You Can Make a Healthy Chicken Salad. Here’s How.

Sure, it's a lunchtime staple—but is chicken salad healthy? We found out once and for all.

A classic sandwich filling, chicken salad has been a family favorite for decades. But is chicken salad healthy? We took a look to determine the answer once and for all.

Check out our most popular chicken salad recipes.

Is Chicken Salad Healthy?

Depending on the ingredients you use (and how much!), chicken salad can certainly be a healthy, nutritious choice. The amount of mayonnaise you use is the biggest factor in determining how healthy chicken salad is since the spread is high in saturated fats and calories.

The type of chicken you use also impacts nutrition. If you use breast meat (as opposed to dark meat or chicken cooked with the skin on) the salad will have less cholesterol and saturated fat. Celery, onion and any other produce incorporated in the salad will add vitamins, minerals and fiber. And what you serve your chicken salad on will also make an impact, as white bread provides less nutrition than whole grain bread.

Psst! Here’s the real difference between whole wheat and whole grain bread.

How Do You Make Healthy Chicken Salad?

Here are some ways to make chicken salad healthier for you and your family:

  • Add More Veggies. An easy way to make your chicken salad more healthy is to add extra veggies! Try cucumber, spinach, peppers, tomato, carrots or beans like in this Cashew-Curry Chicken Salad recipe.

  • Swap out Mayo. Use alternate ingredients to make the sauce for your chicken salad like yogurt, lemon juice, avocado, reduced-fat sour cream or a vinaigrette to cut down on calories and unhealthy fats like in this Summer Splash Chicken Salad recipe.

  • Skip the Bread. Reduce the caloric load of your chicken salad lunch by serving it over leafy greens or in a lettuce cup instead of on bread. Try it with our Italian Chicken Salad Cups recipe.

  • Sneak in Other Healthy Ingredients. Boost the nutrition of your chicken salad by sneaking in other healthy ingredients like fruits, nuts and seeds. For starters, give this Cool & Crunchy Chicken Salad recipe a try.

Chicken salad doesn’t have to be an indulgence if you know what makes the classic recipe unhealthy. With a few simple swaps, you can feel good about serving this staple to friends and family.

Next, learn how to make healthy tuna salad.

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Christina Manian, RDN
Christina Manian is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist based out of Boulder, Colorado. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, she has been involved with the nutrition departments of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Mass General Hospital. She completed her nutrition education at the Mayo Clinic with a focus on medical nutrition therapy and most recently practiced clinical nutrition at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. While her background has largely been in the clinical setting, Christina embraces and is shifting her focus towards wellness nutrition as the backbone to optimum health.