Soy-enhanced ravioli and a meat version prepared for the study were not as well liked, but there was no difference between the amounts consumed of each.
"Children ate less of the meatless nuggets, because the students had strong preconceived notions of the flavor, shape, and size of chicken nuggets," Klein said. "However, the percentage consumed was at least 75 percent for both types. This indicates that soy-based nuggets could be served and achieve acceptance."
She points out that reformulation and testing with children could also result in development of more satisfactory products for both nuggets and ravioli.
"From a nutritional standpoint, the spaghetti made with soy products had 22 percent fewer calories and 43 percent less fat than the meat version," Klein said. "The chili made with soy had 32 percent fewer calories and 20 percent less fat than the meat version. The percent of calories from fat was also reduced from 54 percent to 14 percent."
Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's values for fast-food chicken nuggets, the soy nuggets had more protein and slightly less total fat. They also had about half the saturated fat and no cholesterol. All the soy products were about two-thirds the price of the same item made with meat.
Klein notes that the project was part of an overall effort by the Center to be an active participant in the fight against childhood obesity.
"Our youth are becoming increasingly overweight," she said. "Many school lunch programs inadvertently contribute to this problem by offering high-fat lunches. Working together on this and other projects, we hope to become part of the solution for overcoming this increasingly important health issue."