Consumer Reports Insights

Some chicken nuggets score well for nutrition

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tasters trained by Consumer Reports tried 12 frozen or refrigerated nuggets made of chicken and two made of soy. They also assessed McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. And they asked 31 boys and girls ages 6 to 17 to try McDonald's along with two other products.

Tops for taste among the store-bought were Target's Market Pantry and Bell & Evans Breaded, which are uncooked. Costco's Kirkland Signature Disney nuggets, in a Mickey Mouse shape, were nearly as tasty.

All three scored "good" for nutrition, about the best you can expect. Only Health Is Wealth scored "very good": It's lower in fat and sodium than the rest, but it isn't very tasty. Nutrition scores are for the 3- to 4-ounce serving suggested by most manufacturers. Double the size and most tested nuggets would score "fair" or "poor."

The two soy-based products, Boca and Morningstar Farms, didn't fool the panelists, who said they had very little chicken flavor. Their main nutritional advantage is that they have more fiber: three or four grams, compared with zero to two for most others.

The McDonald's nuggets, from three restaurants near Consumer Reports' headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y., tasted "very good" but scored just "fair" for nutrition. They have a batter coating rather than the breading of most store-bought nuggets. Most members of the kids' panel preferred McDonald's nuggets to those from Market Pantry and Bell & Evans, though they liked all three.

Bottom line: Market Pantry nuggets -- Target told Consumer Reports they were being reformulated -- are as tasty as Bell & Evans's and cost far less. Runner-up Kirkland nuggets are cheap, but you have to buy a five-pound bag. Cook any nuggets to 165 degrees. (Use a meat thermometer.) And compare health claims on packaging with the nutrition panel. Perdue Baked cites "whole grain breading," for example, but a serving has just one gram of fiber.

Copyright 2010. Consumers Union of United States Inc.

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