OK, so if you've spent more than 5 minutes in my company (or had a bit of a surf around this blog), you know that mama don't do deprivation. Because food is awesome. I'm very much against eliminating entire food groups - unless you have a medically diagnosed allergy or intolerance. But there are a couple of foods that as a nutritionist I'm just NOT OK with - deep fried snacks and fast foods, and sugary soft drinks and sodas top my list.
We know that little kids (and big kids too!) love chicken nuggets! But as a nutritionist they make my skin crawl. They are pretty much the worst option at the fast food drive-through. And we just don't realise! Back in 2013, a team of researchers from Mississippi decided to "autopsy" the typical fast food chicken nugget. The researchers noted that chicken can be an excellent source of lean protein, but the miracle of food science creating the nugget had ramped down the actual chicken content and ramped up the carb, salt and fat content. I had a bit of a laugh at this science-nerd line from the study: "Our histopathological analysis of representative chicken nuggets shows that chicken is not necessarily a major component." Because of this, researchers then went on to suggested that the term "chicken nugget" is a misnomer. They concluded that chicken nuggets are a poor source of protein and are high in fat.
Think about this:
100g of skinless chicken breast contains approximately 31g protein and 5g fat.
100g of chicken nuggets (about 6 nuggets) contain approximately 18g protein, 24 g carbs and a whopping 58g fat.
But it doesn't have to be this way! Try my Healthy "Unfried" Chicken Nuggets!
These chicken nuggies are tender and juicy on the inside and golden and crispy on the outside - and a LOT healthier for you than the fast food variety!
The secret ingredient is Besan Flour, aka Chickpea Flour. I don't know how. I don't know why. But a coating of besan flour gives a delicious crispy coating. No need for deep frying! You can season your besan flour with a little salt and pepper, or go a bit freestyle and add in garlic powder, herbs and/or spices!
You have a couple of options for cooking these nuggets. You can pan fry them in a small amount of olive oil, or for a super-low fat option you can oven bake them.
Oh, and this technique works just as well for fish too. Check out my healthier fish & chips!
Chicken thigh fillets or breast, cut into "nugget" sizes. I personally prefer chicken thigh fillets with this recipe, but both work fine!
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup besan flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder, herbs or spices of your choice (optional)
Toss chicken pieces in olive oil, then toss one-by-one in the besan flour mix until well coated, shaking off the excess. See my step-by-step pics below.
Now you have a choice of whether to pan fry or oven bake them!
Heat 1/2 - 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan
Add coated chicken pieces and fry until golden brown and cooked through
Line a baking tray with baking paper and arrange coated chicken pieces so they are evenly spaced.
Cook in a pre-heated oven (180 degrees celsius) for 20 minutes. Take the thickest piece and slice it to see if it is cooked through. If there is even a hint of pink, keep cooking! Check every few minutes until cooked through.
Serve with a salad or your favourite veggies.
References for my fellow science nerds!
Bigler S, Skipworth LB. The autopsy of chicken nuggets reads “chicken little”. The American journal of medicine. 2013 Nov 30;126(11):1018-9.