Frozen chicken nuggets are a popular staple in many households with kids (especially with picky eaters). What do they offer nutritionally? I compare 10 of the most popular frozen chicken nugget brands.
Kids love frozen chicken nuggets because they taste good and are easy to hold and to chew!
Parents love them because they’re cheap, convenient, and easy to prepare with little time and effort.
So what’s the problem with ultra-processed foods?
Often, these family-friendly convenience foods are higher in fat, saturated fat and sodium.
Approximately 90% of children are eating too much sodium each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Chicken nuggets are one the list of the 10 most common foods making up more than 40% of the sodium kids eat.
While frozen chicken nuggets are a fair source of protein and iron (a key nutrient for growth during childhood), they lack other important nutrients like vitamin A and C.
Let’s review the nutrition facts of a few brands and see which ones are the best options for your family.
I put the spotlight on three nutrients with potential negative health benefits (fat, saturated fat and sodium) for 10 popular frozen chicken nugget brands.
(Serving and nugget sizes vary between brands and that may partially explain the difference in nutrient amounts.)
Tyson chicken nuggets are made from chicken chopped up into small pieces to look like a nugget.
Compared to the other brands I reviewed, Tyson is on the high end of fat, saturated fat and sodium.
A serving of 5 nuggets contains 17 g of fat, 4 g of saturated fat, 14 g of protein, 15 g of carbohydrates and 470 mg sodium.
2. Dino Buddies
Yummy Dino Buddies are pieces of chicken breast and rib meat in the shape of dinosaurs.
The box states “!00% All Natural” which appeals to health-conscious parents.
According to the FDA, “all natural” means that nothing artificial was added to the food product. But it doesn’t pertain to additives or chemicals that are used during food production.
One serving of 4 nuggets contains 9 g of fat, 1.5 g of saturated fat and 360 mg of sodium.
These breaded nuggets are made from chicken breast and rib meat. Good & Gather is Target’s brand that was formerly Archer Farms.
This store brand has the second lowest amount of sodium with 320 g (the next lowest is 70 g) but it’s one of the highest in fat and saturated fat content.
One serving of 4 nuggets provides 14 g of fat and 4 g of saturated fat.
Trader Joe’s frozen breaded chicken nuggets are gluten-free and made from chicken breast meat (the leanest cut of the chicken).
When it comes to saturated fat and protein content, these nuggets are a winner.
A 4 oz serving provides 6 g of fat, 1 g of saturated fat, and 16g of protein. But the sodium content is on the high side, providing 450 mg in one serving.
Applegate chicken is humanely raised, but its selling points don’t stop there.
This product is made from white chicken meat and is casein and dairy free, so it’s a good option to go with for children with a dairy allergy.
One serving of 6 nuggets has 8 g of fat, 1.5 g of saturated fat and 350 mg of sodium, which is lower than some other brands but still has more sodium than recommended.
Bell & Evans is organic, and it’s made from whole breast pieces, not chopped or separated meat shaped into “nuggets”.
It’s low in saturated fat, but the sodium amount is more than recommended.
A 4 oz serving provides 9 g of fat, 1.5 g of saturated fat and 360 mg, which is comparable to Applegate.
This brand has one of the most recognizable names. However, the nutrient content doesn’t put this brand at the top of the list.
Based on the ratio of carbohydrate and fat to the protein amount, this breaded frozen chicken nugget is more about the breading than the chicken.
One serving of 4 nuggets provides 13 g of fat, 2.5 g of saturated fat, and 450 mg of sodium.
Banquet chicken nuggets are made from breast and rib meat.
The sodium content is one of the highest of the brands reviewed. The fat content is average compared to other chicken nugget brands, but customer reviews gives this one a thumbs down for taste.
A serving of 5 nuggets contains 12 g of fat, 2.5 g of saturated fat, and 490 mg of sodium.
Great Value is Walmart’s store brand. The fat and sodium content is comparable to Target’s brand Good & Gather and Perdue, but Great value tops the list with the most sodium.
One serving of 5 nuggets provides 15 g of fat, 3 g of saturated fat, and a whopping 560 mg of sodium.
The manufacturer’s serving size of 3 nuggets is smaller than the other brands. However, even if you eat two servings, Earth’s Best would still be at the top of the list when it comes to low sodium and saturated fat.
One serving of 3 nuggets provides 0 g of saturated fat and 70 g of sodium.
Here’s a table comparing the 10 brands at a glance (per serving).
|Brand||Serving Size||Calories||Fat (g)||Saturated Fat (g)||Protein (g)||Carbs (g)||Sodium (mg)|
|Tyson||5||270||17 g||4 g||14 g||15 g||470 mg|
|Dino||4||180||9 g||1.5 g||9 g||15 g||360 mg|
|Good & Gather (Target)||4||220||14 g||4 g||10 g||13 g||320 mg|
|Trader Joe’s||4 oz||200||6 g||1 g||16 g||20 g||450 mg|
|Applegate Naturals||6||190||8 g||1.5 g||12 g||14 g||350 mg|
|Bell & Evans||4 oz||200||9 g||1.5 g||10 g||21 g||360 mg|
|Perdue||4||230||13 g||2.5 g||9 g||19 g||450 mg|
|Banquet||5||220||12 g||2.5 g||12 g||16 g||490 mg|
|Great Value||5||240||15 g||3 g||9 g||17 g||560 mg|
|Earth’s Best||3||100||5 g||0 g||5 g||7 g||70 mg|
Not only are frozen chicken nuggets full of fat and sodium, they can be pricey.
Making your own is one way to keep the cost down and know what’s going into the food your family eats.
How to Bake Your Own Chicken Nuggets
Ingredients: 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, flour, eggs (beaten), and bread crumbs. Add whatever seasonings you’d like, such as some salt, pepper, garlic powder, and dried parsley.
Breading is a simple cooking activity for kids to help with. You’ll need three bowls.
- Bowl #1: combine 2-3 eggs and ¼ cup of milk
- Bowl #2: flour combined with seasonings
- Bowl #3: bread crumbs
- Cut nuggets shape and sizes.
- Dunk nuggets in egg wash (bowl #1)
- Dredge the nuggets in the flour (bowl #2)
- Fully cover nuggets in bread crumb (bowl #3)
You can either pan fry the nuggets in 1 inch of oil or bake on a lightly oiled sheet pan at 400 F for 15 minutes. This recipe offers a healthier and lower fat option.
Tip: Try cooking the nuggets in an air fryer to get that crispy outer layer without adding fat.
Send Me The Do’s & Dont’s of Picky Eating!
Frozen chicken nuggets are best kept as a once in a while food, not as daily staples in your little one’s diet. They offer more sodium and saturated fat than is recommended.
Look for brands that contain no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and lower fat choices. In my comparison, Earth’s Best and Trader Joe’s topped the chart in the lower fat category.
The winner for lowest sodium was Earth’s Best.
Many of these brands contain allergens such as milk, wheat or soy, so look for allergen free alternatives from reputable brands instead if your child has food allergies.
When feeding your family, it’s all about the food balance and less about the good food – bad food trade-off. You can always lower the overall fat and sodium content of a meal by adding more fruit and vegetables to the plate!