.2 grams of protein, and 14.9 grams of fat per one, 49-gram wing. 
  • Roasting – The nutrition facts for a roasted chicken wing is 142 calories, 13.1 grams of protein, and 9.5 grams of fat per 49-gram wing.  

What Is The Best Way To Prepare Chicken Wings For Weight Loss?

As seen, chicken wings are good for weight loss if they’re prepared the right way, but there’s some additional tips to make them just a little healthier.

To cook chicken with weight loss in mind it’s best to avoid the skin and bake the chicken or stir fry it with minimal oil and no butter. This is because fried chicken and skin have tons of calories, so finding the best preparation methods is imperative to fit them into any diet. 

When you take away the skin, you can reduce the fat and total calories by up to 50%. To put that into perspective, chicken skin contains 30% of the total fat of the chicken and consists of 42% monounsaturated fat and 21% polyunsaturated fat. 

Or in other words, chicken with skin contains 2-3x more fat than chicken without skin, so removing the skin can keep the protein intake high without adding extra calories and fat [4].  

Is An All Chicken Diet Good For You?

Even though chicken is an excellent protein source, overeating any one thing is never the best solution…so a “chicken diet” is a poor choice overall. 

However, combining chicken with other foods, like complex carbohydrates and vegetables, is ideal for getting enough protein. With skinless chicken prepared the right way, it’s easy to meet protein requirements (0.8 grams of protein /kg of weight) and keep the weight off long-term [5] [6]. 

Or in other words, rice and chicken can be good for weight loss but be sure to avoid an all chicken diet and try other lean proteins like chickpeas, lentils, or peas since they can also help with weight management [7]. 

Low-Fat Alternatives To Chicken Wings

Whether you decide to make chicken wings healthier or eliminate them altogether, having alternatives can provide variety — which is a cornerstone to a healthy diet. 

  • Chicken Breast – Chicken breast is a low-fat and high-protein alternative to chicken wings. You can pair chicken breast with multi-grain bread for complex carbohydrates in a filling lunchtime sandwich, or you can pair chicken breast with roasted vegetables and rice for a complete dinner meal. 
  • Buffalo Cauliflower – If you want to munch on a low-fat alternative to chicken wings during the big NFL game, you can eat buffalo cauliflower bites. The fatty chicken is replaced with cauliflower, a filling and healthy vegetable alternative that can soak up any type of sauce you want to use. 
  • Goat cheese bites – Although cheese is slightly higher in fat, this is a good vegetarian alternative to chicken wings. 
  • Chicken meatballs – Chicken meatballs can be made in a slow cooker, getting rid of any deep frying or air frying that adds fat to the chicken wings. 
  • Vegan Wings – Vegans and vegetarians can have wings too! Try popular meat alternatives to try a low-fat option.
  • Protein Shakes – If you are always on the move, protein shakes are good for weight loss for busy individuals. 

Chicken wings can be incorporated into a healthy diet if the cooking method is low-fat and follows your diet plan. If you are trying to lose weight, choosing the right way to prepare chicken is essential. 

Figuring out if chicken wings are good for weight loss can be complicated so be sure to pay mind to which type of wing you choose, the way it was cooked and whether or not it has skin on it to be sure you get a healthy source of protein.

References

[1] Charlton, K., Probst, Y., Tapsell, L. & Blackall, P. (2008). Food, health and nutrition: where does chicken fit? 5-17. Retrieved from https://ro.uow.edu.au/hbspapers/1450

[2] Astrup, A. (2005). The satiating power of protein–a key to obesity prevention? Am J Clin Nutr. 82(1):1-2. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16002791/

[3] Lofgren, P. (2005). Meat, poultry and meat products. Encyclopedia of human nutrition. 2nd ed. Elsevier: Academic Press, 230–7. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/44913390/Encyclopedia_of_Human_Nutrition_by_Benjamin_Caballero_Lindsay_Allen_Andrew_Prentice

[4] Kralik, G., Kralik, Z., Kosevic, M. & Hanzek, D. (2018). Quality of Chicken Meat. Animal Husbandry And Nutrition. Retrieved from https://www.intechopen.com/chapters/58486

[5] Institute of Medicine. (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. The National Academies Press.https://doi.org/10.17226/10490

[6] Smith, J., Hou, T., Ludwig, D., Rimm, E., Willett, W., Hu, F., & Mozaffarian, D. (2015). Changes in intake of protein foods, carbohydrate amount and quality, and long-term weight change: results from 3 prospective cohorts. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25854882/

[7] Li, S., Kendall, C., de Souza, R., Jayalath, V., Cozma, A., Ha, V., Mirrahimi, A., Chiavaroli, L., Augustin, L., Blanco, S., & Leiter, L. (2014). Dietary pulses, satiety and food intake: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of acute feeding trials. Obesity, 22(8), 1773-80. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24820437/

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.