If your kid is like Tosh, he eats the same 10 things over and over again. And chances are, one of those things is chicken nuggets.
The problem is, very few processed chicken nuggets are safe for any kid to eat, much less kids with autism. And they're gross. Not surprisingly, McDonalds chicken McNuggets are among the worst. They contain MSG, which will keep your child up at night, and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) which is a petroleum-based food preservative that is a cause of ADHD and neurological damage. Plus, the dipping sauces also contain MSG and food dyes, which also cause neurological damage.
I don't know about you, but Tosh doesn't need any more neurological damage. We've had our quota for a lifetime, thank you.
McDonalds is easy to pick on, but chicken nuggets from Jack in the Box, Burger King, Wendy's, Popeyes and the popular Chick-fil-A aren't good options, either. Chick-fil-A removed TBHQ but still uses a lot of MSG (which is probably why their sauce is so amazing and addictive).
And then you have to wonder how much of that "chicken" is actually chicken. McDonalds and other brands carefully state their nuggets are made "with" white meat chicken. Notice they don't say the nuggets are made "from" white meat chicken. That with is a red flag that there is a significant portion of other chicken parts and god knows what else in there. And current food regulations don't require disclosure of how much.
Even the Tyson's and other chicken nuggets you get at the supermarket - sorry, even the cute ones shaped like dinosaurs - aren't actual whole pieces of chicken.
Plus, they contain MSG. Removing MSG from Tosh's diet was the single most effective thing we did to improve his sleep, so if you want your kid to sleep through the night, don't feed them food that contains MSG or one of the hundred sneaky names food companies use instead of MSG, like yeast extract, soy protein concentrate, sodium caseinate, modified food starch, natural flavors and the innocent sounding spices. HINT: if they don't list out the spices, they ain't spices.
And we haven't even touched upon the gluten. Honestly, when it comes to processed chicken nuggets, the gluten is the least of your worries.
So where does that leave parents of a child who only eats chicken nuggets. In a tough spot. It's scary when your child only eats a few foods, but even scarier when you learn those foods are making their autism symptoms much worse and even possibly giving them brain damage.
Thankfully, making your own chicken nuggets is pretty easy and MAN OH MAN they taste so much better than the processed crap.
Healthy chicken nuggets
Adapted from Chicken Tenders recipe from Cooking for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast meat, cut into nugget sized chunks
1 TBS dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
any other seasoning you may like, such as crushed red pepper
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
(Okay, this isn't a dairy free recipe, but the parmesan cheese makes it so delicious! To make it dairy free, just use 1 cup of almond flour and eliminate the parmesan.)
3 TBS avocado, coconut or olive oil
1. Heat the oil on medium heat in a deep skillet.
2. Beat the egg and mustard together in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and mix until coated, like this:
3. In a large, deep plate, use a fork to mix together the almond flour and spices.
4. Dredge each nugget in the flour mixture.
5. Put the nuggets into the pan and cook for 5 minutes on each side. To cook the chicken all the way through, you'll need to cook it until it's pretty brown, like this:
For food safety, I suggest cutting the larger nuggets in half before serving, just to make sure you've cooked them all the way through. After you've made them a couple of times, you'll get the hang of it!
Enjoy your guilt-free chicken nuggets! I like to eat mine with hot sauce or Jamaican Pickapeppa sauce.
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!