Hot and crispy chicken nuggets are a favorite among children and adults alike. They consist of small pieces of battered boneless chicken that are deep-fried in oil.
The chicken nugget was invented in the 1950s by a food science professor at Cornell University named Robert Baker. He originally coined his invention the “Chicken Crispie”, a name that evolved over the years into the “chicken nugget” we all know and love today.
Most of us get that craving for these golden, bite-sized morsels every now and then. But, before you hit the local fast-food restaurant’s drive-thru, let’s investigate: How healthy are chicken nuggets? What exactly are they made of? Is there a place for them on a low carb diet? Keep reading for answers.
Are Chicken Nuggets Keto Friendly?
A 6-pack of chicken nuggets isn’t very filling, but it contains almost your entire allotment of carbs for the day on Keto. A strict Ketogenic diet advises daily net carbs not to exceed 20 grams daily. If you must have your nuggets, you could probably factor them into a low carb diet, as long as you keep your carb intake very low for the rest of the day’s meals.
The carbs lie not in the chicken, but in that breaded crispy coating which is often made of cornmeal, bread crumbs, wheat flour and even sugar. A better choice for Keto is to order your chicken without the breading. Some fast-food restaurants serve grilled nuggets or a grilled chicken fillet without the bun. Another low carb option is an un-breaded chicken breast, thigh or leg with the skin left on for extra satiating fat, which you can enjoy along with a side salad.
Alternatively, you might opt to make your own Keto-friendly chicken nuggets or cutlets at home using a lower carb breading made from almond or coconut flour, nutritional yeast, and seasonings. Keep reading for a great recipe later in this article.
How Many Carbs are in Chicken Nuggets?
A 6-piece order of fast food chicken nuggets contains 14 grams of carbs. Dipping sauces, such as sweet and sour sauce or honey barbeque can exponentially increase this carb count as they are typically high in sugar and carbs.
How Many Calories are in Chicken Nuggets?
An order of 6 small deep-fried chicken nuggets contains 287 calories. Any sauces that you use for dipping can make a big difference in calories as these sauces usually contain a lot of added sugar.
|Serving: 6 pieces (95 grams) of McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets|
|Total Fat 19 grams||29%|
|Saturated fat 3.1 grams||15%|
|Polyunsaturated fat 5 grams|
|Monounsaturated fat 8 grams|
|Trans fat 0.1 grams|
|Cholesterol 41.8 milligrams||13%|
|Sodium 537.7 milligrams||22%|
|Potassium 239.4 milligrams||6%|
|Total Carbohydrate 14 grams||4%|
|Sugar 0.1 grams|
|Protein 15 grams||30%|
Most of the nutrients in chicken nuggets come from the chicken, not so much the breading. However, conventional chicken nuggets are made with mechanically separated chicken consisting of the parts of the chicken carcass that are not sellable. A mass-produced chicken nugget contains only 50% meat and the rest is fat, ground bone, blood vessels and connective tissues.
Chicken provides a good source of iron, cobalamin, magnesium selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and niacin. You’ll also receive trace amounts of vitamin C and calcium.
Chicken is an excellent source of protein. A typical 4-ounce serving of grilled chicken breast has 32 grams of protein. However, the same 4 ounces in nugget form only provide 9 grams of protein.
Protein helps your body to maintain muscle mass and also helps you to build muscle. People who eat adequate amounts of protein in their diet are more likely to maintain muscle mass and efficient metabolism.
Healthy Bones and Teeth
Aside from protein, chicken also provides a decent amount of calcium and phosphorous, both of which support healthy bones and teeth. These minerals also help reduce your risk of developing arthritis.
Relieves Stress and Induces Calmness
The tryptophan and vitamin B5 in chicken (and turkey) have aftereffects that can relieve stress and help you feel relaxed. Chicken also contains magnesium, which relieves PMS symptoms.
Boosts the Immune System
There is a reason why people tend to eat chicken soup when they’re sick. It’s because chicken strengthens the immune cells in the body. The protein in chicken nuggets gives your immune system a boost.
Chicken nuggets are usually deep-fried in vegetable oil. Deep-fried foods are associated with obesity and heart disease. Most frozen chicken nuggets contain hydrogenated soybean oil. Both hydrogenated soybean oil and vegetable oil contain Trans fats, which can be the reason for obesity.
Most manufacturers use harmful ingredients in their chicken nugget processing that can lead to negative health effects. These ingredients include TBHQ, GMO Corn, Autolysed Yeast Extract with MSG, Dimethyl Polysiloxane Anti-foaming Agent, Sodium, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar and Bleached Wheat.
TBHQ is a petroleum-based product that can lead to cellular mutation, liver damage, damages to the reproductive system, and biochemical changes.
A serving of 10 nuggets contains about 1000 mg of sodium, almost half the daily recommended intake of sodium. However, chicken nuggets do not contain potassium to offset the sodium, which can raise blood pressure to a dangerous level.
Processed chicken nuggets also contain sugar, which can be disguised on the ingredients list as evaporated cane juice or evaporated corn syrup. A diet high in sugar is associated with negative health effects, such as diabetes.
Keto Chicken Nuggets Recipe
- 1 pound of Chicken breast
- 1/2 tablespoon Garlic powder
- 1/2 tablespoon Onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 1/2 cup Almond flour
- 1/3 cup Nutritional yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Pink Himalayan Salt
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- Cut chicken into chunks for nuggets or strips for larger chicken fingers.
- Place all other dry ingredients into a large plastic Ziploc bag and shake to combine all the seasonings.
- Place chicken chunks into seasoning bag and shake to coat. You may need to do this step in batches.
- Grease a large baking sheet with sesame oil (or other healthy oil for frying, such as Canola oil). You can also deep-fry these nuggets if you prefer.
- Bake at 400 Degrees Fahrenheit for 7-10 minutes. Flip the nuggets and return to the oven for another 7-10 minutes. Enjoy with a low sugar barbeque sauce or carb-free Dijon mustard.
Are Chicken Nuggets Healthy?
While the chicken provides some B-vitamins and protein, much of the nutritional value depends on how they are prepared and served. Baked nuggets are lower in saturated fat, especially if you’re using a healthier oil, like Canola rather than vegetable oil. If you enjoy your nuggets along with a side salad or steamed veggies, chicken nuggets can be part of a healthy eating plan.
You can always opt to make your own baked nuggets to better control the unhealthy ingredients, such as preservatives, sodium and fat.
Although chicken nuggets appear to contain a reasonable amount of calories, they’re not very filling because they don’t contain very many nutrients.
The ingredient list is another cause for concern. Many varieties of frozen and fast food chicken nuggets contain the preservative Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), a petroleum-based product that helps prevent rancidity. Another preservative in chicken nuggets is called dimethylpolysiloxane, also known as Polydimethylsiloxane, which is a combination of many chemicals labelled “less than safe” for human consumption.
For these reasons, processed chicken nuggets should be eaten sparingly. If chicken nuggets are a favorite among your family, opt to make your own healthier version at home.