In our ongoing search for ways to add healthy foods to our busy lives, it’s often difficult to know what faster foods will help us stay on track and which will quickly derail us. It’s easy to juice and make smoothies and know they’re good for you, but every human body needs protein, and that’s a tough thing to juice or put in a smoothie without turning to powders and processed stuff. One of the fastest, easiest, most natural, and healthiest protein sources for most people is chicken, but we don’t always have time to cook.
So, can you eat cold chicken? Yes, you can eat cold chicken. As long as the chicken was thoroughly cooked before going into the fridge, and it was kept at a proper cold storage temperature, cold chicken is a healthy, nutritious, and tasty addition to most diets.
Cold chicken is not only safe to eat, but it’s also a great way to add quick and natural protein to your diet. Skip the powdered proteins and packets of processed weirdness. You can simply toss some cold chicken into your lunch or grab it for a snack as you head out the door. All it takes is some creativity and a small bit of planning in advance. It really is one of my favorite snacks, so I’m super stoked to tell you all about how to add cold chicken to your diet!
Nutritional Information for Cold Chicken
I’m not going to lie; my love for cold chicken came about in the 1980s in the most unhealthy way possible. Way back then, my parents used to fry up pounds and pounds of chicken wings, then pop them in the fridge overnight, and we’d snack on them as we drove out to camping grounds or up to go skiing. I’m sure my continued enjoyment of cold chicken has as much to do with happy memories as it does with the taste, but as an adult, I now know the health benefits of eating cold chicken, and I’ve devised ways to make it even healthier, too.
Chicken is one of the healthiest meats you can consume. It is naturally lower in fat than red meats and has a huge amount of protein in each serving. According to the National Chicken Council (NCC), a serving of chicken is about 3.5 ounces. I don’t know about you, but that’s never enough for me. However, for the sake of simplicity in this article, we’ll use that as a serving size.
The NCC states that a serving of roasted chicken has 165 calories and 31 grams of protein. That’s boneless and skinless breast meat, by the way, which is the healthiest way to eat chicken whether it’s cold or hot. Since every human needs protein in their diet, but all humans are different, it can be tough to give exact numbers here. Even so, the average sedentary adult male needs about 56 grams of protein a day, and a sedentary woman needs around 46 grams. If a serving of chicken has 31 grams, that’s one heck of a boost for the day!
Of course, most of us aren’t sedentary when we’re trying to get healthier, so we’d need to increase our own personal intake of certain nutrients. For anyone trying to build strength and muscles, that means more protein. Seeing the whopping protein punch in a small serving of chicken should make it pretty obvious this is a great way to go.
Other nutrients in cold chicken include 159 mg of potassium and 4% of your iron for the day. Chicken is a zero-carb food, so if you’re eating low-carb, it’s a great choice for you. They do have naturally occurring sodium, but most things do. For chicken, it’s only 46 mg, which is roughly 2% of the daily allowance. That sodium can increase considerably depending on you cook it though, so don’t dump the salt on.
But there’s more good stuff in that cold chicken. You get selenium, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and niacin, too.
It’s Not All Healthy
As you’ve come to expect from this site, I’m going to give you the bad points of chicken, too. We want you to be fully informed so you can make the right choice for your own health journey.
While chicken, in general, is very good for you, there are some negatives you need to be aware of. First and foremost, eating chicken skin will drastically increase the fat content and calorie count. Of course, we all know that eating fat doesn’t make you fat, but that doesn’t mean you should be adding fat to your diet when you don’t need to.
To illustrate this point, the NCC says that a serving of chicken breast meat with the skin goes up to 197 calories and gives you 7.8 grams of fat. Without the skin, that same serving only has 3.6 grams of fat. But, as I said earlier, an official serving of chicken is rarely enough for me—and most people in America, if I’m to be honest—so we’re more likely to eat an entire breast. That really changes the numbers.
A full breast with the skin is closer to 366 calories, 55 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fat. That’s a huge jump.
Thankfully, for me, I don’t really like the skin of cold chicken anyway, so I don’t mind not having it. I know lots of people who love chicken skin though—especially fried—so skipping that part will be tougher for some folks. Sorry, but the numbers don’t lie.
Another bad point is that undercooked chicken can carry salmonella. That’s a big bad bug that can make you incredibly ill. It’s important to note that cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit will kill foodborne illnesses and keep your chicken moist and tasty, too.
I’m happy to say those are the only two negative points to eating chicken. As long as it was cooked thoroughly before you chilled it in the fridge, you’re safe from illnesses. Peel off the skin (or buy it without skin already) and you’ll peel away unnecessary fat and empty calories. I really like easy fixes!
Other Benefits of Cold Chicken
In addition to the health benefits listed above, cold chicken can add some unexpected benefits to your life, too.
The most obvious one is the time-saving aspect. If you take one day to cook a bunch of chicken for the week, you are only cooking one time, but get healthy food for the rest of the week! Time-saving for the win!
