Chicken nuggets are a staple of most kids' diets—and some adults, too (shh, we won't tell). Not only are they easy to prepare (just bake and eat) they're actually a pretty great source of protein. But not all chicken nuggets are created alike. While some are 100% white meat, others may contain rib meat, dark meat, or dare we say mystery meat that you probably want to think twice before consuming.
"White meat is leaner and therefore lower in calories and cholesterol-raising saturated fat than dark meat," says Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CEO of The Virtual Nutrition Experts and author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan. "In fact, dark meat has about twice the amount of saturated fat as white meat poultry. That said, you don't need to eat strict white-meat protein unless you have a history of hyperlipidemia or heart disease. Additionally, if you're aiming for a lower calorie and saturated fat diet, then white meat may be a more productive choice."
Moskovitz assures us it's OK for both kids and adults to eat nuggets, especially when paired with whole grains and fresh veggies. "Since chicken nuggets naturally contain added oils that ups the fat content, I recommend choosing all white meat chicken nuggets," she says.
But that doesn't mean dark meat is bad for you. "Despite what the internet may tell you, dark meat isn't less nutritious as white," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN. "While it may have more fat, it also has more iron and it is a source of many important nutrients."
Manaker says that instead of focusing on whether a chicken nugget is made with white versus dark meat, it is more important to ensure that it is made with 100% chicken and not made with fillers.
"It is also good to opt for a nugget that is not deep fried and one that can be baked during the re-heating process. Those that are heavily breaded may have far more calories than what your body needs, so in many cases, the less breading the better!"
Read on for our picks of nuggets made with white meat only including the brand both our nutritionists recommend for kids and adults!
Just Bare Lightly Breaded Chicken Breast Chunks
These fully cooked nuggets are made with chicken breast only. They contain no antibiotics, hormones or steroids, and no artificial ingredients or preservatives. At 16 grams of protein per serving, they are great tossed in a salad, as a mini slider on a bun, or just on their own.
Perdue Simply Smart Organic Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets
With 100% pure ingredients, Perdue is serving up these white meat chicken nuggets that have no GMO ingredients. When you sit down to eat, you'll be getting boneless, skinless chicken breast that's coated in crispy, gluten-free breading. "These nuggets are a huge hit in our house!" said one reviewer.
Applegate Naturals Chicken Nuggets
Made with only white meat chicken, Applegate's nuggets are made from humanely raised chickens that get no antibiotics ever. In addition to white meat chicken, they contain wheat flour, water, and rice flour and pack 12 grams of protein per serving. "These nuggets were extremely flavorful and not overly breaded and with a nice balance of spices and breading, they also crisped up nicely in the oven," said one happy reviewer.
Both Moskovitz and Manaker are fans of Applegate nuggets, since they are free of unnecessary ingredients and made with chicken that's humanely raised with zero antibiotics. "These products can be a slightly superior choice in both the taste and nutrition departments compared to other popular options in the aisles," says Moskovitz.
Banquet Chicken Breast Nuggets
When you pull these out on a weeknight, you'll know you're serving your family a tasty and nutritious source of protein. Made with 100% natural white meat chicken, Banquet nuggets have no artificial flavors, coloring or preservatives. "I've been disappointed in other brands nuggets but I thought I would try these," wrote one reviewer. "WOW! They are delicious, no gross stuff in them, when you bite into them all you see is white breast meat not some compressed mystery chicken."
Bell & Evans Breaded Chicken Nuggets
These nuggets are "100% whole breast meat pieces," says the company, "not mechanically chopped or separated meat." Lightly breaded and with 21 grams of protein per serving, it's no wonder that these uncooked nuggets are Bell & Evans' best-selling product. "This is the best chicken nugget I have had in my entire life!" said one reviewer.
Earth's Best Chicken Nuggets for Kids
These nuggets from vegetarian-fed chickens may be labeled for kids but anyone who loves all-white meat chicken will enjoy them. Made with chicken breast meat and breading, they have 6 grams of protein per serving and no artificial flavors or colors.
Ian's Breaded Chicken Nuggets
These chicken nuggets are made with skinless, boneless chicken breast. You'll get 11 grams of protein per serving and they are free from allergens such as wheat, gluten, tree nuts, milk and soy. Go for the eight-ounce pack for a solo nosh, or the 20-ounce family pack to feed your whole crew.