When you order a serving of wings at a restaurant, you're entering dangerous diet territory. While wings supply small amounts of certain nutrients, that's really all they have to offer in the way of nutrition. The tiny pieces of meat, which can be ordered boneless or bone-in, contain large amounts of fat and sodium. Sometimes -- depending the restaurant -- you'll consume close to half of the saturated fat and sodium limits for the entire day. Nibble a wing once in a while, but don't make these nutritional nightmares part of your regular diet.
It's good news to discover that your body actually needs some fat to absorb nutrients properly, but it only needs a small amount of this macronutrient. When you eat too much fat, particularly saturated fat, you're putting yourself at a higher risk for heart disease, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes. Eating restaurant wings can cause you to take in too much fat because they contain a lot of saturated fat. A serving of boneless wings at a fast food restaurant, which is equal to two pieces, contains between 10 and 11 grams of fat, of which 2 grams are saturated. An order of boneless wings from a sit-down restaurant contains about 55 grams of fat, of which 11 grams are saturated. Fast food bone-in wings contain about 2 more grams of fat per serving, but bone-in wings from a sit-down eatery have between 6 and 10 fewer grams of fat than their boneless versions.
The sauces used to coat wings contain huge amounts of salt. Small doses of salt keep your nervous system working right, but the average diet contains much more sodium than the body needs. Healthy adults shouldn't eat more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt. If you have heart problems or are over the age of 50, try not to eat more than 1,500 milligrams a day. Fast food bone-out wings can contain as much as 1,040 milligrams of sodium per serving. Bone-in wings from a fast food restaurant contain between 570 and 910 milligrams of sodium, depending on what flavor you order. An order of hot buffalo boneless wings can have more than 3,900 milligrams of sodium, which is almost twice what you need for the whole day. Dip the wings in salad dressing, and you're adding about 300 additional milligrams of sodium to your meal.
Wings do supply small amounts of nutrients, such as protein, but not enough to balance out the huge dose of fat and sodium you get when you eat them. The meat on wings contains tiny amounts of iron and zinc, two minerals that help keep your immune system working well. You also get a trace of potassium, which supports a healthy heart and keeps your muscles working properly.
Wings don't deserve a spot in your everyday healthy eating plan, but that doesn't mean you can't ever have them. Just stick to one piece. You'll get the flavor you enjoy but you won't go overboard with the saturated fat and salt. If you do plan to splurge on wings, factor in how much fat and salt you'll consume and adjust the rest of your diet to compensate. Eat the vegetables that usually come with an order of wings. Not only are they low in fat and calories, but they also contain a good amount of fiber. Fiber fills you up so that you can eat fewer wings and still be satisfied. Better yet, make your own wings. Marinate chicken wings in your favorite low-sodium sauce and grill or broil them rather than deep-frying them. Peel off the skin to cut at least 5 grams of fat per wing.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Wing, Meat and Skin, Cooked, Fried, Batter
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Chicken, Broilers or Fryers, Wing, Meat Only, Cooked, Roasted
- WingStreet: WingStreet Nutritional Information
- Applebee's: Nutritional Information
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Sodium in Diet
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, In With the Good
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.