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5 Tips to Ordering the Healthiest Food at McDonald’s

by Sammy Nickalls

For any health-conscious individual, the thought of McDonald’s food is likely to make you shudder, and the thought of healthy food at McDonald’s would make you laugh.

Not necessarily because you don’t like it—it can be quite delicious—but because no matter what, you’ll be forced to sabotage your nutritious eating habits.

Or will you?

Let me make this clear: though McDonald’s would like you to think that their joint is a prime spot for health nuts, no amount of marketing can change the facts. McDonald’s food is often loaded with preservatives and other nasty chemicals to keep it fresh. However, there are definitely better options than a Big Mac and a large fry.

So marketing gimmicks aside, what really is the healthiest food at McDonald’s? Next time you have to pay the red-headed clown a visit, try using these guidelines.

healthiest food at mcdonald's

Healthiest Food at McDonalds

1. Breakfast

If you’re trying to get the healthiest food at McDonald’s, and it’s breakfast time, the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal might seem like the logical choice. Fruit and oats—what a delicious way to start the day! Yeah, like most things at McDonald’s, its deliciousness comes at the cost of nutrition. McDonald’s oatmeal has 32 grams of sugar—more than a Snicker’s bar. That’s because of all the extra stuff they add in there to make it seem fresh and tasty. No thanks.

Stick with the Egg White Delight McMuffin. Not the healthiest breakfast in the world, but it’s certainly not bad for McDonald’s at 250 calories with 18 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat, as well as a modest amount of nutrients.

Related: 12 Ways to Make Healthy Choices When Eating Out

2. Pick-Me-Ups

Stopping by McDonalds just for a snack to tide you over? Go with a snack wrap. They’re little but big enough to keep you satiated until you can make yourself a meal. However, be wary: the type of snack wrap you get is very important here. You can choose between three different dressings (honey mustard, chipotle BBQ, or ranch), and you can choose whether to have your chicken grilled or crispy.

Do your body a favor and always choose chipotle BBQ grilled or honey mustard grilled. The ranch will add 20 more calories, while crispy chicken will add 100 more calories. This way, you can get a solid amount of protein while shirking unnecessary calories.

3. Lunch and Dinner

In the quest for the healthiest food at McDonald’s, one (relatively) solid option is ordering a salad. But wait! Some of the salads are big, leafy, fatty traps! Here are the signs of a trap: crispy chicken, creamy dressing, cheese, and bacon.

Luckily, dressing comes on the side, and you can ask for salad modifications. For example, the Premium Bacon Ranch Salad has leafy greens and grape tomatoes, but it also has shredded cheese, bacon bits, and ranch dressing—so you could ask for less cheese and bacon, and a low-fat dressing on the side. You could even get it with grilled chicken if you’re worried about sacrificing taste.

There are also spicier options, like Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken—but again, mind the cheese!

If you’re not feeling a salad, you can get yourself a Premium McWrap Sweet Chili Chicken (again, make it grilled!) for a twist. At 360 calories with 80 of them from fat, it’s not bad for McDonald’s. Plus, you get a solid amount of protein and a bit of veggie.

Related: 5 Ways to Avoid Overeating

4. Sides

Feeling extra hungry and need aside? Stay away from the fries and order a healthier option instead. You can get yourself a bag of peeled apple slices to get a great dose of Vitamin C with minimal calories or get a side salad with a low-fat dressing. Another more filling option is a Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait.

Be warned, though: it’s not quite as healthy as it sounds. Though it is, indeed, a low-calorie option, it has 23 grams of sugar, and granola is one of those pseudo-health foods you want to avoid. But again, it’s better than a serving of fries!

5. Drinks

If you only get one thing from this article, let it be this: please, please don’t sabotage your efforts by ordering an unhealthy drink! You can pick the healthiest food at McDonald’s and make it all worthless by buying one of their massive beverages and filling it with sickly sweet soda.

That being said, diet soda isn’t in the clear either, because that stuff just messes with your system. At some McDonald’s, you can ask for a cup for water and not get charged, so just fill it up with water—or, ask for a black coffee.

If you really want some flavor, get yourself an iced tea—just not a sweet tea, since that has almost as much sugar as most sodas—and bring your own natural sweetener.

Related: 5 Big Benefits of Drinking Water

The Takeaway

Though McDonald’s can be the bane of any health nut’s existence, it’s possible to survive the menu guilt-free. Whether you’re ordering breakfast, a pick-me-up, lunch, dinner, drinks, or sides, the healthiest food at McDonald’s can keep you slim and trim as you’re on the go to conquer your day. Just don’t make a habit of it!


sammy nickallsSammy Nickalls is the Content Manager at She is an avid health nut and a lover of all things avocado. Follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

Photo by dno1967b

Originally published 2/2014 and updated 11/2014.

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