The Golden Arches. Mickey D’s. The house of however many billions of burgers sold. Subject of controversy (remember the pink slime scandal?). How on earth am I supposed to write about what to eat for health at McDonald’s?
Yet, I asked in my previous survival guides what restaurants I should cover and McDonald’s was what you asked for. Therefore, it is time to buckle up and dive deep into McDonald’s menu and see if we can indeed survive a trip through its golden arches.
If you want to read the other posts in this series, click on any of the links below.
- What To Eat For Health – Part 1: At Chipotle
- What To Eat For Health – Part 2: At Arby’s
- What To Eat For Health – Pt. 4: At Chick-Fil-A
- What To Eat For Health – Part 5: At Burger King
- What To Eat For Health – Part 6: At Panera Bread
Just a reminder of how this will work before we begin. First, we will look at the story behind the establishment. Then we will see what kind of items they offer before finally looking at a few suggested meal options.
If you are ready… I think I am ready… Let’s go!
A Peek Behind The Arches – How Did We Get Here?
The story begins with a man named Ray Kroc (and no, not the shoe). In 1954, he visited a burger joint run by Dick and Mac McDonald. He was impressed by their focus on quality, quick-service. Their menu wasn’t huge either, offering just burgers, fries, and drinks.
The brothers were looking to franchise their restaurant and Ray was willing to take a chance. That was 1955. By 1961, Mr. Kroc had purchased full rights to the McDonald’s name.
Ray Krock had a vision where every burger, fry, food item, etc. was consistent in look and taste, no matter where you went in the country. Every item was therefore inspected thoroughly and tested before being sold to the public.
Over the years, such famous items as the Filet-O-Fish (1965), Big Mac (1968), Quarter Pounders (1973), and Chicken McNuggets (1983) have been introduced.
Fast forward to the present, and McDonald’s has turned into a global empire, with restaurants in almost every country you can name including Russia, Japan, Australia, and much of Europe to name a few. CLICK HERE to read more of their story.
As for what the company values, they have seemed to try to change the narrative of big, unhealthy food corporation. They are starting to focus on reducing emissions and the amount of packaging waste, as well as increasing their food sustainability efforts.
They also want to promote better health for kids by offering more fruits and vegetables in their Happy Meals, as well as providing employment opportunities and job training to young people.
Additionally, their Ronald McDonald House Charities help give families the support they need when they children in the hospital. My sister-in-law was blessed to be able to use one of their houses when her son was born extremely premature.
Instead of having to drive to Philadelphia from Cape May every day to visit her son, she was able to stay in a Ronald McDonald House that was just a few minutes drive to the hospital. They provided her a shuttle as well as a fridge stocked with food and only asked that a small donation be made so they could help other families do the same.
CLICK HERE to read more about their values and how they are attempting to help their communities.
It’s Not Just Burgers Anymore – McDonald’s Food Offerings
As anyone who has gone into a McDonald’s in recent years will tell you, the menu has undergone just a few changes since its original debut.
What once was a restaurant that had a simple menu is now one that in many places needs a board of changing video screens to show you all your options (I wonder what the McDonald brothers would think of that? Check out this interesting article that compares the real history vs. the movie they released on Ray Kroc!
If you go to a McDonald’s you will find a few different categories of food with several offerings in each:
- Chicken And Sandwiches:
In addition to these main meal items, you have options for sides including the normal fries, soft drinks, and more. They also offer Yogurt Parfaits, a side salad, and fruit should you choose. They also have shakes, desserts, and slushies now too. For breakfast, they still have the hash browns too.
Now, before we get into the best meal possibilities in each category of food, I do want it to be known that I DO NOT recommend making McDonald’s an everyday thing, nor do I want to pretend it is healthy. That’s not the purpose of these posts.
My goal is to give you the knowledge and resources so that if you happen to be in the situation where you find yourself standing in a McDonald’s line, you have a game plan before you order. If have found that more often than not, if I go into a restaurant with no game plan, I will probably order something I’d later regret.
