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Chicken and lamb are both great sources of protein, but they have different nutritional properties that you should consider before deciding which one to add to your diet.
So, what are the differences between chicken and lamb? The main differences between chicken and lamb are that chicken has fewer calories (-29 kcal), more protein (+4.2 g), and less fat (-5.4 g) per 100 g than lamb. Chicken also has a slightly greater nutritional content (higher percentages of key vitamins and minerals) than lamb.
As a Registered Dietitian, my role is to educate people on the best protein option for their goals. While I encourage consuming different products to get a variety of nutrients throughout the day, understanding the differences between them can help you make an informed choice on which one to consume.
In this article, you’ll find a detailed comparison between chicken and lamb, including their pros, cons, and differences, to help you determine which one is best for your goals.
Chicken vs. Lamb: Nutritional Information
The following table compares the nutritional information for 100 g of raw chicken and lamb.
|Saturated fats (g)||0.6||2.7|
|Monounsaturated fats (g)||0.7||2.1|
|Polyunsaturated fats (g)||0.4||0.2|
There is a slight difference between the calories in 100 g of lamb and chicken. Chicken has fewer calories (-29 kcal) than lamb.
Chicken offers the best option for those looking to lose weight since its lower caloric content can help you achieve a caloric deficit (eating fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its weight).
On the other hand, if you want to gain weight, lamb is the better option thanks to its higher caloric content. This can help you achieve a caloric surplus (eating more calories than your body needs to maintain its weight) more easily.
Lamb has less protein per 100 g than chicken (-4.2 g).
Protein plays an important role in your body. It is responsible for maintaining and growing muscle mass. It also helps slightly increase your metabolism and your fullness levels.
In my experience, most of my clients have trouble reaching their protein requirements. If you also find this challenging, chicken is the better option for you due to its slightly higher protein content.
One of the biggest differences between chicken and lamb is the fat content. Lamb has a higher fat content per 100 g than chicken (+5.4 g).
Now, this doesn’t mean that lamb is a bad food to include in your diet. It all depends on the type of fat it provides.
Saturated fats can increase the risk of heart disease when you consume a lot of them (more than 7% of your calories from saturated fats).
For example, if you eat 2000 calories a day, no more than 140 of those calories should come from saturated fat. This comes to about 15 g of saturated fats per day.
I often recommend consuming less than 5 g of saturated fat per serving. While lamb has more saturated fat than chicken (2.1 g), it is still below the recommended amount.
If you want to consume other high-calorie foods that are low in saturated fat, check out my other article 10 best foods that are high in calories but low in saturated fat.
Another difference between chicken and lamb is their vitamin and mineral content, with chicken having a greater nutrient content (but not by much).
The following table compares the micronutrient content of chicken and lamb.
Keep in mind that concentrations of more than 20% are considered high, while concentrations of less than 5% are considered low.
|Nutrient||Chicken - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion||Lamb - Daily Recommended Value in 100g portion|
The Top Nutrients In Chicken and Their Benefits
- Niacin. For people with diabetes, research shows that niacin can help reduce cholesterol and glucose levels.
- Vitamin B6. In a 3-month study, women who had a greater intake of vitamin B6 saw a 69% reduction in their PMS symptoms.
- Phosphorus. Along with calcium, phosphorus plays a role in bone health.
- Selenium. It has an important role in heart health. A study showed that people with 50% more selenium levels had a 24% reduced risk of heart disease.
The Top Nutrients In Lamb and Their Benefits
- Vitamin B12. People with lower vitamin B12 can have lower mineral density. This means your bones are less strong, with an increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
It should be noted that lamb is also high in niacin and vitamin B6, though it doesn’t have as much niacin as chicken.
Chicken vs. Lamb: 3 Differences
1. Taste and Texture
One big difference between chicken and lamb is their taste and texture. Lamb has a gamier and more intense flavor than chicken.
Due to its high fat content, lamb tends to be richer than chicken. This is why most people often prefer to consume lamb over chicken.
However, you might prefer chicken if you don’t like meat with very strong flavors.
Lamb has a more intense flavor compared to chicken, which makes it a more popular option. However, this comes down to personal preferences.
2. Cooking Methods
Chicken has a shorter cooking time than lamb. On average, it takes 10-20 minutes to cook chicken, while it takes 20-30 minutes to cook lamb.
However, one of the benefits of lamb is that you can consume it medium rare, which can reduce the cooking time if you don’t like it well done.
Chicken can take less time to cook than lamb. It is also simpler to cook since, in some cases, people often like lamb medium-rare.
Lamb costs twice as much as chicken. On average, a pound of chicken costs around $4 to $5 (with $10 being the highest at Whole Foods). However, a pound of lamb costs $7 to $11.
The following table compares the costs of lamb and chicken for one pound of each product.
If you are on a budget, you’ll want to choose chicken over lamb since it is a cheaper protein.
Also, not every place has lamb, so it might be more difficult to find.
In those places you do find lamb, you can find it ground or in racks. This gives you some variety.
On the other hand, you can find chicken boneless, bone-in, thinly sliced, or ground, giving you a wider range of products than lamb.
Lamb costs twice as much as chicken, so if you are looking for a budget-friendly option, chicken is the better choice.
Chicken vs. Lamb on Different Diets: Which Is Better
Lamb is a better option than chicken on a keto diet since it is higher in fat.
One of the most common mistakes while doing keto is reducing carb intake without paying attention to the fat content. Since lamb has a higher fat content, it can help you achieve your protein and fat requirements.
Now, this doesn’t mean you cannot consume chicken on a keto diet. If you do, combine it with high-fat foods like avocado, butter, nuts, and seeds to compensate for the small fat content.
