Rotisserie chickens and their love affair with sodium

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In last week’s column, I talked about my investigation into rotisserie chicken. I’ve always wondered if they were a “good deal.” We all know you can’t beat them for their convenience, but there is also a saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” They are not just simply a roasted chicken.
While many companies label rotisserie chickens by saying they have no added steroids or no hormones, they all seem to have some added seasoning or flavoring.
What’s in the seasoning? This tends to vary from store to store, but the items most listed include salt, maltodextrin, natural flavors, food starch and spices.
These seasoning add more than flavor. Nutritionally, the major difference in a home-roasted chicken is the amount of sodium in the final product.
According to the USDA, a home-roasted chicken contains 72 mg of sodium for 3 ounces of meat.
The nutrition facts labels on several rotisseries chickens showed the sodium content ranged from 613 mg to 884 mg for the same amount of chicken. In addition to the sodium content, some of the seasoning may add “too much” flavor for some palates.
The MyPlate recommendations for Americans on sodium says everyone, including kids, should reduce sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
Adults age 51 and older, African Americans of any age and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should further reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day.
Depending upon the rest of your meals that day, the rotisserie chicken may quickly put you above the recommended daily amount of sodium.
Goods and bads
The “goods:” It is quick and ready-to-eat and if you’re a careful shopper, the price is fairly reasonable.
The ”bads:” Nutritionally, they are high in sodium. Some chickens are not as large as they appear and you’re not getting the value. Boneless chicken breasts could yield more meat per pound and may be less expensive when purchased on sale.
So does this mean that you should never eat a rotisserie chicken again? That decision is up to you. If you are concerned about price and sodium, I suggest you do your own comparison of rotisserie chicken.
Someday when you’re not hungry or in a hurry, check the nutrition label and sodium content on rotisserie chicken at several stores and glance at the net weights to compare prices. This way, when you do want to buy one, you’ll make good decisions on the size and sodium content and you can avoid those with the highest amount of sodium and a good price per weight.
Also, remember that chicken probably isn’t the only thing on your menu. You can offset the amount of sodium by serving it with other foods that are low in sodium, such as a plain baked or microwavable potato (24 mg of sodium) and steamed-in-a-bag green beans (0 mg).
It’s easy to roast a chicken at home if you have two hours. The “active” time needed is minimal. When you do it yourself, you have control of the type of seasoning and the amount of added sodium. This can be done on the weekend when you’re home doing other chores. Refrigerate the whole chicken for a meal or two during the week. Financially, this could save you money, especially if you can find the roasting chickens or whole fryers on sale.
Another thought. While you have the oven on to bake the chicken, what else could be cooking at the same time? Baked potatoes? Baked squash? Baked apples? Planning and preparing meals ahead can save you both time and money.
So what’s the decision? Careful shopping and menu planning can include rotisserie chicken as part of your family’s meal plan.
Cheryle Syracuse is a Family and Consumer Science staff member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center,
at 253-2610.