plate of chicken nuggets

Why Do Kids Love Chicken Nuggets? A Feeding Therapist’s Perspective

Wondering why your kids are constantly asking for nuggets? What is it about this food that kids love? Why are nuggets one of the few things picky eaters consistently eat? Keep reading for answers why your kid craves chicken nuggets!

They’re Easy to Eat

Young kids tend to love hand held foods. Grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, fries, crackers, they’re all easy to grab and eat without having to use a spoon or fork or worry about spilling.

Utensils slow kids down and it takes more focus and effort to eat foods that require utensils. As much as some kids may enjoy eating, they usually want to eat quickly and get back to playing. Foods they can eat quickly and run back to their toys are a bonus for them! They can even grab a nugget from the table and run back to the floor to play, nugget in hand.

kids eating finger foods

They’re Easy to Chew

Unlike baked or grilled chicken, chicken nuggets are easy to chew. They are highly processed and already broken down, which means less work for your child’s jaw and tongue. This is convenient for all kids, but especially for children with a history of low muscle tone, weakness, decreased oral motor coordination, or a tongue tie.

Low Sensory Load

Chicken nuggets belong to what feeding therapists and dieticians lovingly call the “beige diet”. The beige diet consists of bland, colorless, processed foods that are easy to eat and don’t have an intense sensory load. They don’t have a strong smell or flavor, which is appealing to kids that are more sensitive.

For children with sensitive taste buds and touch receptors, low sensory impact foods are often preferred. They may tend to avoid foods that are bitter, sour, or spicy and be more geared toward eating mild flavors. Chicken nuggets fit the bill perfectly for sensitive children.

beige food

They’re What’s on the Menu

Kids don’t eat foods they’re not offered. If you never introduce a nugget to your kid, they won’t eat them! That is, until someone else does…Which will probably happen at some point because they are ever popular!

Nuggets are often on children’s menus and served at school lunch. They are in many family’s freezers for good reason. They don’t need to be cooked and clean up is easy. You hit a button on the microwave and bam, there’s dinner! At a certain age, your child can even prepare them on their own and it doesn’t get more convenient than that!

It’s frustrating for parents to spend an hour cooking a nice meal for the family, just for their kids to refuse to even taste it. It feels like such a waste of time and effort! Why not just serve something you know they will eat?

Hence, why parents serve chicken nuggets…and often in many homes! No judgement if this is you. Life is busy. Convenience is an essential need in most households, including mine.

To a degree, children’s taste buds are shaped by what they’re exposed to. The more often they are exposed to something, the more likely the are to eat it (and like it). So if nuggets are often served, most kids will quickly learn to love them.

This may not happen as easily for let’s say, Brussel sprouts–for the reasons already explored. Brussel sprouts are not as easy to eat or chew and have a much stronger sensory load!

How to Get Kids to Eat Foods Other Than Nuggets

variety of kid food

The point of this article is not to condemn nuggets! I’m not here trying to convince you or child to stop eating them. What I do hope we can avoid, is children only wanting nuggets or other very similar foods, and refusing everything else.

It’s a slippery slope when you start mostly offering convenience foods such as food from the drive-thru and snacks. It’s easy for this to happen because it’s a fast option for busy families and your kids are more likely to actually eat the food (and not complain…). You don’t have to give up fast food or snacks! But here are some ideas to keep other foods in the mix as well.

Use Food Chaining to Bridge to Similar Foods

Food chaining is a strategy that involves trying to find foods as similar as possible to foods that a person already enjoys. You then offer those foods and continue to slowly expand their diet in this way.

Food chaining is a great way to make small changes slowly. If you child is a picky eater, you will likely be more successful getting them to eat grilled chicken if you offer other forms of chicken similar to nuggets first.

Food chaining for chicken nuggets may look like this:

Chicken nuggets from McDonalds -> chicken nuggets from Burger King -> frozen chicken nuggets from the store -> chicken strips -> fried chicken -> breaded chicken -> grilled chicken.

grilled chicken

For more information on food chaining, check out our article that explains this strategy in detail.

Avoid Food Ruts

It’s easy to get into the habit of buying the same things over and over again. Picture this. You go to the store with 2 kids in tow after picking them up from school. They’re hungry and tired and they’re whining non-stop. They’re commenting on everything going into the cart and asking for things. You can hardly hear yourself think, so you quickly grab your family’s tried and true favorites and head to the register.

When we buy the same exact foods down to the brand or flavor every time we go to the store, it limits what our children are exposed to. I’m not saying you have to scrap your entire grocery list and buy all new things. Maybe you start with one thing.

If your child only wants Dino nuggets, see if there is another brand you can try. If you always buy goldfish crackers, try another flavor. If you’re in a habit of buying standard Eggo waffles, try buying the mini-waffles or blueberry waffles.

Making a habit of trying new things can help to keep kids flexible on what is offered. It is one of the best ways to prevent picky eating habits. For more information on preventing picky eating, we have a great article for you.

It’s okay for your kid to keep eating nuggets if you want to serve them! You don’t have to feel guilty about that. Just try to avoid serving them every day and keep a little variety in their diet as much as you can!

The Power of Feeding a Toy During Meals

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3 thoughts on “Why Do Kids Love Chicken Nuggets? A Feeding Therapist’s Perspective”

  1. Pingback: The Kid-Favorite Food That Transcends Cuisine, According To David Chang - Tasting Table - News Food

  2. I’m an adult who, after a brain injury, becaim very uhm, selective in my eating. I eat like I recall my children eating as 4 year olds. Chewing, swallowing, all those things have been challenging and even frightening at times. I have not found any reasons or strategies for why foods such as chicken nuggets or scrambled eggs are what I can bring myself to eat. This article gives me a lot of ideas for how to extend my diet and hopefully begin to eat more interesting foods! Thank you!

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