Lamb has a higher fat content. Thus, it can help you reach your fat requirements easier on a keto diet.
You can include both chicken and lamb on a paleo diet. They can help you achieve your total protein intake.
However, one of the main goals of a paleo diet is to help reduce inflammation. You can achieve this by increasing your omega-3 fatty acid consumption since omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties.
Since neither chicken nor lamb is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, you should include foods like chia, hemp, and flaxseeds to boost your omega-3 content.
They are both excellent protein options to include on a paleo diet. But since they are low in omega-3 fatty acids, you should eat them with omega-3 sources.
When there is a shorter eating window, some people have trouble reaching their caloric intake.
While you want to consume fewer calories than you burn to lose weight, you need to be careful not to decrease them to dangerously low levels (1200 calories a day for women or 1500 calories for men).
As such, lamb is better when intermittent fasting because it has more calories, which can ensure you’re eating enough throughout the day.
It is higher in calories than chicken, which can help you reach your caloric intake when your eating window is narrower.
Both fresh chicken and lamb are great options to include on a low-sodium diet.
However, if you consume chicken as a deli meat form, you need to be careful with the sodium content. Make sure to ask how much sodium the deli meat has.
Food needs to have less than 140 mg of sodium per serving to be considered low in sodium. However, this might be difficult to achieve when it comes to deli meat, which has high amounts of sodium to add more flavor and act as preservative.
If you want to consume the deli meat version of chicken, I recommend looking for a product with less than 400 mg per serving (56 g). A good option is the chicken breast from Fresh Brand, which has 370 mg of sodium per serving.
To further compensate for the high sodium content, avoid other high-sodium foods and don’t add too much extra salt to your meals.
You can include both on a low-sodium diet. However, if you get sliced chicken from the deli counter, make sure it has less than 400 mg of sodium per serving (56 g).
Low FODMAP Diet
Since neither chicken nor lamb contain carbs, they won’t increase your irritable bowel movement (IBS) symptoms. This means they are suitable to have on a low FODMAP diet.
However, be careful with your herbs, spices, and vegetables.
For example, garlic and onion are high in FODMAP, so you must be careful with how you season lamb and chicken and what you consume them with.
They are both low in FODMAP, which makes them both excellent choices for those that have IBS.
- Related Article: 15 High-Calorie Low-FODMAP Foods
Chicken vs. Lamb: Which Is Better For Weight Loss
Chicken is a better option for weight loss since it is lower in calories than lamb. Per 100 g, chicken has 29 fewer calories than lamb, which can help you achieve a caloric deficit more easily. It is also higher in protein (+4.2 g), which is essential for increasing your satiety levels.
Protein can slightly increase your metabolic rate, which means you burn more calories, helping you achieve a caloric deficit.
Also, because protein increases your satiety levels, you are less likely to snack throughout the day or have very large meals that will only pile on your caloric content.
With that said, it doesn’t mean that lamb is a bad option to consume when you are on a weight loss journey. You just need to make the necessary adjustments to reduce your calories elsewhere and add more protein at another meal time.
You can use a calorie counter app to help you stay on track with all the changes. One of my favorite apps is MacroFactor. Using this link gets you an extra week on your free trial (2 weeks total). Cancel any time before your trial ends without being charged.
The Winner: Chicken
It is lower in calories (-29 kcal) and higher in protein (+4.2 g) which makes it easier to stay on a caloric deficit.
Chicken vs. Lamb: Which Is Better For Muscle Gain?
Lamb is a better option for muscle gain since it is higher in calories per 100 g (+29 kcal) than chicken.
A caloric surplus is essential for building muscle. If you have trouble reaching your daily calories, including higher calorie foods like lamb can easily help you hit your calorie targets.
While lamb is lower in protein than chicken, it still has a good protein content, which plays an essential role in muscle building.
However, if you prefer chicken over lamb, you can still add it to your diet when you’re on a weight gain journey. You just need to add other foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and butter to compensate for the lower caloric content.
Lamb is higher in calories than chicken, which can help you easily achieve a caloric surplus.
Practical Recommendations: Eating Chicken vs. Lamb
Mix Them Up
A healthy diet means having different foods throughout the day and week to get a variety of nutrients.
As seen above, protein sources can have different properties and nutrients. Consuming different foods will prevent you from having nutritional deficiencies.
This means that instead of consuming chicken or lamb daily, you could try fish, meat, or any other protein source.
Choose the One You Like
While one food might be better for you than the other, eating it is not worth it if you don’t like it.
Eating should be an enjoyable time, not something you dread.
So, if lamb is better for you, but you don’t like it, go with chicken instead and make the appropriate changes to stay within your goal.
For example, add one tablespoon of olive oil to chicken or ¼ of an avocado to help increase the fat content (since lamb has more fat than chicken).
That way you get a similar calorie and macro intake.
Track Your Food
Since lamb and chicken have different nutritional properties, it is better to track your food to make the necessary adjustments between them.
For example, if you swap lamb for chicken, you might need to remove some fats (olive oil, butter, nuts, seeds, avocado) throughout the day to compensate for the extra fat from the lamb.
When it comes to nutritional goals, the more accurately you can track your food, the better results you can obtain.
So, measure the portions of your food and use a calorie counter app to help you determine any necessary adjustments based on the protein you choose.
Cook Them in Different Ways
Finally, cooking chicken can become somewhat boring since it doesn’t have a lot of flavors. Even lamb can become boring if you cook it the same way every time you have it.
Search for recipes that you like to help you add these amazing proteins to your diet. Here are some of my favorite recipes to help you get started.
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About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.