Living with diabetes often means denying yourself some of your favorite fast foods – such as chicken nuggets. In this article, we will be addressing one of the burden questions of our community ‘Can Diabetics Eat Chicken Nuggets?’.

People with diabetes are usually concerned with regulating their blood sugar levels, maintaining the number of carbs consumed in a day, and eating healthy, among many other things. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat chicken nuggets every once in a while, especially with so many different diabetic-friendly options available.

However, eating a regular fast-food chicken nugget variety, even if it is said to be diabetics-friendly, isn’t always the best option.

The ingredients and nutritional contents of many chicken nugget chains reveal many things that are unnecessary and generally unhealthy for a person with diabetes. Many of the ingredients are preservatives and difficult-to-pronounce additives, which we will be discussing the details in subsequent topics as you read on. These issues are part of the reasons why chicken nuggets have been termed “unhealthy” for diabetics.

Howbeit, there are alternative ways to prepare chicken nuggets and make them healthy enough for a diabetic to eat without worry.

So, before further due, let’s define chicken nuggets, so we all are on the same page.

What is Chicken Nuggets?

Chicken nuggets are typically made with skinless, boneless white chicken meat.

According to McDonald’s, the boneless chicken meat, usually from the breast, is finely ground up with seasoning and some chicken skin. It is then shaped into nugget shapes such as, the bowtie, the bell, the boot and the ball, after which they are coated in batter and another thick tempura batter.

Then they are par-fried and flash frozen so they can be fried and served later. To add more flavor, the finely ground chicken meat can be marinated before it is breaded. They can be cooked either fried, baked or broiled.

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Chicken Nuggets and Chicken Tenders – What’s the Difference?

It may not matter much to you, but chicken nuggets and chicken tenders are actually not the same thing. When you put them side by side, the first thing you will notice is that they have different shapes and sizes.

The main difference between Chicken Nuggets and Chicken Tenders is revealed when you take a bite.

  • Chicken nuggets

They are made with finely ground and battered chicken mixture and are “nugget-shaped”.

  • Chicken tenders

These tenders, alternatively called strips or fingers, are made from chicken tenderloins directly without grinding them. Then they are coated in breading and fried or baked to cook.

There really isn’t much difference between nuggets and tenders except the part where the boneless chicken is chosen.

Chicken nuggets are made mostly with boneless chicken breast and some other parts of chicken meat such as thighs, legs and ribs, while Tenders are made from boneless skinless chicken breasts (tenderloins) cut into 1.5 inch thick strips.

The nuggets, in most cases, get ground up, or cut into strips like most chicken tenders. Subsequently, they are prepared in the same way.

What are the Ingredients Used for Chicken Nuggets?

The following ingredients being used based on the popular fast-food chains.

  • White boneless chicken
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Food starch-modified
  • Seasoning items such asautolyzed yeast extract, sunflower oil, wheat starch, salt, citric acid, and dextrose.
  • Sodium phosphates
  • Natural flavor (botanical source).

Then the ingredients battered and breaded with the following:

  • Enriched flour (niacin, bleached wheat flour, reduced iron, riboflavin, thiamine mononitrate, folic acid)
  • Water
  • Yellow corn flour
  • Food starch-modified
  • Bleached wheat flour
  • Salt
  • Spices
  • Leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, calcium lactate, monocalcium phosphate)
  • Wheat starch
  • Corn starch
  • Dextrose
  • Wheat

Then, they are prepared in:

  • Vegetable oil (corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil, citric acid added to preserve freshness and hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ)
  • Dimethylpolysiloxane (added as an antifoaming agent)
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Nutritional Content of Chicken Nuggets

According to the U. S Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 6 pcs 95g portion of chicken nuggets contains the below.




% Daily Value*





Total Carbohydrate




Dietary fibre












Total Fat




Saturated fat




Monosaturated fat




Polysaturated fat




Trans fat
































Vitamin B-6




Vitamin C
















* The % Daily Value tells how much a nutrient per serving of food contributes to the daily recommended 2000 calorie diet (maybe higher or lower depending on your calorie needs).

