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It's Just Chicken, Right?

It's Just Chicken, Right?While many parents believe chicken nuggets are a relatively healthy meal for kids, Tufts nutrition experts say they are little more than junk food in disguise. Boston.

Boston [03.21.03] To many parents, chicken nuggets look harmless enough. After all, they're just pieces of breaded chicken, right? Not exactly, say two Tufts nutrition experts, who warn that the popular nuggets are little more than junk food in disguise.

"[The chicken nugget is] somewhat analogous to cake with a little added protein," Susan Roberts - chief of the energy metabolism laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts - told the Wall Street Journal.

But many parents don't realize how unhealthy they really are.

"While other junk foods such as hot dogs and potato chips are obviously full of fat and calories, many well-meaning parents think they are doing right by their child's health when they feed them a nugget," reported the Journal. "After all, it's chicken."

Not really, say nutrition experts who note that the bite-sized food packs more than its share of calories and fat.

"Consider McDonald's nuggets - a kid-size serving of four nuggets contains 210 calories with 120, or 57 percent, of those calories coming from fat," reported the Journal. "By weight, the nuggets contain 13 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein."

And kids love them.

"This is what children have developed a taste for because that's what they're served," Christina Economos - a professor of nutrition at Tufts' Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy - told the Journal.

Nutrition experts like Economos and Roberts say parents play a big role in influencing their children's eating habits.

"[Roberts says] although you start with your basic biology, everyone grows up with food preferences that are largely programmed by the food around them," reported the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Finding healthier alternatives can make a big difference to a child's diet.

"When you do serve nuggets, make better choices," reported the Journal. "Dr. Economos serves her son Morningstar Farms Chik Nuggets, made with a blend of vegetable and plant proteins. Four nuggets have 160 calories and just four grams of fat."

 

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