What to Eat at McDonald's: Healthy Menu Choices and Nutrition Facts

McDonald's

Verywell / Christian Alzate

McDonald’s is one of the most recognized franchises in the world. The menu at McDonald’s features innovate new food and varies from country to country, inspired by the culture and local tastes. In general, though, there are some classic McDonald’s items you’ll encounter no matter where in the world you place your order. The Big Mac, McNuggets, and fries are among the most popular items on McDonald’s menu, but they’re far from the healthiest. 

Making nutritious choices at the drive-thru can be challenging, especially at fast food restaurants with large and ever-changing menus. You may find it useful to review the full nutrition content of a meal using McDonald’s online nutrition calculator. Knowing your options before you go can help you plan an order that suits your tastes, dietary needs, as well as your personal health and fitness goals. 

What Experts Say

“While McDonald’s offers sides of fruit, the majority of their options are lower in veggies, whole grains, and fiber, and higher in sodium. If you eat here on a regular basis, opting for meals that include whole grains and veggies and minimizing high sodium foods can help balance out overall nutrition for the day.” 

— Willow Jarosh, MS, RD

Navigating the Menu

What to Order & Avoid at McDonald's
 Most Nutritious Options Least Nutritious Options
Fruit and Maple Oatmeal (Breakfast) Big Breakfast with Hotcakes (Breakfast)
Hamburger (Burgers) Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (Burgers)
McNuggets (Chicken and Sandwiches) Spicy Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich (Chicken and Sandwiches)
Apple Slices (Snacks and Sides) World Famous Fries (Snacks and Sides)
Vanilla Cone (Desserts and Shakes) Strawberry Shake (Desserts and Shakes)
Bottled Water (Beverages) Pink Lemonade Slushie (Beverages)

Most Nutritious Option

The healthiest item from McDonald's classic menu is the hamburger, which delivers a healthy portion of protein while staying low in calories.

Breakfast

You’ll find a range of options on the McDonald’s Breakfast and All Day Breakfast menus (which you can order from any time of day). You can choose from McDonald’s take on classic brunch items like egg sandwiches and pancakes (McMuffins and Hotcakes), hash browns, as well as a selection of McCafé Bakery treats and coffee drinks. 

✓ Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

The fruit and maple oatmeal contains 320 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 64g carbohydrate, 31g sugar, 6g protein, and 150mg sodium. This breakfast option offers 4g fiber and some protein to keep you full, and is lower in sodium than other options.

✗ Big Breakfast with Hotcakes

The Big Breakfast with Hotcakes—with a biscuit, hash browns, sausage, and scrambled eggs—has 1340 calories, 63g fat, 25g saturated fat, 158g carbohydrate, 48g sugar, 36g protein, and 2070mg sodium.

Portion control is key for choosing a lower-calorie breakfast that will still keep you satisfied. Stick to individual menu items rather than breakfast platters, which are high in calories, fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. 

You can also customize individual breakfast items to make them lower in calories and fat. For example, a regular Egg McMuffin has 310 calories and 13g fat. Without bacon, cheese, or butter, it has 220 calories and 7g fat, but you still get 12g protein.

Milk-based coffee drinks, like lattes and mochas, can add a lot of extra calories, fat, and sugar to your breakfast—especially if you add syrup and whipped cream. Stick with a regular hot or iced coffee from the McCafé menu. Try a sugar-free, 0-calorie Flavor Shot like French Vanilla instead of cream and sugar.  

Burgers

McDonald’s burgers range from simple single hamburgers to Quarter Pounders with cheese to the famous Big Mac. While most burgers are high in calories and fat, even the lighter options can be made into a high-carb, high-fat meal if you add a large side of fries and soft drink.

✓ Hamburger

A hamburger with one beef patty contains 250 calories, 9g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 31g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, 12g protein, and 510mg sodium. Without added cheese, extra patties, and sauces that come in other burgers, the hamburger is the lowest in calories and fat, while still providing plenty of protein.

✗ Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese

A Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 740 calories, 42g fat, 20g saturated fat, 43g carbohydrate, 10g sugar, 48g protein, and 1360mg sodium.

McDonald’s Big Mac is one of the highest calorie items on the menu with 550 calories and 30g fat. If you want the taste of the burger’s secret sauce, order it on a smaller burger or as a side for an extra charge.

Chicken and Sandwiches

From McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches to Filet o’ Fish, if you aren’t a fan of hamburgers, you’ll find other protein sources on the McDonald’s menu. Most of the chicken sandwiches are fried and they have temporarily stopped offering grilled chicken options.

✓ McNuggets

Four pieces of McNuggets contain 170 calories, 10g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 10g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 9g protein, and 330mg sodium. Order the McNuggets sans sauce to keep the sugar, sodium, and calories lower, as well.

✗ Spicy Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich

A spicy deluxe crispy chicken sandwich contains 540 calories, 26g fat, 4g saturated fat, 48g carbohydrate, 10g sugar, 27g protein, and 1150 mg sodium. If you're craving a chicken sandwich, order the McChicken sandwich for fewer calories and less sodium, fat, and sugar. It includes 400 calories, 21g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 39g carbohydrates, 5g sugar, 14g protein, and 560mg sodium.

Snacks and Sides

McDonald’s iconic fries are the main side for any combo meal, but they’re a high-calorie, high-carb, and salty option. More nutritious options can be found on the kid’s menu and are regular additions to Happy Meals, such as apple slices.

✓ Apple Slices

Apple slices are the healthiest snack option at McDonald's. One serving contains 15 calories, 0g fat, 4g carbohydrate, 3g sugar, 0g protein, and 0mg sodium.

✗ World Famous Fries (Large)

A large order of McDonald's World Famous Fries has 490 calories, 23g fat, 3g saturated fat, 66g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 7g protein, and 400mg sodium.

