Healthy and Unhealthy Options At McDonalds
Healthy and Unhealthy Options At McDonalds
Is it possible to contain calories and eat healthy at McDonalds’s?! How to avoid fast food self-sabotage.
Did you know that 46 million people eat at McDonald’s each day?! That’s more than the entire population of Spain. Talk about a global phenomenon.
Whether for reasons of enjoyment or out of necessity, we inevitably end up at this fast food joint once in a blue moon. While McDonald’s may not be our cuisine of choice, there are ways to choose a relatively healthy meal that doesn’t sabotage our workout regimens or ruin our diets with a calorie bomb. Just because Ronald McDonald sports a potbelly underneath those overalls doesn’t mean you have to!
With a little insight into the dos and don’ts of ordering at McDonald's, you will be equipped to handle anything that scary redheaded clown throws your way.
So without further ado, my top picks for a healthy McDonald’s experience:
1. Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap (Honey Mustard, Ranch, or Chipotle BBQ):
Fat (g): 9
Sodium (mg): 830
Protein (g): 18
Key word: GRILLED! These wraps’ crispy counterparts have twice the fat and 2/3 the protein content. As a general rule of thumb, grilled = good. crispy = not so good. Is it really worth it to double your fat intake for a little extra crunch? If you’re really craving that crispy bite, try packing on some extra veggies instead.
2. Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich:
Fat (g): 10
Sodium (mg): 1190
Protein (g): 32
Not too psyched about the sodium content here, but all in all, not bad. Though not everyone suffers sodium sensitivity, it’s best to try to keep your numbers below 2,500 mg/day. Translation: 1 teaspoon of table salt. High-sodium diets have been associated with hypertension, heart disease… you catch my drift. (If you’re training and ultra-hydrated, you may need to increase sodium to maintain electrolyte balance).
3. Premium Salad with Grilled Chicken (Southwest or Bacon Ranch):
Fat (g): 9
Sodium (mg): 960-1010
Protein (g): 30-33
WARNING: these stats are salad sans dressing - pick the wrong salad and you might as well have ordered yourself a Mega Mac. Our friend the silent assassin is back again, and telling you to ALWAYS choose low-fat dressings on the side. If you can’t live without your creamy condiments, use half the package. McDonald’s full-fat dressings actually have as many calories and more grams of fat than the salads themselves.
4. Quarter Pounder:
Fat (g): 19
Sodium (mg): 730
Protein (g): 24
I didn’t want you to think that healthy always had to mean grilled chicken and salad, so think of this guy as here by default (after all, McDonald’s is a burger joint).
But before you go thinking it’s perfectly healthy to down quarter pounders after every big game, be forewarned. There is a reason you don’t see any other red meat on this list, and it pretty much comes down to saturated fat. Health-wise, it’s associated with increasing your LDL (bad) and lowering your HDL (good) cholesterol. It also increases your risk for certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. So while it’s okay to opt for a burger once in a while, you should try to harness your fatty meat intake to once per week.
And since you’re already indulging your saturated fat craving for the day… hold the cheese please! And skip the fench fries.
The Good News: What we love about these entrees is that they allow room for sides, letting you pack in some extra nutrients and leaving you satiated.
Try one of these for a guilt-free total package:
Fruit n’ Yogurt Parfait (with or without granola)
150 Calories, 2g of fat
Apple Dippers with Low-fat Caramel Dip
105 Calories, .5g of fat
Side Salad with Low-fat Dressing
80 Calories 3g fat
Snack Size Fruit and Walnut Salad
210 Calories, 8g of fat
At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering, what is the worst thing I could possibly order at Mickey D’s?? Well maybe not. But here it is:
Big Breakfast with Hotcakes
Hmmm… heart attack on a styrofoam platter. And before lunch, at that. So if you forget everything we’ve talked about, at least you know to avoid this horrible breakfast "treat" like the plague!!!
About the Author
Alyssa grew up in New Hampshire and is a lover of any activity that involves mountains (especially the Greens and the Whites!). She speaks Mandarin Chinese and Japanese and lived in both countries as an undergrad (which partially explains her love for Beijing eggplant, lychee, and anything green tea flavored). Currently, she lives in New York City and is working on her master’s degree in public health nutrition at NYU. For the past year, she has been working at NYU School of Medicine’s Center for Immigrant Health, and last fall was awarded the Gstalder Memorial Scholarship for her research and service in minority health. Active in the Greater New York Dietetic Association, Alyssa is working with student members to create a low-literacy cookbook and nutrition guide for cancer patients, which she hopes to have translated into Chinese and Spanish. Before getting into nutrition, she spent time working for several environmental groups, including The Nature Conservancy in Yunnan, China, the Missouri Botanical Gardens in Madagascar, and the Green Mountain Club on The Long Trail in Vermont. Alyssa was recently accepted to a dietetic internship program at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in the Bronx, where she will begin work in the fall.
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