10 Best & Worst Frozen Chicken Nuggets, According to Dietitians

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What’s not to love about the classic chicken nugget? They’re accessible, relatively cheap, easy to eat with one hand, and they’re oh-so delectable. But those little nuggets can be deceiving. While they are an easy source of protein, some varieties can be packed with sodium, unhealthy fats, fillers, and more.

Recently, there has been a serious revolution in the chicken nugget industry, as consumers worldwide show deeper concern about both the nutritional value of their food, as well as the conditions in which their meat was raised. To help you slog through the mire of these high-sodium, high-cholesterol chicken nuggets, we’ve rounded up five of the good-for-you nugget brands while also exposing the top five unhealthiest ones, so that you can easily avoid them in the supermarket.

Whenever possible, choose baking, microwaving, or air-frying your chicken nuggets instead of deep-frying them to help keep your dish as healthy as possible. Pair them with vegetables and whole grains instead of the classic side of french fries for a nutritional boost as well.

How we chose the best healthy chicken nuggets.

When choosing the “best” chicken nuggets, we followed some specific criteria to help us create our list.

  • Little to no saturated fat: Saturated fats may seem confusing at first, but at their base level, saturated fats are fats that are solid at room temperature. Often found in highly processed foods and at the fast-food counter, these fats should be limited to an intake at or below 5% of your daily caloric count. So if you eat 2,000 calories a day, no more than 120 of these calories should come from saturated fat. Eating too much saturated fat can raise the level of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) in your blood. A high level of LDL cholesterol in your blood increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. The following healthy frozen nuggets boast little to no saturated fat to help keep you on track toward your heart-healthy goals.
  • Little to no fillers: We like keeping our nuggets as “chicken-forward” as possible. Some nuggets are basically chunks of real chicken that are breaded, and others contain some chicken along with added fillers like gelatin, colorings, and more. While these ingredients won’t necessarily cause harm, we prefer eating our nuggets in the purest forms.

Read on for the healthiest and unhealthiest frozen chicken nuggets at the grocery store. And for more healthy grocery tips, check out the 8 Healthiest Costco Frozen Dinners, According to Dietitians.

Best Frozen Chicken Nuggets

applegate organic chicken nuggets
Applegate Organics

Per serving (6 nuggets): 170 calories, 6 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 11 g protein

Applegate, known for their antibiotic-free and humanely-raised chickens, hosts a delicious line of white meat chicken nuggets that are just as delicious as anything from the drive-thru, without any unwanted ingredients.

“When I’m craving chicken nuggets, this is my go-to, which I stash in my freezer,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FANDaward-winning nutrition expert and partner with Applegate. “Applegate holds a strict list of ‘no’s’ when it comes to their products and includes no chemical nitrites or nitrates, no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or fillers, and they are also certified Non-GMO,” she explains.

Amidor adds that she likes to complete her chicken nugget meal by pairing a serving of these nuggets with roasted red potatoes and steamed cauliflower and broccoli sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

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applegate organics gluten free chicken nuggets
Applegate Organics

Per serving (6 nuggets): 160 calories, 4.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 12 g protein

Like their OG Applegate chicken nuggets, their gluten-free option is just as healthy and delicious as the company’s original organic chicken nuggets—without the gluten! So for those with sensitivities and allergies, this is a go-to brand to ensure that you won’t suffer any unwelcome side effects after indulging. Like all their nuggets, these bad boys can be easily heated in the oven, microwave, or air fryer until your desired crispiness.

smart chicken panko nuggets
Smart Chicken

Per serving (4 nuggets): 230 calories, 15 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein

Humanely raised and fed a vegetable-grain diet, chicken at Smart Chicken surpasses the norm in terms of taste and quality. Raised with no antibiotics—and made with no animal by-products—these chicken nuggets are panko breaded, meaning they are flakier, lighter, and crispier than your traditional chicken nugget. These little guys are sure to please the whole family, and with a low sodium count, no sugar, and 14 grams of protein per serving, you can rest assured that you’re feeding your loved ones only the good stuff.

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golden platter chicken nuggets
Golden Platter

Per serving (6 nuggets): 170 calories, 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 15 g protein

Golden Platter is known for their high-quality chicken nuggets that come in all fun shapes and sizes to entice the kiddos (think of their Winnie the Pooh or Frozen nuggets). Their healthiest option, by far–although we love anything Disney-themed to get our kids eating up–is their gluten-free and antibiotic-free classic nuggets. Made without preservatives and raised without any added hormones, these chicken nuggets have no sugar and boast one of the highest protein counts without an egregious amount of sodium which, when consumed in excess, has been linked to a slew of health issues including heart disease and potential stroke.

caulipower i love it nugget

Per serving (4 nuggets): 130 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 11 g protein

The power of cauliflower in a chicken nugget? Sign us up! These antibiotic-free nuggets are made with chickpea flour and cauliflower coating so that your little ones (and you, let’s be honest) consume a portion of your daily dose of vegetables! With 4% of your daily potassium needs, 11 grams of protein, and no added sugars, this is a great option for that fast-food taste without feeling bloated and groggy after indulging. And as always, these “I Love It” nuggets are gluten-free so those with sensitivities and allergies can eat fear-free.

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Worst Chicken Nuggets

tyson chicken nuggets

Per serving (90 grams): 270 calories, 17 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 14 g protein

Perhaps one of the most well-known chicken companies in America, Tyson has a long list of easily accessible and often cheaper products than others available on the market. Unfortunately, their nuggets don’t make the nutritional cut as they are far higher in calories, fat, and sodium than all of our healthier options.

banquet chicken nuggets

Per serving (5 nuggets): 220 calories, 11 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 12 g protein

All you need to do is take a look at that sodium count to know that these nuggets aren’t going to keep you on track toward your health goals. Looking beyond this glaring issue, Banquet has become adept at sugar-coating many of their ingredients, as well.

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pilgrims chicken nuggets

Per serving (4 nuggets): 220 calories, 14 g fat (3.5g  saturated fat), 570 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 10 g protein

You aren’t getting an equal amount of protein for the higher sodium and fat counts of these nuggets. In fact, these chicken nuggets have one of the lower protein levels on our list. Therefore, you probably won’t leave the table feeling satisfied with a serving size of only four nuggets. Additionally, you’ll consume 18% of your daily trans fat limit and 13% of your daily cholesterol. Pilgrim’s nuggets just don’t seem worth it with an abundance of healthier options lining the grocery store freezers.

tyson air fried nuggets

Per serving (85 grams): 160 calories, 4 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 520 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 15 g protein

Although these chicken nuggets have been “air fried” and therefore contain only 4 grams of fat per serving, we want to point out that one serving of these nuggets contains 23% of your daily sodium intake and brown sugar is listed as the fourth ingredient with 2 grams of sugar per serving. Remember to check labels and not rely on health-washing packaging!

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tyson anytizers buffalo chicken bites

Per serving: 190 calories, 8 grams fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 700 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein

“I love a chicken nugget just as much as the next person, but if you’re regularly consuming options like Tyson Any’tizers Buffalo Style Chicken Bites, you might be overdoing it on the added sodium in your diet. With 920 milligrams of sodium per serving, you could easily meet half your daily sodium needs if you eat more than one serving,” says Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, dietitian based in Washington, DC.

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