As with last time, nutritional information will be presented in a way that reflects the percent daily values (DV) for a 2000 and 2500 calorie diet. The first percentage listed will be for a 2000 calorie diet, while the second percentage will be for a 2500 calorie diet. For example:
Calories: 750 (37.5% / 30% DV)
For more information about the recommended daily value numbers, check out the FDA website.
Let’s check out the meal options!
Meal Option #1 – Breakfast: Sausage Burrito with Apple Slices and Bottled Water
This Sausage Burrito gets the slight nod over the Egg McMuffin for two main reasons. The first being that the Egg McMuffin has a ton more cholesterol (81% of your daily value! Holy cow!) and the Sausage Burrito does include at least some vegetables in tomatoes, chilies, and onions.
*As a note, this pick is not as healthy as the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal (which for some reason is not listed when you go to their website).
However I chose the burrito because I really wonder why you are going to McDonald’s for a bowl of oatmeal that you could really easily (and cheaply) make for yourself at home (Check out my Ultimate Oatmeal Breakfast Bowl for a great option).
It’s still not as healthy as a homemade breakfast can be, but if you are on the go and need to stop at McDonald’s, you could certainly do worse. Accompanied by the fruit and a bottled water, it isn’t so egregious :
- Calories: 315 (15.7% / 12.6% DV)
- Total Fat: 16g (24.6% / 20% DV)
- Saturated Fat: 6g (30% / 24% DV)
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Cholesterol: 165mg (55% / 55% DV)
- Sodium: 780g (32.5% / 32.5% DV)
- Total Carbohydrates: 30g (10% / 8% DV)
- Dietary Fiber: 1g (4% / 3.3% DV)
- Sugar: 5g
- Protein: 13g
Not a bad way to start the morning. The only two things that really stand out as needing an improvement are the amount of saturated fat and the Cholesterol. Most likely, this comes from the sausage, so a vegetarian or leaner meat option would be appreciated. The Sodium is also high, but can be balanced during the rest of your day.
Now, we move on from breakfast into:
Meal Option #2 – Burgers: Classic Cheeseburger with Side Salad and Large Iced Tea (Unsweetened)
The best option if you are craving a burger is the original classic cheeseburger. You get your meat fix, but without the caloric and fat bomb to your diet. Paired with a side salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette as well as a large unsweetened iced tea and you have a respectable meal:
- Calories: 355 (17.7% / 14.2% DV)
- Total Fat: 14g (21.5% / 17.5% DV)
- Saturated Fat: 6g (30% / 24% DV)
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Cholesterol: 40mg (13.3% / 13.3% DV)
- Sodium: 1120g (46.6% / 46.6% DV)
- Total Carbohydrates: 40g (13.3% / 10.6% DV)
- Dietary Fiber: 3g (12% / 10% DV)
- Sugar: 11g
- Protein: 17g
Some of you may be wondering why I would choose such options that have a lower percentage of the daily value for calories. The answer to that lies a few lines down in the Sodium. Sure, two cheeseburgers would make a more substantial meal, but then you would be close to eating 100% of your Sodium at one sitting. No way, says I!
If you aren’t feeling red meat, then we can take a look at a chicken option:
Meal Option #3 – Chicken: Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Side Salad and Bottled Water
When given the choice of which is healthier between a fried chicken patty and a grilled chicken patty, it’s pretty obvious. All except in one area, which you will see in a moment.
I’m pairing this sandwich with a Balsamic side salad and bottled water. As a side note, how does McDonald’s manage to make chicken sandwiches higher in calories than beef burgers?
- Calories: 480 (24% / 19.2% DV)
- Total Fat: 17g (28.3% / 21.2% DV)
- Saturated Fat: 3g (15% / 12% DV)
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Cholesterol: 95mg (31.6% / 31.6% DV)
- Sodium: 1460g (60.8% / 60.8% DV)
- Total Carbohydrates: 47g (15.6% / 12.5% DV)
- Dietary Fiber: 3g (12% / 10% DV)
- Sugar: 13g
- Protein: 35g
While this sandwich is a winner because of its relatively moderate calorie count, its lower fat content, and great amount of protein, it is crazy that it comes at the expense of over 60% of your daily Sodium intake! Why do fast food restaurants think they have to salt chicken to death in order for it to taste good?!