When Chicken Nugget is a Junk Food?

It is pretty easy to turn a perfectly healthy protein food into junk food – just process it. Many of the concerns about how healthy chicken nuggets are, mostly have to do with the makeup of the boneless chicken used.

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In a study conducted by a group of researchers using chicken nuggets from 2 different fast-food chains, one of the nuggets was only around 40% muscle tissue. The rest of it was mostly fat with some connective tissues and bone pieces. The second nugget was around 50% muscle tissue, and the rest of it primarily fat, nerves and blood vessels in the mix.

Obesity has become a major concern as recognized by the American Medical Association, and maintaining a healthy eating lifestyle is crucial to living healthy. “Further-processed products” such as chicken nuggets actually provide more fat, more carbohydrates, more sodium and less protein when compared to unprocessed chicken.

Apart from that, these nuggets may contain additives such as the leavening agent used in breading (sodium acid pyrophosphate), and other mystery multisyllabic agents.

Back to the main issue – food processing…

Researchers also say, “Food science has allowed modification of a superb source of lean protein into a variety of processed poultry products marketed as inexpensive convenience foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat”.

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Food processing can remove or reduce some essential vitamins, fatty acids and minerals your body needs. It can also increase fat, sodium and other unhealthy additives.

When is Chicken Nugget Not a Junk Food?

For convenience on occasions, people will usually eat fast food meals. Breaded and fried chicken might not be the worst food, but it isn’t the best either. Fast food varieties of nuggets may have their issues, but you can also choose to make your very own baked and crusty chicken nuggets.

Making your own nuggets helps to reduce most unhealthy ingredients used by fast-food varieties such as preservatives, fat, sodium and other multisyllabic ingredients.

Many varieties of processed chicken nuggets usually have low nutritional values and a scary amount of preservatives. For the most part, the nutritional value of chicken nuggets depends on who makes them, what they’re made with and how they’re made.

If chicken nuggets are your or your family’s favorite, you can opt to make them at home. That way, you get to be in control of the ingredients that will be used and the method of cooking it – whether fried, baked, or broiled.

Later in this article, you will find out how to make diabetic-friendly chicken nuggets to add to your recipe collection.

What is a Healthy Chicken Nugget?

Homemade chicken nuggets are healthy because they contain more chicken (over 70%) and no preservatives. You get to use as much protein (muscle tissue) as you want for the filling, as well as choose the best ingredients for your recipe.

Oven-baked chicken nuggets are best for a low-fat diet. Moreover, because they are baked, you don’t have to worry about fat accumulated from deep-frying. As for side dishes, instead of dipping sauce and fries, which adds to the calorie count, fat, sugar and salt, you can go for salad, veggies
and wholegrain, which is a healthier option.

Can Diabetics Eat Chicken Nuggets?

People with diabetes constantly have to worry about what they eat, coupled with regulating their blood sugar levels. From time to time, there’s the dilemma of craving for some mouth-watering chicken nuggets and having to worry about how it may affect your condition.

There are, of course, many reports listing chicken nuggets as one of the unhealthy foods diabetics should avoid. On the other hand, many experts also support people with diabetes, enjoying some nuggets every once in a while. These nuggets can be carefully prepared to be diabetic-friendly, minimizing the amount of fat, sugar, salt and carbohydrates.

We have seen from our previous discussions that chicken nuggets can be prepared in a healthily depending on the ingredients used and how it is made. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend protein-rich food of about 5.5 ounces a day. Among the variety of protein-rich food options available, lean meats (such as skinless chicken), compared to red meat and processed meat, has less saturated fat.

Consciously getting rid of unnecessary fat, carbohydrate, sodium, and sugar when preparing chicken nuggets makes it less unhealthy and more suitable for a diabetic diet.