If you’re looking for a smaller portion of fries, you’ll also find a more sensible size on the kid’s menu: a Happy Meal serving of fries has 110 calories, 5g fat, 15g carbs, and just 90mg sodium. 

Desserts and Shakes

The dessert options at McDonald’s combine favorites from other fast food menus. You’ll find cool treats like milkshakes, soft serve, McFlurries, and sundaes as well as warm bakery-style items like cookies and apple pie. 

✓ Vanilla Cone

The creamy, soft-serve Vanilla Cone has 200 calories, 5g fat, 3g saturated fat, 33g carbohydrate, 23g sugar, 5g protein, and 80mg sodium.

✗ Strawberry Shake (Large)

A large order of the strawberry shake provides 840 calories, 21g fat, 14g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 139g carbohydrate, 106g sugar, 19g protein, and 310mg sodium.

Most McFlurry flavors are 500 calories or more in the standard size. For example, a regular size M&M McFlurry has 640 calories, 21g fat, 96g carbohydrate, and 83g sugar.

The smaller snack-size portion has 420 calories, 14g fat, 64g carbs, and 55g sugar. While it’s still a high-calorie treat, you’ll save calories by enjoying one in a smaller size. 

Beverages

You’ll find the typical selection of Coca-Cola fountain drinks at McDonald's and most meals come with your choice of a soft drink. Whether you’re dining out or making a meal at home, water is always the healthiest drink choice. However, if you’re looking for other beverages at McDonald’s that won’t add added sugar to your meal, there are a few other options for you.

✓ Dasani Bottled Water

Dasani water contains 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, 0g protein, 0 mg sodium. If you want another option with no sugar or sweeteners, McDonald's large unsweetened iced tea contains 0 calories, 0g fat, 0g carbohydrates, and 1g protein. For a slightly more filling option, the 1% low fat milk jug contains 100 calories, 2g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 12g carbohydrate, and 8g protein.

✗ Minute Maid Pink Lemonade Slushie (Large)

A large Minute Maid Pink Lemonade Slushie contains 350 calories, 0g fat, 95g carbohydrate, 93g sugar, 0g protein, and 40mg sodium.

While diet soda, coffee, and iced tea may not add calories to your meal, keep in mind that many sugar-free, calorie-free beverages contain artificial sweeteners, like aspartame, which you may prefer to avoid. 

Diet-Specific Options

McDonald's offers menu items for gluten-free, low-carb, diabetes-friendly, low-fat, low-sodium, vegetarian, and vegan diets.

Gluten-free

McDonald’s doesn’t designate any certified gluten-free options on its menu, but you will find some items that don’t contain gluten or wheat. However, if you have Celiac disease, these choices may not be safe for you to consume, as they may have come into contact with gluten during the storage, prep, or cooking process. 

Items at McDonald’s that don't have gluten-containing ingredients and may be suitable for gluten-free diets include:

  • Egg McMuffin (ask for no English muffin)
  • M&M McFlurry, Hot Fudge and Caramel Sundaes
  • Caramel or Mocha Frappé, Cappuccino, Mocha, Coffee
  • Smoothies and Shakes
  • Quarter Pounder, Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Big Mac (no Big Mac sauce and no bun, ask for lettuce wrap)
  • Apple Slices

Low-carb

  • Hash Browns
  • Chicken McNuggets (4 pieces)
  • Kids Fries

Diabetes-friendly

Low-fat

  • Kid’s Fries
  • Smoothies and Slushies
  • Hamburger
  • Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
  • Apple Slices
  • Vanilla Cone

Low-sodium

  • Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
  • Coffee
  • Kids Fries
  • Apple Slices
  • Vanilla Cone

Vegetarian and Vegan

Depending on where you are in the world, you’ll find that some McDonald’s locations have more options for diners who don’t eat meat. In the United States and Canada, vegan or vegetarian-friendly items may not work for all plant-based diets. 

McDonald’s uses the same equipment (such as fryers) to prepare all its food. Even if you order an item from the menu that doesn’t contain animal products, it may have been prepared alongside meat, dairy, or eggs. 

The only vegan food options at McDonald's are pre-packaged apple slices from the kid’s menu and the chain’s famous Baked Apple Pies. The Fruit and Maple Oatmeal can also be made vegan as long as you ask them to omit the cream. Many beverage options, such as black coffee and tea, are also vegan-friendly. 

Vegetarian-friendly items at McDonald's may include: 

  • Oatmeal
  • Smoothies and Shakes
  • Hotcakes
  • English Muffin, Biscuit, or Bagel 

McDonald’s french fries and hash browns use beef flavoring, meaning that even though they're made from potatoes, they aren’t technically vegan and vegetarian-friendly options. 

Food Allergies and Safety

If you have a food allergy, you may want to review the ingredients list for McDonald’s menu which is available online as a downloadable PDF. You can also use an online tool to sort the menu according to certain ingredients or common allergens you may need to avoid. 

Common food allergens McDonald’s notes on its menu include:

  • Soy
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Tree Nuts

However, as all the food at McDonald’s is prepared in shared kitchen space, the chain can’t guarantee your meal will be completely free from an allergen. Cross-contamination of food allergens is possible, so if you have food allergies, always exercise caution when dining out.

A Word From Verywell 

With a large, varied, and ever-evolving menu of fast food, McDonald's menu has something to suit many different tastes and diets. Most of the items, from breakfast and beyond, are high in calories, fat, and sodium—even the salads can be among the less-healthy choices.

However, if you stick to smaller serving sizes, look for grilled options instead of fried, and devote most of your calories to the main part of a protein-packed meal instead of carb-heavy sides or sugary desserts and drinks, it is possible to make a healthier choice at McDonald's.

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Article Sources
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