America loves chicken nuggets. The beige, spongy chunks of meat wrapped in a crispy coating have been a staple of fast-food restaurants, grocery freezers and kids' menus for more than three decades.

McDonald's sold its first McNugget in 1980. The concept was developed nearly 20 years earlier by agricultural scientist Robert C. Baker.

So, what is it about this inexpensive bite-size food? For starters, nuggets are convenient and secondly, they are (or can be) tasty. But chicken nuggets also are problematic for those trying to eat clean. Clean eating means consuming food as close to its natural state as possible. Nuggets found in a freezer may contain a lot of salt and synthetic chemicals.

McDonald's and Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets have more than 30 ingredients: monosodium glutamate (MSG), TBHQ and dimethylpolysiloxane, a chemical also found in Silly Putty.

Besides the suspect and "unclean" ingredients, processed chicken nuggets aren't the most nutritious choice. An eight-count nuggets from Chick-fil-A has 1,060 mg of sodium. That's nearly half the daily recommended amount. On average, Americans consume about 3,436 mg of sodium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Too much sodium can lead to hypertension and, in turn, heart disease. A McDonald's 10-piece order has 30 grams of fat and 900 mg of sodium.

But the chicken nugget doesn't have to be all bad. Just do it yourself. Cut chicken breasts into cubes, season them with your favorite herbs and spices and dredge them through a breadcrumb. Instead of frying, drizzle with a healthy oil and bake until crispy.

I've used almond flour as breading and it made them crispy and delicious. Any combination of seasonings can be used. Making them at home doesn't create that recognizable fast-food chicken nugget taste. It tastes like real food.

Do it yourself goes for any fast-food favorites such as pizza and burgers. Reaching for lean, natural ingredients allows you to still have a healthy and tasty meal. You just have to experiment with real food.



Recipe courtesy of


2 16-ounce skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into even bite-sized pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

2 teaspoons olive oil

6 Tablespoons whole wheat Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

2 Tablespoons panko

2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Olive oil spray


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray. Put the olive oil in one bowl and the breadcrumbs, panko and Parmesan cheese in another. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then put in the bowl with the olive oil and mix well so the olive oil evenly coats all of the chicken. Put a few chunks of chicken at a time into the breadcrumb mixture to coat, then on the baking sheet. Lightly spray the top with olive oil spray then bake 8 to 10 minutes. Turn over, then cook another 4 or 5 minutes or until cooked though.

Servings: 4 • Serving Size: one-fourth of nuggets • Calories: 164.9 • Fat: 4.6 g • Protein: 22.1 g • Carb: 7.7 g • Fiber: 0.9 g • Sugar: 0.1 g




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