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When Should Diabetics Not Eat Chicken Nuggets?

It is important to discuss your diet and eating habits with your Dietitian, who will guide you through what you should and shouldn’t eat in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

People with diabetes are not prohibited from eating chicken nuggets altogether (especially when they are prepared in a healthy way), except there is an underlying health implication.

Some of which are:

  • Diabetic Nephropathy

Diabetics suffering from nephropathy (a kidney disease common with diabetics), usually need to consume less protein. That doesn’t mean they do not need protein, in which case the recommended daily protein intake would be ≤ 1 gram per kilogram (bodyweight).

Too much protein may not be healthy for your kidneys, but too little could lead to unintended weight loss and malnutrition.

It is best to get a consultation with your Dietitian before eating chicken nuggets.

  • Obesity

In many cases, obesity is often related to and leads to diabetes. Unhealthy eating habits among other factors, is the leading cause of obesity, and these foods are often high in carbohydrate, fats, salt and sugar.

For example, the nutrition label estimates:

Without sauce

With sauce

280 calories

330 calories

18g fat

18g fat

13g protein

13g protein

18g carbs

29g carbs

540mg sodium

800mg sodium

0g sugar

10g sugar

1g dietary fiber

1g dietary fiber

In other to maintain a low carb, sugar-free diet, people with diabetes should avoid chicken nuggets and sauce/sides that are especially high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar.

  • Cholesterol

Fast-food chicken nuggets are usually loaded with saturated fat, trans-fat (from hydrogenated soybean oil), and other fats, which contribute to over 30mg of cholesterol.

Diabetics also have to struggle with keeping their cholesterol levels in check, and these nuggets will only make things worse.

Diabetics-friendly Chicken Nuggets Recipe

There is no one way to make healthy chicken nuggets. It’s all about your preferences and taste. Considering people with diabetes who also wish to enjoy this deliciousness without going overboard, here are some tips on how to.

  • Instead of breadcrumbs for breading the nuggets, use either almond flour, coconut flour, or corn flour to coat the chicken nuggets. This will reduce the carb content and other additives present in the breadcrumbs.
  • As for getting the flour mix to stick to the nuggets, use egg mix instead of melted butter to reduce the fat content.
  • Baking the chicken nuggets instead of frying also helps to reduce the fat and cholesterol content.
  • For dipping sauce and sides, you can use sugar-free and less salty sauce and avoid fries. However, the best option would be salad, vegetables or fruits.

Feel free to choose from any one of the diabetics-friendly chicken nugget recipes listed below. You can easily make them at home and enjoy the taste with your family.

1. (Baked) Parmesan Crusted Chicken

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Recipe source: Diabetes food Hub.
The Diabetes Cookbook by Lara Rondinelli Hamilton and Jennifer Bucko Lamplough.

The Parmesan Crusted Chicken is a versatile kid-friendly chicken recipe full of flavours. It can be served with vegetables or salad sides.

Prep time: 20 mins

Cook time: 15-20 mins

Servings: 6 (2 chicken strips per serving)


  • 1 ½ lbs of skinless, boneless chicken breasts (cut into 12 thin strips)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup or 50 g Cornmeal (can also be replaced with Almond flour for lesser carbs)
  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ tsp Garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • non-stick cooking spray

Cooking instructions:

  • Preheat oven to about 425 oF. Then spray a baking sheet with the non-stick cooking spray.
  • Mix the parmesan cheese, cornmeal, black pepper and garlic powder in a shallow dish.
  • Whisk the egg whites together in a separate shallow baking dish.
  • Dip each of the chicken strips in the egg mix, and then in the cornmeal mix. Coat it well before placing it on the baking sheet.
  • Use the cooking spray and spray on the coated chicken strips. Then bake for 15-20 mins until it is done. Remember to turn the chicken strips over the in-between cooking time.
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2. (Baked) Almond-coated Chicken

Recipe source: Diabetes Strong by Christel Oerum

This delicious recipe is low-carb, and healthy.

