The 5 Best Things To Order At McDonald's, According To Nutritionists
When it comes to fast-food, McDonald's is a classic—and honestly, the gold standard for grab-and-go food. It's a staple of many childhood birthday parties and is a fixture at practically every rest stop, mall, airport, and food court imaginable. But while McDonald's is great for many things (convenience, affordability, fries) it's not necessarily something you'd think of when looking to eat healthy.
However, with the holiday season here, many of us will be spending quality time on the road. Even if you're trying to eat healthier, your travel dining options will likely come down to fast-food chains—unless you pack your own food. (And really, who has time to do that?) Which begs the question all of us have faced at some point or another during our travels: When you’re stuck on the road (and hangry) with nothing to eat but McDonald’s, what should you order?
Well, there are a few basic rules you can follow: “When traveling, think about how you can add more color into your meal through fruits and/or vegetables so you can fill up with the healthy, fiber-filled items,” says Sarah Koszyk, R.D.N., sports dietitian and weight management specialist. You can also customize various parts of your order at McDonald's to swap out various less-healthy ingredients for other ones, from holding the mayonnaise to going for grilled rather than fried chicken. Also worth noting: The brand announced in 2019 that they would stop serving chicken treated with certain antibiotics and take high-fructose corn syrup out of their buns, in addition to removing artificial preservatives from several menu items. So the food is already a little healthier than you probably remember it being back in the day.
To simplify things even more, Koszyk and fellow registered dietitian Melanie Flinn combed through the McDonald’s menu and found a few good-for-you options (including, yes, fries!). Here are their top picks:
The Classic Happy Meal
Happy Meals aren’t just for kids, says Koszyk. “Order a cheeseburger, kids fries, and apple slices, which provide a well-balanced meal including a serving of fruit from the apples, protein from the burger and cheese, and grains and starches from the bun and fries,” she says. “The best part is the food comes in proper portion sizes to enjoy the main foods McDonald’s is known for—burgers and fries.”
Pack these whole-grain banana chocolate chip muffins for a healthy snack on the road:
Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken
With 350 calories, 11 grams of fat, and a whopping 27 grams of protein, this salad is a solid option. Plus, with six grams of fiber, you'll feel full and satisfied longer. “Salads are typically associated with being a healthy choice, but you have to be careful with the amount of dressing, cheese or other fried toppings,” says Flinn.
Related: Tons Of Fast Food Chains Have Nutritionists—And They're Actually Like Weight-Loss Ninjas
Artisan Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich
If you’d prefer your chicken in a sandwich, then order the artisan grilled chicken classic sandwich. “The grilled chicken is low in fat at only seven grams per serving, saving you calories,” says Koszyk. It also has a whopping 37 grams of protein. Add a side salad and you have a balanced meal with protein, veggies packed with fiber and vitamins, and a starch, she says. And skip high saturated-fat condiments like mayonnaise and butter.
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Egg White Delight McMuffin
If you’re hitting the road early and need breakfast food, opt for the Egg White Delight McMuffin. “For 260 calories, you’ll get a protein-packed sandwich filled with egg white and extra lean Canadian bacon,” says Flinn. Balance out your breakfast with a pack of apple slices.
Related: 5 Fast-Food Breakfasts That Are Actually Good For You, According To Nutritionists
“If you have a hankering for a burger, try their regular hamburger and add a side salad plus an order of small fries,” says Flinn. “You'll satisfy that burger and fry craving, but will still stay just under 500 calories with 19 grams of fat and 17 grams of protein (not including dressing).”
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