Meal Option #4 – Salad: Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad with Apple Slices and Unsweetened Iced Tea
For those looking to go the leafy green route, the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad is your best bet. Bacon or crispy chicken is automatically going to put you in the running for the full daily value in some undesirable category, so best to keep it out of the fryer. This salad is paired with apple slices and a large unsweetened iced tea.
- Calories: 465 (23.2% / 18.6% DV)
- Total Fat: 19g (31.6% / 23.7% DV)
- Saturated Fat: 5g (20% / 16.6% DV)
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Cholesterol: 115mg (38.3% / 38.3% DV)
- Sodium: 1320g (55% / 55% DV)
- Total Carbohydrates: 41g (13.6% / 10.9% DV)
- Dietary Fiber: 7g (28% / 23.3% DV)
- Sugar: 14g
- Protein: 34g
Only at McDonald’s could a salad turn into a salt bomb! If it weren’t for that, this could be a little more tolerable. However, as is the case with many restaurants, salad can turn into nightmares. This is the best of the bunch, though. At least you are getting lots of protein and fiber!
So Which Option Is For You?
Whew! We have made it to the end of our journey! It can be tough going trying to find what to eat for health at McDonald’s, but I hope that you are at least now armed with a little more knowledge than you had before reading this post.
Next time you find yourself in the land of the golden arches, think back to this article and see what you think of the most sensible choices I found available.
Again, I wouldn’t recommend McDonald’s as a regular food source, but a once-in-a-while treat. You may be able to get one of the more unhealthy options if you only go a couple of times a year. However, I hope this post is helpful to those who are on the go and need to make more frequent stops at Mickey D’s.
Now it’s your turn! What is your overall impression of McDonald’s? Did you learn anything new or valuable while reading this post? Do you think you would go with any of the meal options presented?
What is your favorite meal to get at McDonald’s? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments section below! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave those too!
If you found this post entertaining and informative, or even if you know a McDonald’s fanatic, would you mind taking a second to hit one of those handy share buttons following you down the screen? You could also enter your email into the “Subscribe” box at the top right. I would greatly appreciate the support!
If there is a particular restaurant that you want me to take a look at for the next survival guide, let me know! I’ll be happy to consider it!
If you are looking for ways to eat better at home, check out these recipes and nutritious food additions:
- Recipe Of The Week – Banana And Peanut Butter Oatmeal
- Recipe of the Week – Banana Carrot Pancakes
- Recipe Of The Week – Easy Beef And Bean Burritos
- Recipe Of The Week: Panko Chicken With Wilted Greens and Fried Eggs
- Recipe Of The Week: Grilled Ribeye Steak and Cheese Sandwich
- Recipe of the Week – Part 6: My Ultimate Oatmeal Breakfast Bowl
- Recipe of the Week – Part 7: Capellini Pomodoro
- Oregano’s Health Benefits – It’s Not Just A Pizza Topping
- Basil’s Health Benefits – What Italy’s Primo Herb Can Do For You
- Parsley’s Health Benefits – Not Just A Garnish!
- Rosemary’s Health Benefits – Packing A Flavor And Nutritional Punch?
- The Artichoke’s Health Benefits – Who Knew Thistles Were So Tasty?
- The Apricot’s Health Benefits – Why Haven’t I Been Eating These?
- What Is The Best Vegan Protein Powder? GoL Raw Meal Review
- Vega One Organic All In One Shake – Will It Be Your Meal Replacement?
- Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli Cereal – Power Your Morning!
Want to know some diets to avoid? Check these out below:
- What Is The OMAD Diet? – The Most Extreme Intermittent Fasting Method
- What’s The Carnivore Diet? Descending Into Diet Madness
- What Is A Juice Diet? Read This Before Starting One!
Finally, are you looking to make some extra money or potentially start your own business to fund your next trip to Chipotle? Check out my suggestions!
That’s all for now!
As always, God bless and Happy Meals everyone! (See what I did there?)