Chicken pot pie is a classic comfort food that has been loved for generations. It typically consists of chicken, vegetables, and a creamy sauce wrapped up in a pastry crust. While tasty, some people wonder if this dish should be avoided due to potential health concerns. This article takes an in-depth look at the nutrition facts of chicken pot pies to determine if they deserve a spot on your dinner table or if you’re better off choosing a healthier alternative.
Chicken pot pie nutrition facts
To understand if chicken pot pie is truly unhealthy, we first need to look at the nutrition facts. Here are some key numbers for a typical serving (1/6th of a 9 inch pie) of homemade chicken pot pie made with a butter pastry crust:
As you can see, a single serving of chicken pot pie is very high in calories, fat, and sodium compared to many other dishes. Let’s break down some of the key concerns:
High in calories
At 430 calories per serving, chicken pot pie is considered a high calorie food. Eating too many calories can lead to weight gain over time. To put the calorie count in perspective, 430 calories represents over 20% of the daily recommended calorie intake for an average adult.
High in fat
The total fat content clocks in at 26g per serving, which includes 12g of saturated fat. Both numbers are quite high, as health experts recommend limiting saturated fat to 13g or less per day. All that fat comes primarily from the creamy sauce and pastry crust made with butter or shortening.
High in sodium
There are 660mg of sodium in each serving of chicken pot pie. That accounts for over 25% of the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum daily sodium intake of 2,300mg. A high-sodium diet is linked with high blood pressure, which puts you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
Low in fiber
Fiber is an important nutrient that promotes fullness, gut health, and heart health. But chicken pot pie only contains 2g of fiber per serving, which is quite low compared to the 25-30g of daily fiber that’s recommended. The lack of whole grains in the crust and limited vegetables are responsible for the low fiber count.
High in cholesterol
There are 115mg of cholesterol in a standard serving of chicken pot pie. That represents over one third of the 300mg daily limit that’s recommended for cholesterol intake. High cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. The chicken and butter-based sauce drive up the cholesterol numbers.
How does it compare to other pies?
To get some additional context, let’s see how chicken pot pie stacks up against some other popular pie options:
|Chicken pot pie||430||26g||660mg|
In comparison to other popular pie options, chicken pot pie is clearly on the higher end for calories, fat, and sodium. Pecan pie beats it slightly in fat and calories since it’s loaded with butter and sugar. But chicken pot pie has more sodium than any of the other pies.
Healthier ways to enjoy chicken pot pie
If you don’t want to give up your chicken pot pie fix entirely, there are ways to lighten it up and make it a bit healthier. Here are some tips:
Use a whole grain pastry crust
Swapping out the white flour crust for a whole wheat or whole grain crust can instantly boost the fiber and nutrient content of chicken pot pie. It adds vitamins, minerals and a good amount of filling fiber. Homemade is best, but you can also find whole grain crusts in stores.
Load up on vegetables
Adding extra veggies like carrots, peas, corn, broccoli, spinach or kale to the filling further increases the fiber, vitamin, and mineral content. Doubling up on veggies also cuts down on the ratio of chicken to veggies, lowering the calories and cholesterol numbers.
Use reduced fat dairy
The creamy sauce is generally made with full fat milk, cream, and/or butter. Substituting reduced fat or low fat dairy options cuts down on saturated fat and calories. Evaporated skim milk is one easy swap.
Skip the top crust
You can eliminate a big source of carbs, fat, and calories by skipping the top pie crust completely. Simply pour the pie filling into a casserole dish and bake it crustless. Top it off with some toasted whole wheat bread crumbs for crunch.
No matter what recipe tweaks you make, be mindful of your portion size. Stick to a 1 cup serving to control calories. And round out the meal with healthier side dishes like a salad and roasted vegetables to further balance your plate.
Healthy chicken pot pie recipe
Here is a recipe for a lighter, healthier version of chicken pot pie that cuts calories, fat and sodium without sacrificing flavor:
- 1 sheet frozen whole wheat phyllo dough, thawed
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3 carrots, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 bag frozen peas
- 1 bag frozen spinach
- 3 Tbsp whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup skim milk
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a skillet over medium heat, warm 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 5-7 minutes per side until browned and cooked through. Let cool and cube the chicken.
- In the same skillet, add the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil. Cook the onions until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Then add the carrots and celery and cook 5 minutes more.
- Add the flour and cook 1 minute. Slowly stir in the broth and milk and cook until thickened to make the sauce, about 5 minutes.
- Add the cooked chicken, peas, spinach, salt, pepper and stir to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish. Top with the phyllo dough, tucking in the sides. Bake for 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
- Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
This lighter chicken pot pie recipe cuts the calories in half compared to a traditional version. It also reduces fat by using olive oil instead of butter, cuts sodium by using low-sodium broth, and packs extra veggies and whole grains to increase the fiber and nutrients.
Chicken pot pie is high in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium compared to many other foods due to its butter-laden crust and creamy filling. However, there are ways to adjust the recipe to make it healthier, such as using reduced fat dairy, increasing vegetables, and substituting whole grain crust options. Portion control is also key. Ultimately, chicken pot pie should be viewed as an occasional indulgence rather than an everyday meal. With some simple recipe tweaks and restraint, it can be enjoyed as part of an overall balanced diet.