Chicken’s texture changes a little bit in the fridge. It gets a bit more solid, making it a neat addition to cold lunches or just as a snack. It adds something new and interesting to an otherwise boring salad, for example.
Believe it or not, eating cold chicken can save you a lot of money. Rather than going out to buy a quick lunch on your break, just grab your cold chicken from the night before. You just saved yourself $10 or more. Same for fast dinners and snacks throughout the day.
Where to Get Cold Chicken
The easiest way to get cold chicken is to make a big batch of it one day, eat your dinner, then put the rest in the fridge. I like to portion it out into individual servings. Sometimes I even make so much chicken that I freeze several pounds of it after we’re done eating. Not only is that cold chicken, but it’s cold chicken that’ll last months!
You can purchase pre-cooked cold chicken in many grocery stores. Be sure to check the label for the sell-by and use-by dates. I’m not as excited about store-bought cold chicken because I don’t know what they cooked it with or where the chicken came from. However, it’ll do in a pinch.
How Long Does Cold Chicken Last?
Cold, cooked chicken can last in the fridge for 3 – 4 days. Eating it sooner rather than later is better. If you’re getting to the 3rdday, I suggest putting the rest in the freezer before it goes bad. Frozen chicken is just as tasty as cold chicken is. Just let it thaw a few minutes.
Cooked chicken can last in the freezer for many months. I have a deep freezer and my cooked chicken has still tasted amazing after 6 months. Your freezer experience will vary, so keep an eye on it.
No matter where you store it, make sure your cold chicken is in an airtight container. Any air in the bag or bowl will speed up the process that makes chicken not so tasty. This is especially true for freezer storage. Any air in the bag will leave room for ice crystals to form and that will damage the texture of the meat.
How to Use Cold Chicken in Your Diet
Unless you grew up eating cold chicken as I did, the idea of eating cold, cooked meat might be weird and unappealing. But trust me on this one. It’s gloriously yummy, satisfying, and easy! And who can’t use a little more “easy” in their lives? Below, I’ve covered some of my favorite ways to use cold chicken to add protein to my diet.
This is my favorite way to use cold chicken. If there is any leftover chicken from the night before, I will just snatch it out of the fridge and chow down right there. It’s already flavored from whatever I made the night before, and it’s a fast way to fill my tummy on busy days.
I mentioned salads briefly above, but I’d like to talk a bit more about it here. You may be familiar with fast-food salads and how many of them come with cold chicken. Using your own cold chicken is actually a better idea. Those fast-food salads are sometimes way worse for you than the burgers and fries! Their chicken is packed with salt and preservatives. Using your own cold chicken in your salad gives you control of what you’re eating.
Make a salad at home and toss some cubed, cold chicken on top. It’ll be waiting for you when your lunch breaks comes around and it won’t make your lettuce soggy or gross with preservatives and sodium. You can also shred the cold chicken instead of cubing it, which gives it a new and unique texture that fast-food salads can’t provide.
Cold Pasta Salads
A whole different type of salad you can add chicken to is the pasta salad. Cold chicken is a great complement to many types of cold pasta salads, and adding the chicken is really fast and easy. Again, shred or cube it depending on your preference.
Sandwiches and Wraps
This is my second favorite way to use cold chicken. Sandwiches are fast and simple, but wraps are even faster! A tortilla, some greens, a nice slice of tomato, and shredded cold chicken make an awesome lunch. It holds well in a lunchbox, but it’s also really fast to make in a pinch. I think tortillas are easier than bread because you can tuck the bottom edge in, making a little pocket to hold any drippy bits and crumbs.
Crackers and Dip
If you’re not looking for a meal but want something bigger than a snack, try cold chicken and crackers. You can use any crackers you like with either cubed or shredded cold chicken. Add things like hummus, fresh guacamole, or a healthy dip of your choice. This is also a good thing to pack in lunches, too!
Add Cold Chicken to Everything!
Seriously, you can add cold chicken to just about anything. Pizza, pasta, soups… the list is endless. Granted, if you’re adding it to something you just cooked, it’s not cold chicken anymore, but I didn’t want to skip this part. Leftover cold chicken is one of the most versatile protein sources you can imagine. Heck, you can even grind it up into a paste and add it to hummus or other dips.
So, now you have this detailed answer to a simple question. I know I could have just said yes, you can eat cold chicken. But isn’t it better knowing why you should eat it and even how to eat it? It might seem like an odd thing to be excited about, but I’ve often been called odd, so I might as well share it, right? Try some of these ideas and let us know what you think!
Can you eat cold chicken when pregnant? It’s recommended that pregnant women only eat freshly prepared foods.
Can you eat cold reheated chicken? Yes, it is safe to reheat cold chicken. In fact, it can add more flavor to many types of dishes.
Can you eat chicken and rice cold? Yes, you can eat cold chicken and rice as long as it was cooked properly to begin with and it was stored properly.