Chicken Nuggets: Are They Healthy?

This kid-friendly and wildly popular food is often demanded by kids. Should you give into to your kiddos' requests for these bite-sized poultry pieces?
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Close-up of chicken nuggets with ketchup

Photo by: Ciaran Griffin ©(c) Ciaran Griffin

Ciaran Griffin, (c) Ciaran Griffin

This kid-friendly and wildly popular food is often DEMANDED by kids.  Should you give into to your kiddos' requests for these bite-sized poultry pieces?
YES?

At a first glance, breaded and fried chicken isn’t the best nor is it the worst food your kid could be eating. The chicken provides some B-vitamins and protein and served with a side salad or veggies and a whole grain, it can be part of a healthy eating plan.

Much of the nutritional value in nuggets depends on who’s making them. Store-bought and fast-food varieties aren’t without their issues (see below). You can always opt to make your own breaded and baked nuggets. This helps decrease the unpronounceable ingredient list, preservatives, sodium and fat.

NO?

The following is the basic nutritional info for 6-piece chicken nuggets from a popular fast food joint:

  • Calories: 280
  • Total Fat: 18 grams (27% of the daily recommended dose for an adult)
  • Saturated Fat: 3 grams
  • Sodium: 540 milligrams (23% of the daily recommended dose for an adult)

Although the calories and even fat seem to be reasonable, you’re not getting much bang for your buck — looking at the nutritional value, this means that for the 280 calories you’re not getting many nutrients in return. These nuggets are lacking significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats.

In addition, in 2003 a popular fast food establishment promoted their chicken nuggets as now using “all white meat.” That makes us all wonder . . . what were they using before to make their nuggets?
Furthermore, it’s the ingredient list that raises a red flag. Besides reading like a short novel, two ingredients in some varieties of chicken nuggets are the preservatives tBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) and dimethylpolysiloxane. The former is a petroleum-based product that helps prevent rancidity while the latter is an “anti-foaming agent” which is also used in silly putty. Both products are thought to pose no health risk, but who wants to eat food with ingredients that you can’t pronounce?

The Verdict: Most varieties of processed chicken nuggets should be eaten sparingly. Besides offering little nutritional value, there contain an overwhelmingly high amount of preservatives. If chicken nuggets are a favorite in your house, opt to make your own – baked, fried or even broiled – at least you’ll have full control over the ingredients you’re serving.

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