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Chicken Nuggets Loaded With Fat, Salt

Chicken Nuggets May Taste Great to Kids, but They Often Lack Nutritional Value
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 4, 2010 -- Chicken nuggets may be a hit with kids and some adults, but for the most part, their nutritional value is minimal, says a new investigation by Consumer Reports Health.

What’s more, many brands make claims that are misleading, using terms like “whole grain,” “all natural,” or “organic” -- which make some people think of the little chicken bites as healthy dinner choices, Consumer Reports Health says.

But whether store-bought or purchased from McDonald’s or other fast food establishments, chicken nuggets pack a wallop of fat and sodium, the publication says in a news release.

Rating Chicken Nuggets

Trained investigators sampled 12 brands of chicken nuggets and two made of soy. Thirty-one boys and girls aged 6 to 17 assisted with the taste testing.

Among the major findings:

  • Perdue Baked nuggets scored a “good” rating for nutrition, even though a single 3-4 ounce serving had 160 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 370 milligrams of sodium. It touts its nuggets as having “whole grain breading,” but a serving contains just 1 gram of fiber.
  • Tyson’s chicken nuggets, which claim truthfully they are “100% natural,” contain 17 grams of fat and 470 milligrams of sodium. Tyson’s earned a “fair” rating for nutrition.
  • Three brands earned a “very good” taste rating, but only “good” for nutrition. Market Pantry, by Target, contains 500 milligrams of sodium and 10 grams of fat; Bell & Evans Breaded came in second in taste, with 360 milligrams of sodium and nine grams of fat; Kirkland Signature Disney (Costco) contains 370 milligrams of sodium and 9 grams of fat.

Consumer Reports Health says Market Pantry and Kirkland Signature earned its best buy designation at 53 cents and 48 cents per serving, respectively. But the report adds that although “the Kirkland brand is cheap, you have to buy a 5-pound bag.” Nuggets by Bell & Evans were much more expensive, at $2.18 per serving, Consumer Reports Health says.

The Boca nuggets had 500 milligrams and the Morningstar brand 600 milligrams of sodium. Those brands, though, do have a minor nutritional advantage because they contain more fiber — 3 or 4 grams compared with 0-2 grams for most others. Even two soy-based nuggets, Boca Original Meatless Chik’n and Morningstar Farms Chik’n, contain “a heaping” of sodium, Consumer Reports Health says.

Just one of the 14 brands tested, Health is Wealth, scored a “very good” rating for nutrition, but it didn’t pass muster with the taste testers.

“There’s the rub,” Gayle Williams, deputy editor of Consumer Reports Health, says in a news release. “The brand may be more nutritious than others, but if your kids won’t eat it, what good is it?”

Chicken Nuggets: Read the Label

Williams tells WebMD that Consumer Reports Health isn’t recommending that parents stop eating nuggets or feeding them to their kids because that wouldn’t be realistic.

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