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Sunday, October 13, 2013

What's in that chicken nugget?

Like chicken nuggets?  What kid doesn’t like a meal of chicken nuggets, fries and a soft drink?  So how healthy are those chicken nuggets?  In the class I teach, students always say chicken nuggets are healthy because chicken is healthy.   True, a baked chicken breast without the skin is lean protein and quite healthy.  But fried foods like chicken nuggets are drenched in fat so that is already one strike against them.  And is the meat in a chicken nugget really lean white meat? 

Well this week, NBC news ran a story What's in that chicken nugget?   They noted how researchers in Mississippi analyzed chicken nuggets to find out what is in them.  They purchased chicken nuggets from two nationally recognized fast food chains, went back to their labs and preserved, stained and analyzed the contents of the nuggets. 

Chicken nugget – Fast Food Restaurant 1
                50% muscle
                50% fat, blood vessels, nerves

Chicken nuggets – Fast Food Restaurant 2
                40% muscle
                60% fat, cartilage, with pieces of bone

Well, so much for the 100% lean white chicken meat in a chicken nugget.  The lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Medicine, told Reuter’s Health, “What has happened is that some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it and still call it chicken.” 

Although the researchers refused to acknowledge the Fast Food chains they visited, one can go online and look up the nutritional information for chicken nuggets.

Fast Food Chain
Chicken Nuggets
Fat Calories
% fat calories
4 pieces
4 pieces
Burger King
4 pieces

     Rather than lean chicken, chicken nuggets are loaded with fat as shown by the % fat calories.   The American Heart Association recommends we limit our fat intake to less than 25-35 percent of your total calories each day.    
    Feeding a child (or yourself) chicken nuggets and fries, leads to a high fat meal, well over the American Heart Association's fat recommendations.               

         So what is a parent to do? 

  1. Limit the times, amounts of chicken nuggets.   Choose the 4 piece and not the 6 piece chicken nuggets.  Let chicken nuggets be a treat, rather than a routine. 
  2. Skip the fries.  Chicken nuggets are high enough in fat, don’t make the meal worse by adding another fried food to the meal.  Make it a rule, one fried food at a meal. 
  3. Make your own chicken nuggets with real lean white chicken meat, bread them, and then sauté in olive oil or another heart healthy oil.  Try the recipe at:  Healthier Homemade Chicken Nugget.

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