Chicken Nuggets: Serving Up Chicken or Preservatives?

Chicken nuggets are made from chicken breasts or meat slurry. Then the meat is dipped in a breading mixture or batter and either deep-fried or baked. Fast food chains usually fry them in vegetable oil. However, there are some vegetarian nuggets made from potatoes, soybeans or other vegetables.

These tasty chicken bites were created by Robert C. Baker in the 1950s. He had other inventions but the chicken nugget remained the most popular one. McDonald’s started selling them 30 years later after its invention. There was even a world record for the biggest chicken nugget in 2013. It weighed 51.1 pounds and measured 3.25 feet long and 2 feet wide.


How chicken nuggets are made

Chicken nuggets can be healthier if you bake them or make them yourself with quality ingredients.

  • Homemade breaded and baked chicken nuggets are a way healthier than those store-bought and fast-food ones. Unlike fast-food nuggets, homemade chicken nuggets don’t contain preservatives and have less sodium and fat. A nice salad for a side dish will even improve the nutrition value of those tasty bites.
  • The situation with fast food chicken nuggets is different. A study on what goes into the making of fast food chicken nuggets revealed more than just chicken. Fast food nuggets also contain ground bone, blood vessels, gristle and fat. Although big fast food chains claim that they use only white meat, findings from the study showed otherwise.

Although McDonald’s changed its chicken nuggets recipe, the process of preparation and cooking remains the same. First step – removing the bones from whole chickens. Workers set aside chicken breasts for the next step of preparing chicken McNuggets. Then, the fat from the breasts is removed and chicken breasts are put into bins. Then, they are put into a giant grinder where spices and chicken skin are added for flavor. Then, the grounded meat is used for making into popular McNugget shapes which many of us are familiar with. Then the chicken nuggets are mechanically battered on the assembly line. By this time, the chicken nuggets are ready to go through a partial frying process. The workers then pack and freeze the partially-fried nuggets before sending them off to McDonald’s restaurants where they will be fried again until they are fully cooked.

Although the above scenario may be true for McNuggets, it may not be valid for smaller food chains with suspicious hygiene standards and quality of food. What goes into some chicken nuggets remain a mystery. Some people have claimed that chicken nuggets are actually made from so called ‘pink slime’ which looks extremely gross and disturbing.


  • But that is not the worst

The worst comes from the chicken nuggets ingredients which are officially listed. Besides sugar and sodium, chicken nuggets have ingredients such as TBHQ, GMO corn, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrogenated soybean oil and dimethylpolysiloxane anti-foaming agent. All those sound scary for most people who are unfamiliar with what the terms mean.


  • Hydrogenated Oil
The avg portion of chicken nuggets contains 30g of fat

The avg portion of chicken nuggets contains 30g of fat

It can be extremely risky to consume something that contains this type of oil. The main reason is that it interrupts normal cell metabolism and other adverse reactions when absorbed by the human body. Researchers have found that hydrogenated fats may lead to birth defects, bone problems, diabetes, digestive problems and atherosclerosis. Heart diseases, liver problems, sexual dysfunction, skin rashes, vision problems, learning difficulties and cancer are also on the list of harmful effects brought about by hydrogenated oil.

The average portion of chicken nuggets contains 30g of fat. It can cause heart disease and inflammation. There is a list of eight different oils in chicken nuggets. Two of them are GMO oils. Other oils listed are monoglycerides, diglycerides, etc. All of them are unsaturated and release free radicals into the food which go right into your body when you consume chicken nuggets.


  • Sodium
10 chicken nuggets has 1000 mg of sodium

10 chicken nuggets has 1000 mg of sodium

The daily recommendation intake for sodium is between 2000 and 3000 mg. The sodium content is up to 100 g per nugget so a set of 10 chicken nuggets has 1000 mg of sodium. Eat two sets of chicken nuggets and you would have reached the maximum of the daily recommendation. Sodium overdose may lead to a coma in a worst case scenario. Less severe symptoms include diarrhea, kidney problems, dizziness, drowsiness, severe headaches, vomiting and numbness. So eat salt with caution. The main reason why chicken nuggets contain so much sodium is because they do not contain any potassium which usually neutralizes sodium.


  • TBHQ
tertiary butylhydroquinone

tertiary butylhydroquinone

Fast food chicken nuggets rely on chemical preservatives. TBHQ or tertiary butylhydroquinone is an aromatic compound which acts as a preservative. TBHQ is also used in perfumes, biodiesels, varnishes and lacquers. One gram of this harmful chemical can cause delirium, nausea and vomiting. If eaten on a regular basis, it can cause liver damage. It also leads to cell mutation and can cause reproductive problems if eaten in high doses.

  • Chicken Nuggets average nutrition facts
Chicken Nuggets average nutrition facts

Chicken Nuggets average nutrition facts

Serving size Calories Calories from fat Total fat Saturated fat Cholesterol Sodium Carbohydrate Protein
10 chicken nuggets 470 270 30g 5g 65mg 900mg 30g 22g
6 chicken nuggets 280 162 18g 3g 40mg 540g 18g 13g
4 chicken nuggets 190 110 12g 2g 30mg 360mg 12g 9g
6 lowfat chicken nugget 195 57 6.3g 2g 49mg 475mg 14g 19g

The best way to ensure that you’re eating healthy is to prepare the chicken nuggets yourself. There are many different recipes for healthy homemade chicken nuggets which you can easily find online. You can even experiment and make some veggie nuggets. Eat processed chicken nuggets sparingly because they have little nutritional value and too much preservatives which can be really harmful for your health.

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