Is Nandos in South Africa Healthy?

Nandos, the antithesis of KFC, serves out grilled chicken with “peri-peri”, an Afro-Portuguese sauce for the South African masses. It’s a huge company, publicly traded on the South African stock exchange, and also available in many countries worldwide (but only in DC in the USA). I can’t get enough of this stuff and I’m happy to know that all the locals also share my same sentiment. There’s no denying this is some high quality, deliciously cooked chicken but is it healthy???

My love for Nandos


I like to think of myself as fitness conscience but I cannot cook for the life of me. Living in NYC certainly did not help me learn the basic skills of making good food. After eating out for 4 years straight in NYC, I figured upon moving to SA, I’d cook more especially since I had a real kitchen. Not the case. Still too lazy. Still too terrible at cooking.

Nandos Benmore. 50 times and counting in a year...

Nandos Benmore. 50 times and counting in a year…

There aren’t many quick, healthy, and tasty take out meal options in Joburg. Nandos is something I quickly discovered upon moving here. I’m a big meat eater (how can you not be in this country?) and this place served chicken by the quarter, half, and whole, for a cheap price. Nirvana for guys like me that work out and try to eat somewhat healthy. I don’t really watch my calories but I do like to keep my saturated fats low and enjoy a meal that is tasty but filling.

There's nothing to hide here as you can see them grilling the chicken.

There’s nothing to hide here as you can see them grilling the chicken.

I eat Nandos at least once or twice a week and have recently wondered is this stuff actually healthy for me? Grilled chicken’s supposed to be good right? Yes, definitely. But with the way they cook it, with the sauces, and oils, who the hell knows what’s in this delicious piece of golden goodness?

By no means should any of this post be taken seriously for dieting. I just happen to eat out every meal and Nandos happens to be one of my go to places in this country.

 

The facts


My half chicken (breasts only) with spinach go-to meal.

My half chicken (breasts only) with spinach go-to meal.

Looking at Nandos’ South African website, there are no nutrition facts. It’s not required in this country and no one complains about it. Using the Nutrition Guide from the Nandos UK, we can look at some numbers. While they may use different oils and ingredients in South Africa, I’m just going to have to assume it’s similar. After coming here once a week for a year, my go to meal has become

  • Half chicken, hot, with a side of spinach. 

According to the nutritional facts for the half chicken, that’s 625 calories, 91 grams of protein, 7 grams of sat fat, and ~320g of total meat. They don’t have spinach as a side in the UK but spinach is very healthy and low in calories and any bad things. In total, I reckon my meal is around 800 calories and low in saturated fats making this meal overall a healthy choice.

Some nutritional facts for other popular items

  • Regular size Chips (french fries):  400 calories, 40 grams carbs, 25g fat, 7g sat fat
  • Peri peri wedges: Not available anywhere but SA it appears, likely similar to chips in nutritional value
  • Spicy Rice: 300 calories, 50g carbs, 5g fat, 0g sat fat
  • Chicken Wrap/Pita: 500 calories, 40g carbs, 10g fat, 5g sat fat
Nutritional facts from the nandos sauce

Nutritional facts from the nandos sauce

Nandos Peri-Peri Sauce
The magical sauce that makes Nandos what it is. You can get grilled chicken anywhere in this country but grilling it with that peri peri sauce is divine. The sauce itself has no fat and minimal calories making it a healthy-friendly sauce for the chicken. Nandos offers its sauces in numerous flavors from mild to extra extra hot, garlic, and lemon&herb. All of these options are healthy. In fact, because so many chilis are used in making this sauce, it’s likely to boost your metabolism.

 

So what to order?


Eat whatever you want, this place is awesome. However, if you’re like me, someone who eats out every day for every meal, then perhaps a bit of a healthier selection wouldn’t hurt.

  • Chicken is a very healthy protein, especially the breasts.
  • Peri-peri sauce is low in calories and while not high in nutrition, is not a detriment
  • Chips are high in fat and calories (but who didn’t know this?)
  • Any cream based sauce they have is not healthy, period.
  • Chicken wings are oh so delicious, but never healthy. Ever.

Healthiest options

    • Order chicken breasts and ask them to remove the skin (although this is so delicious)
    • Substitute chips/wedges for spicy rice or spinach
    • Chicken espetada (all white meat)
    • Chicken Pita (no mayonnaise)
    • Chicken strips and rice

 

The verdict?


Unlike most fast food chains, Nandos has plenty of healthy options. Of course there are the delicious peri wedges to tempt you but they offer healthy alternatives that most fast food places do not have. So to keep this short, YES, Nandos is healthy. I will happily continue eating at this fine establishment until I leave this country where I will likely experience immediate withdrawal symptoms. Long live Nandos!

 

Update Mar 2015:

Well I’ve sadly made the move back to the United States after almost 2 years in SA. There is no Nandos in New York City unfortunately, I am devastated. You never know what you miss until you can’t have it anymore. It’s been four months without Nandos and I miss it day and night. On a lighter note, I calculate that while in SA, I ate:

Two 1/2 chickens a week average for about 80 weeks, which amounts to almost 80 whole chickens while in SA. That’s about 10,000R of business I gave to Nandos!

Showing 4 comments
  • Francois Williams
    Reply

    how about biltong!!!!

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Biltong is delicious and healthy :). I ate it religiously and I miss it every day!

  • Jake
    Reply

    Really entertaining post and love your approach to the subject. Personally, I agree with your views and I love that Nandos is somewhat healthy, protein heavy food. It’s the perfect food after a solid workout.

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Thanks Jake! I’ve since moved baqck to America and there’s no nandos here. Miss it dearly day and night. I dream about it sometimes lol.
      Johnny recently posted…48 Hours In Copenhagen, DenmarkMy Profile

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