All About Rotisserie Chicken - Ask a Nutritionist

November 30, 2023

Rotisserie chickens are tasty, quick and simple. They could be a huge time saver if you're trying to pull together a good meal when you just don't have a lot of time to cook.

But like many convenience foods, are they all that they seem? Join Brandy in this week's episode of Ask a Nutritionist as she discusses what makes a quality rotisserie chicken, what to avoid, and how to prepare one to get the best balance out of your meal.

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BRANDY: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist” brought to you by Nutritional Weight Wellness. My name is Brandy Buro and I'm a Licensed and Registered Dietitian here at Nutritional Weight Wellness.

We are thrilled to be celebrating 20 years of on air discussion about the connection between what you eat and how you feel, while sharing practical, real life solutions for healthier living through balanced nutrition. I want to thank you all for your support and listenership over all of these years.

Now let's get started with today's topic, which was a question that came from one of our Dishing Up Nutrition listeners. So today's question is, “What do you think of those roasted chickens sold in grocery stores? I bought a rotisserie chicken at my food co-op, which was really tasty, but I wonder, are they not really a wise food choice?”

Well, once again, I think this is a great question, and I'm sure that many of our listeners out there have asked themselves this very same question. Rotisserie chickens are so convenient. They're quick and simple. They could be a huge time saver if you're trying to pull together a good meal when you just don't have a lot of time to cook.

Unfortunately, most foods that come along with that tagline, convenient and quick and easy, usually aren't the best choice. And I'm sure that's one of the reasons our listener today is a little skeptical about rotisserie chickens. So what is the deal with rotisserie chickens? Well, the short answer is, it really depends.

Rotisserie chickens could be a good option, but there is so much variability out there in terms of quality. Not all rotisserie chickens are created equal. So today I'm going to help you pick apart what makes a good quality rotisserie chicken. What do you watch for? It's really what's on the inside that counts.

Tips to look for in a quality rotisserie chicken

You kind of have to be a detective to figure this out. So the first place I suggest you start is taking a look at the ingredients list. Every rotisserie chicken should have an ingredients list on the outside of the package. So that's where you need to start. Scan the ingredients list.

Ask yourself, “Can I pronounce everything that they use to make this chicken?” Are those ingredients familiar to you as real foods? That is what you're looking for. However, if the ingredients are starting to sound more like a chemistry experiment, Or they're things you can't pronounce, things you don't really know what they're for, what they do, it's probably not the best choice. The very best choice is going to have a really short ingredients list. Chicken should be the very first ingredient, followed by maybe salt, some spices, maybe vinegar. Bonus points if those spices are listed individually, like garlic or thyme, pepper. That's really what you want to see.

Ingredients to avoid

A few additives that you really want to watch for, and probably avoid if you can include sodium phosphate, refined oils, oils like soybean oil or canola oil, and natural flavor, or natural smoke flavor. Quick little note about natural flavoring: When you see that term, natural flavor on a food label, there isn't really a great way to be certain what was used to create that flavor.

The term natural flavoring is a pretty vague term. It means that flavor was at least derived from plant or animal material. But according to the Environmental Working Group, that one term could actually encompass a combination of several hundred chemicals. So that leaves a lot of room for undesirable ingredients.

So that might not be an issue for some people, but for certain individuals that are very sensitive and have food sensitivities, those ingredients could actually cause a lot of issues. So use caution when you come across those terms because they're very misleading. And that's why I prefer to find a rotisserie chicken where the spices are actually listed individually then there's no question about what they season that chicken with. So again, scan the ingredients list for a simple, real food ingredients list. That's the very first step.

More tips on choosing best quality rotisserie chicken

And then, to take it a step further, you want to choose the best quality of chicken that's available to you. So a good choice would be a chicken that's raised without antibiotics; better if you can find one that's raised without antibiotics and pasture raised or free range. But the absolute best choice would be a chicken that is organic. So that means it's been fed organic feed and raised without antibiotics.

Where can you find quality rotisserie chickens typically?

So locally here in St. Paul, Minnesota, I actually did go to a few grocery stores in the area to find the best option. So trust me, I'm no stranger to the rotisserie chicken.

I think it's a pretty great option when I don't have a lot of time to cook and the best options I could find came from our local co-op and the Whole Foods close by. So if you're not local, a co-op is probably a great place to start when you're looking for a good choice.

And for me, like I said, when I don't have time to cook, a rotisserie chicken is a great emergency meal. Like if I'm working late or if my meal prep routine got thrown off over the weekend, it has definitely saved the day many times, and I think it's a better alternative than getting takeout fast food or skipping a meal altogether.

Ideas on how to use rotisserie chicken/balance out meals

So when I get that rotisserie chicken, I like to pair it with some fresh pre washed mixed green, maybe chop up a cucumber and a handful of cherry tomatoes, make a little salad, throw on some sunflower seeds and a little olive oil. And that right there is a great balanced meal that's got your real food protein, some healthy fat, and some vegetable carbs. You could also really quickly steam up some green beans or broccoli with some butter and add that with your rotisserie chicken. And that's a great balanced meal.

You can make just about anything with those leftovers. Throw it in a soup or make some chicken salad. So versatile. So, yes, I think it's a great option if you can find a good quality choice. Hopefully these tips have been useful for you when you're trying to find a good rotisserie chicken near you.

Well, thanks so much for listening to Dishing Up Nutrition's “Ask a Nutritionist”. If you have a nutrition question that you'd like us to answer, please join our Dishing Up Nutrition Facebook community. It's a private group that's moderated by our nutritionists and our nutrition educators, and it gives our listeners a safe and supportive community to ask their questions, share ideas, and get inspired.

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So once you're a member of our community, we invite you to join that conversation and share your ideas and questions with us. If you have a question, just let us know. Thank you for listening today, and have a great day.

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