Prep time: 15 mins

Cooking time: 20 mins


  • Chicken breasts (boneless and skinless)
  • Almond flour
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Pepper and salt
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Cooking instructions:

  • Preheat oven to about 400 oF. Use a parchment paper to prepare a large baking sheet.
  • Stir together the almond flour, pepper, salt and Italian seasoning in a bowl.
  • Trim off and remove any fat from the chicken breasts, then cut the chicken into small 1-inch thick pieces.
  • Spray the extra virgin olive oil on the chicken breasts.
  • Dip each of the chicken pieces into the almond flour, mix and toss until they are fully coated. Then place the coated chicken onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 mins.
  • To make the chicken strips crispy after baking, place them under the broiler and set it for 3-4 minutes.

3. (Fried/Baked) Chicken Nuggets

Recipe source: Ditch the Carbs by Libby Jenkinson

It is an easy to make a recipe for incredibly tasty low-carb chicken nuggets. You can choose to fry or bake it, and then serve it with salsa, garlic mayonnaise or sugar-free tomato sauce.

Prep time: 10 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Servings: 6


  • 1.9 lbs or 850 g boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into nugget shapes or strips).
  • 1 cup or 100 g almond flour (can also be alternated with 1/3 cup coconut flour in case of allergies)
  • 4 tbsp oil of choice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp onion flakes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder

Cooking instructions:

  • Whisk well the egg and oil together in a bowl.
  • In another bowl, mix the almond flour (or coconut flour), garlic, salt, and onion together.
  • Then, dip the chicken nuggets into the egg mix, then dip in the flour mix until it is fully coated.
  • Fry each coated nugget on both sides with minimal oil, until it turns golden and thoroughly cooked in the centre.
  • You can alternatively bake the nuggets on a lined baking tray at 350 oF for 10-15 mins.
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4. (Baked) Southern Style Chicken

Recipe source:

If you enjoy spicy foods, then try this spicy Southern-style chicken with salad sides.

Prep time: 15 mins

Cooking time: 20 mins

Servings: 4


  • 450 g boneless, skinless chicken breasts/thighs (cut into about 30 nugget-sized shapes)
  • 1 slice wholemeal bread (crumble into 30 g of fine breadcrumbs)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 heaped tsp oregano
  • 1 heaped tsp allspice
  • 1 heaped tsp turmeric
  • 1 heaped tsp paprika
  • 1 heaped tsp dried thyme
  • Powdered black pepper

Cooking instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 oF
  • Place the flour in a bowl
  • Whisk the egg in a separate bowl
  • In another bowl, mix all the herbs and spices with the breadcrumbs until they’re well combined
  • Dip each of the chicken pieces in the flour and shake off any excess. Then dip each of them into the whisked egg.
  • Dip the chicken nuggets in the spicy breadcrumb mix, and toss until they’re fully coated.
  • Place the nuggets on a lightly oiled baking sheet, then sprinkle the leftover breadcrumb mix on top.
  • Bake for 20 mins, turning them over halfway through the baking time. Check to make sure they are thoroughly cooked then serve.


It is true that people with diabetes have to limit the amount of fat, carbohydrate and sugar they consume, and increase their intake of fibers. This task alone is difficult to keep up at home, not to mention at restaurants. You are right to be concerned about eating chicken nuggets, especially when it is from a fast-food restaurant.

But, now you know that chicken nuggets can be prepared in a diabetic-friendly method, as mentioned earlier. In that way, you can easily satisfy your craving by making these nuggets in your kitchen. The trick is to steer clear from fatty, fried and breaded items, as well as sides high in sugar and carbs.

However, this might not work for every diabetic case, and you might need to consult with your Dietitian for further advice. If your Dietitian advises you to completely stay away from chicken nuggets based on your current medical condition, it would be best to adhere to the advice.

Taking care of your health, which always comes first before your craving, after all.