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What's Inside a Chicken Nugget? A Warning to Parents and Advice on Healthier Fast Food

Tim Boyer's picture
Chicken nugget ingredients

A recent study tells us that we should be aware that those chicken nuggets we will allow our kids to eat may be even less healthy than previously believed. The new study reveals that samples of chicken nuggets from two randomly selected restaurants were discovered to actually be less meat and more "something else."

Researchers from the University of Mississippi Medical Center published their discovery titled "The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads Chicken Little” in the current issue of The American Journal of Medicine. The purpose of the study was to determine what the actual contents are that are served in that small box of chicken nuggets you can buy at many fast food restaurants.

The contents were identified by taking samples of chicken nuggets and applying a chemical solution to them that allows the samples to remain preserved intact while being sliced into very thin slices. The thin slices were then treated with chemical dyes that stain particular organic matter such as cell types and other tissues and then observed under a microscope to identify what is really in that chicken nugget.

What the researchers found surprised them. Rather than consisting of mostly chicken meat, the chicken nuggets were in reality less meat and more processed chicken parts such as fat, epithelium, bone, nerve, and connective tissue.

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“There’s all kinds of random stuff in there and it’s not all chicken meat,” says Dr. Richard deShazo M.D. the lead author of the study. “The problem is that it gets adulterated,” he adds in a video statement.

The conclusion reached by Dr. deShazo and his colleagues is that “chicken nuggets” are a misnomer because they consist mostly of fat and other parts that do not qualify as muscle tissue from chicken breast or thigh of which chicken nuggets are supposed to be made of.

For many food and nutrition authorities, these findings are not surprising. Other reports about fast food dirty secrets hidden from consumers in restaurants revealed that choosing chicken with the belief that since it is a white meat that it is a healthy alternative when ordering a meal, is actually erroneous. Chicken breasts are often cooked with a heavy dollop of oil and butter to keep them moist, tasty and prevent sticking to the pan or grill and thereby adds many extra calories to a dish.

Furthermore, earlier studies have revealed additional foods served as popular kid’s meals that researchers from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) are warning parents to keep their children away from because they nutritionally failed to meet dietary standards and were identified as “The 5 Worst Kid’s Meals."

Fortunately, parents have some resources available to them to help them choose healthier fast foods for their kids such as the bestselling “Eat This, Not That! Restaurant Survival Guide,” and a list of Dr. Oz-approved fast food menu choices that tells you what fast food menu items you can choose that are categorized as either 500 calories or less and 300 calories or less.

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Reference: The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads “Chicken Little” The American Journal of Medicine; Sept. 2013; Richard D. deShazo, M.D. et al