Not pictured: Fat, sugar and artificial flavoring. (Image via digital

Chicken Nugget Syndrome is On the Rise

Research shows that chicken nuggets are mostly fat and sugar with no nutritional value. Nonetheless, Chicken Nugget Syndrome is rising among young people.
February 10, 2018
7 mins read

Do you or someone you know have an uncontrollable yearning for chicken nuggets? Do you constantly order the weirdly-shaped finger food every chance you get? Do you follow one or more fan pages dedicated to nuggets? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then you may be suffering from Chicken Nugget Syndrome.

I think it’s safe to say that many young adults are all too familiar with CNS. Still, I can’t stop asking myself: Why? Why, out of the vast plethora of foods available, would students choose chicken nuggets to obsess over?

Dino nuggets are the epitome of nostalgia (Image via Food & Wine Magazine)

Maybe it is the familiarity of seeing them on the menu. It could be possible that they bring out a feeling of nostalgia from the depths of your soul, old memories of your mom or dad pulling a tray of chicken nuggets out of the oven for you. Lots of children are picky about what they eat, but chicken nuggets were as simple and safe as you could get.

There’s nothing disgusting (or, heaven forbid, nutritiously) concealed by the fried surface, no vegetables for you to reluctantly finish so your parents would let you leave the table. There were only chicken nuggets, and maybe one or two of a wide variety of sauces. And let’s not forget about the infamous fries. Fries are always a great addition.

However, nostalgia isn’t the only cause behind the CNS epidemic among college students. The main problem comes from one of the simple facts of life on a college campus. The average college student’s diet isn’t exactly geared toward healthy eating.

Of course, it might be easier to eat healthy if you cooked your own meals. You would know exactly what ingredients were going into your meal, and that way you could make sure you occasionally ate something besides fat and sugar. But let’s be real here: most college students just don’t have enough time to cook two or three healthy meals a day. Between classes, homework, sports, club meetings and events, social interaction and (hopefully) sleep, most college students find it easier to eat out instead of cooking.

That’s where the other factor in this equation comes in: money. Few college students can afford to eat dinner at a decent restaurant every night, or even every few nights. With the price of a chicken nugget meal at a fast food restaurant typically being less than $10, it is not hard to see why this would be the popular choice in most instances when you decide to spoil yourself a little.

Treat ‘yo self to 500 nuggets. You’ve earned it (Image via YouTube)

Obviously, you could head over to one of the dining halls that your campus meal plan ties you to. Still, that food gets pretty boring and predictable after the first week of classes or so. By the middle of the semester, most students won’t be able to tell you the last thing they ate in the dining hall, even if they were there only a couple of hours ago. It’s hard to resist an occasional meal in a restaurant, even if that restaurant is McDonald’s.

However, just because nuggets are cheap and tasty doesn’t mean they’re good for you in the slightest. Jennifer Johnson, a former sous-chef who has cooked for the likes of President Barack Obama, knows a few things about the deep fried “meat.”

When asked about chicken nuggets, she said, “Approximately, a mass-produced chicken nugget has 50 percent meat and the rest is fat, ground bone, blood vessels and connective tissues [Yum!]. This mix does not generally taste very good or taste like chicken, so then the manufacturers add salt, sugar, starch, binders and fillers.”

Sounds disgusting, right? Believe it or not, it’s the taste of salt and sugar that keeps you going back to McDonald’s every weekend.

In addition, restaurants like McDonald’s have some even more underhanded tricks up their sleeve to keep you hooked on their fried salt and sugar. If you take the time to do come research on CNS, you could learn what your body actually likes in a nugget.

It turns out it’s not the meat at all. Restaurants use substances like monosodium glutamate and hydrolyzed proteins in their food to unnaturally enhance taste. In addition, these chemicals trick your brain into thinking that you are actually consuming a nutrient-dense meal. Of course, in reality you are consuming highly processed garbage.

In a video on Youtube, the British celebrity chef and restaurateur Jamie Oliver demonstrates exactly how their beloved chicken nuggets are made. In an effort to teach children to eat healthier, he takes a group of kids into the kitchen and shows them the whole nugget-making process in all its disgusting glory. First he chops up the remains of the chicken and puts them in a blender. After scraping out the blend, he adds bowls full of chemicals that make the mixture “taste good.”

All the while, the children are yelling and squirming in disgust. Then Oliver cuts the mixture into the familiar nugget shape and sprinkles breadcrumbs on top. Finally, he drops the patty in the fryer.

It was a shocking sight, to say the least. But the biggest shock came when Oliver asked the children “Now, who would still eat this?” Not one, not two, but all of the children in the kitchen raised their hands in support of still eating the nuggets regardless of what they just saw.

It is safe to say that there will be no decline in the amount of love this world has for chicken nuggets. You know some of the ingredients in a chicken nugget. You also cannot even spell half of the other non-chicken ingredients. Still, there seems to be no plan to cure CNS in our generation.

You would think that with all of the information available to you on the internet, you could read a couple of credible articles or watch a few videos on CNS. That should be enough to convince anyone concerned for their health that, even if they don’t automatically swear off chicken nuggets forever, they should at least try to cut back on their McDonalds consumption a bit. However, for some odd reason, Chicken Nugget Syndrome doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Taylor Miller, SUNY Cortland

Writer Profile

Taylor Miller

SUNY Cortland
Communication Studies

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