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

Egg McMuffin
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In This Article

McDonald’s is one of the most recognized franchises in the world. With over 37,000 locations globally, it’s also the most frequented fast food restaurant. 

In the more than 50 years the chain has been in business, it’s occasionally altered its menu offerings to keep up with the times as well as attempt to innovate new food fads. The menu at McDonald’s also 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. If you follow a certain diet, it can be even more of a challenge to find something safe and tasty. The good news is, McDonald’s makes the nutrition information of its menu readily available online. You can even search according to specific ingredients or food allergens.

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. 

There are some general tips for ordering fast food that apply to McDonald’s as well, such as sticking to smaller portions, looking for grilled options instead of fried, and avoiding carb-heavy extras.

What Experts Say

“While McDonald’s offers sides of veggies and fruit as well as salads, 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

Most Nutritious Options

  • Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

  • Hamburger

  • McNuggets

  • Side Salad

  • Apple Slices

  • Vanilla Kiddie Cone

  • Bottled Water

Least Nutritious Options

  • Big Breakfast with Hotcakes

  • Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese

  • Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

  • Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad

  • French Fries

  • Chocolate Shake

  • Blue Raspberry Slushie 

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), standbys like yogurt parfaits and hash browns, as well as a selection of McCafé Bakery treats and coffee drinks. 

Most Nutritious Option

180 calories, 2.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, 50 mg sodium, 34g carbohydrate, 26g sugar, and 5g protein

Least Nutritious Option

1340 calories, 64g fat, 25g saturated fat, 0.5g trans fat, 2090 mg sodium, 155g carbohydrate, 48g sugar, and 35g protein

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 300 calories and 12 grams of fat. Without bacon, cheese, or butter, it has 210 calories and 6 grams of fat, but you still get 12 grams of 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. 

Most Nutritious Option

250 calories, 8g fat, 3g saturated fat, 480 mg sodium, 31g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, and 13g protein

Least Nutritious Option

780 calories, 45g fat, 21g saturated fat, 2.5g trans fat, 1310 mg sodium, 43g carbohydrate, 10g sugar, and 51g protein

McDonald’s Big Mac is one of the highest calorie items on the menu with 540 calories and 28 grams of 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 & 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, but the Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich is one option that’s under 400 calories. 

Most Nutritious Option

McNuggets (4 pieces)

180 calories, 11g fat, 2g saturated fat, 340 mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 10g protein

Least Nutritious Option

620 calories, 29g fat, 5g saturated fat, 1030 mg sodium, 63g carbohydrate, 11g sugar, and 28g protein

Salads

Fast food salads are often large, covered with high-calorie salad dressing, and topped with carb-heavy extras. McDonald’s salads are no exception. In fact, they can be among the higher calorie items on the menu. You can make a healthier salad, however, by ordering smaller portions, looking for grilled rather than crispy protein options, and being choosy about salad dressing. 

Most Nutritious Option

Side Salad (without dressing)

15 calories, 0g fat, 15 mg sodium, 3g carbohydrate, 1g sugar, and 1g protein

Least Nutritious Option

520 calories, 25g fat, 6g saturated fat, 960 mg sodium, 46g carbohydrate, 9g sugar, and 28g protein

McDonald’s partnership with Newman’s Own means you’ll have a choice of lighter options. For example, Newman’s Own Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette has just 35 calories per serving. 

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 and yogurt. 

Most Nutritious Option

15 calories, 0g fat, 0 mg sodium, 4g carbohydrates, 3g sugar, and 0g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Fries (Large)

510 calories, 24g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 350 mg sodium, 66g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 7g protein

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, 5 grams of fat, 15 grams of carbs, and just 80 milligrams of sodium. 

Dessert

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. 

Most Nutritious Option

45 calories, 1g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 20 mg sodium, 8g carbohydrate, 6g sugar, and 1g protein

Least Nutritious Option

Chocolate Shake (Large)

840 calories, 22g fat, 14g saturated fat, 1g trans fat, 420 mg sodium, 142g carbohydrate, 122g sugar, and 19g protein

Most McFlurry flavors are 500 calories or more in the standard size. For example, a regular M&M McFlurry has 640 calories, 22 grams of fat, 96 grams of carbs, and 86 grams of sugar.

The smaller snack-size portion has 420 calories, 15 grams of fat, 64 grams of carbs, and 58 grams of 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 calories or sugar to your meal.

Most Nutritious Option

0 calories, 0g fat, 0 mg sodium, 0g carbohydrate, 0g sugar, and 0g protein

Least Nutritious Option

340 calories, 0g fat, 25 mg sodium, 92g carbohydrate, 89g sugar, and 0g protein

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

If you follow a special diet, you may find the large menu at McDonald’s especially helpful. As is usually the case at fast food or casual dining restaurants, cross-contamination of ingredients is hard to prevent when all the food is prepared in a shared kitchen space.

If you have certain dietary needs or preferences, let the McDonald’s employee taking your order know. They may be able to accommodate your need for customizations. 

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 allergens during the storage, prep, or cooking process. 

Items at McDonald’s that may be suitable for gluten-free diets include:

  • M&M McFlurry
  • Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
  • Bacon Ranch Salad (no croutons)
  • Caesar Salad (no croutons or chicken)
  • Quarter Pounder, Hamburger, or Cheeseburger (no bun, ask for lettuce wrap)

Low-carb

  • Side Salad
  • Chicken McNuggets 
  • Sausage Breakfast Burrito
  • Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders
  • Grilled Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad 

Diabetes-Friendly

  • Hash Browns
  • Cheeseburger
  • Chicken McNuggets (4 pieces)
  • Bacon Ranch Salad (no chicken)
  • Side Salad (no croutons, light dressing)

Low-fat

  • Kid’s Fries
  • Hamburger
  • Fruit and Maple Oatmeal
  • Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich 
  • Side Salad (no croutons or dressing)

Low-sodium

  • Apple Slices
  • Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
  • Southwest Salad (no chicken)
  • Chicken McNuggets (4 pieces)
  • Vanilla Soft Serve (Kiddie Cone)

Vegetarian & 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 options at McDonald's are pre-packaged apple slices from the kid’s menu and the chain’s famous Baked Apple Pies. Many beverage options, such as black coffee and tea, are also vegan-friendly. 

Vegetarian-friendly items at McDonald's may include: 

  • Oatmeal
  • Side Salad
  • Smoothies and Shakes
  • Fruit and Yogurt Parfait or GoGurt Yogurt
  • Hotcakes; Plain McGriddle, 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:

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.

Was this page helpful?