Consumer Reports Health: Chicken Nuggets Put Through the Paces With Kids and Trained Testers

May 04, 2010, 06:00 ET from Consumer Reports

Nuggets Serve Up Taste With a Heaping of Sodium and Fat

YONKERS, N.Y., May 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- There is some good news and some bad news from the foods and sensory labs at Consumer Reports Health, where two panels were recently convened to taste 12 brands of chicken nuggets and two made of soy.  The good news: Some common ground was reached between kid testers ages 6-17 and grownup trained testers; two Consumer Reports "Best Buys" were identified. The bad news: Those yummy chicken nuggets pack a wallop of fat and sodium while providing little nutritional value.

With claims like "Whole Grain," "Organic," and "100% All Natural," parents might easily assume that chicken nuggets, available frozen and refrigerated, are a healthy dinner choice.   But the labels can be misleading.  For example, Perdue Baked cites "whole grain breading" when in fact a single serving contains just one gram of fiber.  Consumer Reports Health gave the Perdue nuggets a "Good" Rating for nutrition.  Tyson's chicken nuggets use the claim "100% all natural," which is true; however, this brand of nuggets contains 17 grams of fat and 470 milligrams of sodium.  Consumer Reports Health gave Tyson's nuggets a "Fair" Rating for nutrition.  

The average person in the U.S. consumes about 3,500 milligrams of sodium a day, which is way above the 2,300 mg maximum recommended for most people.  The majority of sodium in our diet—approximately 77%—comes from packaged and restaurant foods.   "Busy parents who are trying to get dinner on the table really do have their work cut out for them.  You want to feed the kids something they'll like—and kids do like chicken nuggets—but you don't want to overwhelm them with fat and sodium.  The best you can do is keep an eye on those labels and try to round out the meal with some fruits and vegetables," said Gayle Williams, deputy editor, Consumer Reports Health.

Three brands earned a "Very Good" Rating for taste but on nutrition they all received a "Good" Rating. The top rated for taste, Market Pantry, (by Target) contains 500 milligrams of sodium and 10 grams of fat (as Consumer Reports was going to press, Target told CR it was in the process of changing its formulation). Bell & Evans Breaded earned the next best score for taste, with 360 milligrams of sodium and 9 grams of fat.  Runner-up Kirkland Signature Disney (Costco) contains 370 milligrams of sodium and 9 grams of fat.  Consumer Reports Health gave the Market Pantry ($0.53 per serving) and Kirkland Signature ($0.48 per serving) brands its "Best Buy" designation.  It's worth noting that while the Kirkland brand is cheap, you have to buy a five pound bag. The Bell & Evans was much pricier at $2.18 a serving.  

Even the two soy based nuggets, Boca Original Meatless Chik'n and Morningstar Farms Chik'n contain a heaping of sodium. The Boca nuggets contain 500 milligrams and the Morningstar brand has 600 milligrams.  The soy nuggets do have a slight nutritional advantage in that they contain more fiber—about 3 or 4 grams compared with zero to 2 for most others.  Only one of the 14 brands of nuggets tested, Health is Wealth, earned a "Very Good" for nutrition, but didn't pass muster with Consumer Reports' trained taste testers.  "There's the rub—the brand may be more nutritious than others, but if your kids won't eat it, what good is it?" said Williams.

JUNE 2010

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SOURCE Consumer Reports