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McDonald's Nutrition: What Are The Healthiest Options?

McDonald's Nutrition: What Are The Healthiest Options?


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Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.


Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.

We all know that fast food is unhealthy, but it can be a necessary convenience at times, and occasional cheat meals shouldn’t be too damaging in the context of a healthy diet.

Whether you’re on a long road trip or just in the mood for a break from cooking at home, we wanted to analyze the McDonald’s menu to offer our recommendations for their healthiest options.

We already found that you can eat a healthy diet from Dollar General alone, so we’re curious to see whether adequate nutrition can be sourced from McDonald’s.

In this article we’ll review the McDonald’s menu and highlight some of the most nutritious options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between.

Please note that our ingredients and menu options are found on McDonald’s website at the time of writing, and your local store may have different options.

McDonald’s Breakfast Menu

It’s no surprise that the vast majority of McDonald’s breakfast menu items contain processed meat. We know from medical research that processed meat from conventionally-raised animals is associated with negative health outcomes, so we don’t recommend any of their most popular breakfast items like the McMuffin.

Healthiest Breakfast - Fruit & Maple Oatmeal with Black Coffee

McDonald's oatmeal ingredients

McDonald’s sells a Fruit & Maple Oatmeal meal that’s their healthiest breakfast option by far. The main ingredient is whole grain rolled oats, and the meal also includes fresh apples and dried cranberries and raisins.

It would definitely be healthier to make oatmeal at home, as this product contains added sugar, natural flavoring agents, artificial food coloring and preservatives.

That being said, it’s still a decently nutritious option, providing a notable amount of iron, potassium and micronutrients from the fruit. 

Pairing McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal with a black Premium Roast Coffee would be a pretty healthy meal, especially compared with the alternatives. We know from medical reviews that black coffee consumption is associated with a range of health benefits, so skip the sugary latte options and stick with the plain black coffee.

McDonald’s Lunch Menu

McDonald’s has mostly the same items available for lunch and dinner. The main courses are typically sandwiches involving meat, but there are some healthier lunch options.

Healthiest Lunch - Filet-O-Fish with Side of Apple Slices and Unsweetened Iced Tea

McDonald's Fish Fillet ingredients

Surprisingly, McDonald’s sources from wild-caught fish, which medical studies show is safer than farmed fish due to lower contamination. 

Filet-O-Fish is made with pollock, which is high in healthy fish oils like EPA and DHA. This product does contain added sugar, natural flavoring agents, preservatives, artificial colors and hydrogenated oils, but these potentially harmful filler ingredients are pretty much unavoidable in any McDonald’s meal.

The apple slices can provide some helpful antioxidants, and unsweetened tea, like unsweetened coffee, is associated with health benefits in research.

Overall we don’t think this meal is as healthy as the breakfast option, but it provides decent nutrition.

McDonald’s Dinner Menu

Because we don’t recommend any of McDonald’s meat products, we have to get creative here.

Healthiest Dinner - Large Mango Pineapple Smoothie with Hash Browns

McDonald's pineapple smoothie ingredients

McDonald’s does use real fruit in their smoothies which make them a much healthier option than some other fast food restaurants like Sonic. There is added sugar, fructose, natural and artificial flavors which make it less healthy than a smoothie made at home.

The smoothie contains pineapple, mango, orange and apple juice concentrates which provide a decent amount of vitamins and minerals.

The large smoothie does contain 72g sugar so it would be best after exercise to minimize insulin response.

Mcdonald’s hash browns aren’t healthy but they’re better than the burgers or sandwiches from a health standpoint. They are made with real potatoes, but contain hydrogenated oils.

Snacks

The only snack we recommend from McDonald’s is their 1% low fat milk jug. Even though we typically only recommend animal products sourced from grass-fed animals for nutritional reasons, we feel this is the only snack option available that isn’t actively harmful.

Even conventional milk is high in minerals like calcium and magnesium, and this serving contains 8 grams of protein in only 100 calories.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Everyone knows McDonald’s isn’t a healthy restaurant but you can craft some meal plans with decent nutrition if you know what to look for.

This article reviewed an entire day’s worth of meals that would provide a decent base of vitamins, minerals and micronutrient found at McDonald’s alone.

Overall we think their breakfast options are healthier than their lunch or dinner options, with their oats and black coffee breakfast actually quite nutrient-dense and low-risk.

McDonald’s seems to be using fewer preservatives and questionable ingredients than in the past, but some number of these are almost inevitable in fast food due to the nature of the business. Food needs to be stored for long periods of time and quickly heatable and ready to eat.

We generally recommend cooking your meals at home as you can control the ingredients better, but if you’re stuck ordering from McDonald’s or want a slightly-less-harmful cheat meal, they do have some decent options.





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