IN a recent article entitled Chicken Nuggets: Good Intentions Gone Bad? published for the American Institute for Cancer Research, Author Karen Collins MS. RD. CDN., addresses our shift away from red meat to chicken, including the ever popular Chicken Nugget. Children love Nuggets but should children be eating them? Are Nuggets the first step on the road to obesity and poor health? I am not a nutritionist or a food professional but after spending nearly 20 years encouraging healthier alternatives for children attending elementary schools, I am concerned that we may be getting caught up in the Good Food, Bad Food Controversy. We have been shifting the blame for our tendency to get heavier with each generation from one food to another without solving the problem. What “not to eat” can be just as much a fad as “what to eat”. There is no weight gain mystery. We eat too much and too often! I believe that the simple solution may be to worry less, eat more fruits and vegetables and eat smaller portions of everything else. Collins writes “The complete answer about chicken nuggets can’t be found simply by comparing them with various alternatives. The nutritional impact depends on how the overall meal is put together”. When we begin to demonize certain foods this may be the one critical factor that we overlook by focusing exclusively on a single food item. It’s the overall fat, calorie, sugar and sodium impact of whatever we eat that makes the difference. At the end of the day, Chicken Nuggets are just one little piece of a huge Food Smorgasbord. It’s how many you eat at one seating that counts – whether they are bakes or fried or deep fried. If five Baked Nuggets is a reasonable serving, then maybe you should cut back on the serving size if the nuggets are deep fried, regardless if they are purchases out or made from scratch at home. Even if you are baking a store bought product, remember that all nuggets are not all created equal so it is important to read the box to check the nutritional content and serve accordingly. Filling 2/3 of the plate with cut up veggies and a whole grain roll will fill up the plate if you are worried that it looks too bare! So are chicken nuggets bad? I don’t think so but I do believe that what truly matters is how we put our food together and as time goes by, I realize that some of those old clichés our parents were fond of, like, “everything in moderation” [except fruits and vegetables of course – we need more of those] still make sense.
Ruthie Burd began the Lunch Lady in 1993. Today it is Canada’s largest franchised provider of individually catered hot meals to elementary school chikdren. She is both passionate and practical about encouraging kids to make better food choices while providing their busy parents with an alternative to the home-packed lunch. You can visit the Lunch Lady anytime at thelunchlady.ca or contact her at 1-800-603-6656.