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The chicken nugget challenge


(AP Photo/Larry Crowe)

If you think chicken nuggets make a healthful meal for your kids, you might want to think again.

In a report released Tuesday, Consumer Reports analyzes 14 brands of nuggets -- including two soy-based varieties -- for taste, nutrition content and price. Not surprisingly, none earned high marks for nutrition.

Two panels -- one that included trained adult testers, the other 31 youngsters aged 6 to 17 -- weighed in on nuggets' merits. They agreed that Target's Market Pantry brand, Bell & Evans Breaded nuggets and Costco's Kirkland Signature Disney (shaped like Mickey Mouse heads) tasted best, while the Boca Original meatless Chik'n and Morningstar Farms Chik'n (what's with this "chik'n" business?) failed to please palates. Same for the brand that ranked highest for nutritional value: Health is Wealth brand had less fat and sodium than the others, but nobody liked the way those chicken chunks tasted.

The key nutrients of concern in chicken nuggets are sodium (of which Redi Serve Nibblers and MorningStar Farms soy nuggets each had 600 mg), fat (Barber Foods Breaded Original brand topped the list at 21 grams per serving) and fiber (most brands had zero to 2 grams). In general, the products tested had lots of the first two and little of the last. Even Purdue Baked brand's "whole grain breading" made for just 1 gram of fiber per serving. The soy-based brands had 3 or 4 grams of fiber per serving, but wouldn't you rather just eat hay?

Consumer Reports urges chicken nugget consumers to read package labels carefully, especially to pin down the serving size that's reflected in the Nutrition Facts numbers. And, CR cautions, be wary of claims such as "Whole Grain," "Organic," and "100% All Natural," none of which panned out in the products surveyed.

Does this mean you should never feed your kids another nugget? Of course not. Just do so infrequently and with eyes wide open, and make sure there's other, more healthful stuff on the plate too. Fruit or vegetables, low-fat dairy or something that's really and truly made with whole grains could turn those nuggets into a much happier meal.

Here's today's poll:

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  May 6, 2010; 7:42 AM ET
Categories:  Family Health , Nutrition and Fitness  
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Comments

I only buy the Bell Evans chicken nuggets just to have on hand for emergency meals for the child. They actually taste quite good, better than any breaded chicken product I've eaten at a restaurant. It's interesting because while it takes less work to make the frozen nuggets (pop into oven for 30 mins and forget about it). It takes less time to actually cut up some fresh chicken, egg and flour it, and fry in a little oil. Add a little mayo and pickle and you've got yourself a chik-fil-a sandwich.

Posted by: mediajunky | May 6, 2010 8:32 AM | Report abuse

I keep some soy nuggets on hand for when I really need groceries but should eat before going. And I was really non-plussed by the rather eat hay crack. It's a really cheap shot to call all vegetarian products hay or sawdusts. Don't lump things together. There are plenty of omnivore foods that taste terrible, too, but no one is treating all of those the same to dismiss the choices of a whole group of people.

Posted by: Fizziks | May 6, 2010 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Ok, I get that fiber is the latest nutrition obsession but does it really surprise anyone that there isn't any in chicken nuggets? There isn't any fiber in chicken to begin with and even the most commercially processed nuggets don't have enough breading to constitute any real fiber content. Now, I'm not saying that you should feed your kids chicken nuggets all the time just that this analysis is junk.

Posted by: cyprissa | May 6, 2010 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Chick-fil-A ! ! There's only one in California, but the 160-mile round-trip is always worth it. And whenever I can escape the Left Coast to visit family & friends in the South, I make sure to eat there at least once a day.

Posted by: harris39 | May 6, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The "hay" crack is disappointingly unenlightened.

If people really knew what happened to the overwhelming majority of the chickens that end up as "nuggets," they would never touch them. They live in cages so small, they can't spread their wings. Their beaks are clipped so that they don't peck at each other. They are genetically bred to be grossly overweight, and are raised in conditions so unhealthy, they have to be on antibiotics their entire, albeit shortened, lives.

Regardless of whether someone thinks this is humane or not, the meat consumed from chickens is not healthy.

I challenege the reporter to go to a Perdue or Tyson chicken operation and learn about the source of chicken nuggets first hand. (Conditions are so awful, they probably won't let you in.)

Posted by: benshaberman | May 6, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

The "hay" crack is disappointingly unenlightened.

If people really knew what happened to the overwhelming majority of the chickens that end up as "nuggets," they would never touch them. They live in cages so small, they can't spread their wings. Their beaks are clipped so that they don't peck at each other. They are genetically bred to be grossly overweight, and are raised in conditions so unhealthy, they have to be on antibiotics their entire, albeit shortened, lives.

Regardless of whether someone thinks this is humane or not, the meat consumed from chickens is not healthy.

I challenege the reporter to go to a Perdue or Tyson chicken operation and learn about the source of chicken nuggets first hand. (Conditions are so awful, they probably won't let you in.)

Posted by: benshaberman | May 6, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

to mediajunky - Chik[sic]-fil-A sandwich only if you're using peanut oil ;-)

Posted by: harris39 | May 6, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I used to keep a bag of chicken nuggets in the freezer for quick meals. We ate them once or twice a month.

Then my 6-year-old went to the book fair at school and came home with a children's cookbook. He wanted me to try the homemade chicken nugget recipe in his new book. I was dubious, because previous attempts at making homemade nuggets (baked) were unpopular. I don't know whether this particular recipe was better than the previous attempts, or whether it was just because it was HIS book and HIS idea, but he and my other two kids love the homemade nuggets. Go figure!! I'll ride that wave as long as it's here.

Posted by: lancasterNYgirl | May 6, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

My understanding is the Chik'n thing is one of the marketing workarounds to the federal labeling requirement that the product must actually contain chicken to use the word.

Regarding the analysis, I'm looking for protein in my chicken, not fiber.

Posted by: v_cook | May 6, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I make my own chicken nuggets now. With ingredients already in hand and boneless skinless chicken breasts at $1.99/lb, it's very economical and healthier than buying then already made. And to keep the nuggets from drying out, I brine the breasts before I cut them in chunks.

Posted by: fantasyjoker | May 6, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the first paragraph - people who think chicken nuggets are a healthful meal for their children probably aren't reading this column.

Posted by: kschlem1 | May 6, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

jeez, what's so complicated about cutting up a boneless chicken breast, dipped in egg and flour/crumbs and tossed in the oven. you could even involve the kids in the process.

win win.

stop eating that processed crap.

Posted by: mycomment | May 6, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

It's funny, I actually find the comments to this article much more interesting, informed and thorough then the article itself. Let's face it — processed food just isn't good for you no matter what. Preservatives and additives automatically make the food bad for your health. I find the article above incomplete and kind of useless to someone really desiring information on the subject, and I agree with others who mentioned that the "hay" comment about the vegetarian alternatives was completely unnecessary. Honestly, was the author trying to say that the vegetarian nuggets are bad for you or just taste bad? It's impossible to tell. I personally don't think that they taste bad, and that they are probably better for you then the processed chicken because of the lack of antibiotics and hormones, but like I said before processed food is processed food. The only true way to eat healthy (whether you eat meat or not) is to cook your own food and buy organic whenever you can. If you are buying meat (I'll admit, I'm a vegetarian), the only responsible meat to buy is organic, grass fed, non-factory farm meat. It's better for animals, the environment and your health.

Posted by: nikki9 | May 13, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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