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The Healthiest McDonald’s Menu Items

The Healthiest McDonald’s Menu Items

There are some surprisingly healthy options beneath those Golden Arches

Not everything they sell is slathered in grease.

Despite its considerable efforts, people still don’t look to McDonald’s when they want a healthy meal. Its reputation on wellness is mixed, though what people might not know about the international fast food chain is that they’ve made many changes to their menu with nutrition in mind.

The Healthiest McDonald’s Menu Items Gallery

Once you look past the obviously unhealthy items like the sugar-spiked milkshakes and burgers piled high with bacon, there are actually plenty of opportunities to make a lighter choice at McDonald’s. We know you’re probably going into your McDonald’s visit with some type of food that you’d like to order in mind. If you’re craving a burger, for instance, you might not be pleased when we tell you to order the salad. And it’s not really fair to compare a vegetable-heavy salad bowl with a bacon-heavy breakfast sandwich anyhow. So we looked into each category of the menu and picked the healthiest options from each.

What makes an item healthy? Well, that’s up for debate. But generally we imagine that, when visiting a fast food joint, you’re looking to limit calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars and maximize the nutrition in the food you’re eating.

McDonald’s lists all of this information online; we consulted their American menu for all nutritional data, so this might vary if you’re looking to eat at McDonald’s around the world. You can look for yourself here or consult our list of the healthiest items on the menu.


McDonald's Is Becoming Healthier Without Us Even Noticing

There's no denying that McDonald's is pretty damn delicious.

But when it comes to watching your waistline, Big Macs and McNuggets are by no means your friend.

As society becomes increasingly health conscious, it seems like more people are ditching the drive-thru for healthier food options. But now McDonald's is trying win back the hungry hearts of its former fast foodies by introducing some healthy changes to its classic collection of menu items.

That's right. McDonald's is tweaking the ingredients on more than half of its menu items, which means most of your favorite snacks will probably be affected by these subtle changes.

Here's what's in store for the new and improved McDonald's menu:

Nixing the use of chicken treated with antibiotics.

Menu items, such as Chicken McNuggets, McChicken sandwiches and Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken sandwiches will be made with chicken that has not been given antibiotics prescribed to humans.

This is a great change since giving animals lots of antibiotics can play a role in bacteria resistance and make medicine less effective.

Mixing red leaf lettuce and carrots in.

McDonald's will be adding these two veggies to all of the salads on their menu. In addition to making meals more colorful, this new change will add a greater range of vitamins and minerals to the chain's salads.

Swapping out high-fructose corn syrup.

High-fructose corn syrup will be replaced with sugar in the buns of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken sandwiches. Whether this change will result in healthier buns is yet to be determined, since there is still considerable debate over whether or not sugar is actually healthier than high-fructose corn syrup.

Eliminating artificial preservatives.

Artificial ingredients like chicken skin, safflower oil and citric acid will be replaced with natural preservatives like pea starch, rice starch and powdered lemon juice in Chicken McNuggets, McGriddles, sausage patties, breakfast sandwiches and breakfast platters.

However, the new food formula doesn't change the fact that these items all contain a high amount of calories and unhealthy saturated fats.

Replacing margarine.

McDonald's will be swapping out margarine for butter in some of its breakfast items including Egg McMuffins, biscuits and bagels. While this change eliminates unhealthy trans fats that can cause high cholesterol and heart disease, it's important to keep in mind that butter still contains a high amount of unhealthy saturated fat.


Hamburger

Courtesy of McDonald's

"The hamburger tops the charts as the burger with the least calories and fat that McDonald's has to offer," says Goodson. "At 250 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 12 grams of protein, this could fit into almost anyone's meal plan without breaking their caloric bank. Plus, it's a decent blend of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. If you need a side item, apple slices are the healthiest partner."


The 12 healthiest McDonald's menu items

Try as it might , McDonald’s still doesn’t have much of a reputation for being a healthy place to visit for lunch. And honestly, as long as burgers , fries , and shakes remain a focal point of its menu, it probably never will. But once you look past the obviously unhealthy menu items , there are actually plenty of opportunities to eat right at McDonald’s, and we’ve identified the 12 healthiest items on its menu.

So what exactly makes something “healthy”? While we could have easily just picked out the lowest-calorie items on the menu, being low in calories doesn’t automatically make something healthy. A small McDonald’s cheeseburger, for example, only contains 290 calories, but we’re not going to argue that it’s good for you.

In that vein, we’re not including burgers or anything fried in our ranking (including French fries and fried chicken), because even though they might be lower in calories than some other menu items, fast food burgers and fried foods lack real nutritional value. All of these menu items aren’t just low(ish) in calories, they also offer some actual nutrition. These menu items aren’t just ranked by calorie count fat, sodium, saturated fat, and vegetable content were also taken into account. These are also all items that can be considered meals (some admittedly light ones) we didn’t include apple slices, for example.

A couple quick notes: Most of the sandwiches contain cheese, so asking for it to be made without that (or creamy sauce) will lower the calorie count. Sandwiches with bacon can also (obviously) be made healthier by taking the bacon off. The salads are also listed without dressing we suggest you order it with the healthiest salad dressing on offer, Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette it’ll add 290 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 680 grams of sodium. You can customize your own meal on McDonald’s nifty Nutrition Calculator, and find the healthiest McDonald’s menu items here.


1. Southwest Salad with grilled chicken

Chosen by the dietitians for its high protein content, the Southwest Salad with grilled chicken contains a variety of nutritional value.

Altogether, the salad contains 350 calories, 37 grams of protein and 11 grams of fat.

To put it into perspective, the recommended daily intake of calories for the average woman is 2,000 calories per day, while the recommended amount for the average man is 2,500 (when trying to maintain weight), according to Health Line.

The recommended protein intake is 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man, and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.

Cleveland Clinic recommends in-taking roughly 44 to 77 of fat per day if you eat 2,000 calories a day.

Speaking about the salad, Melanie told the publication: 'Salads are typically associated with being a healthy choice.'

However, she added that it is important to take into consideration if there are any fried foods, dressings or cheese added, as this can change the nutritional value of the meal.


COVID testing’s value shrinks as vaccines beat back virus

The fresh, more relaxed mask guidelines from federal health authorities have almost completely overshadowed another big shift in government guidance: fully vaccinated Americans will largely avoid being screened for the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week that certain patients who have undergone the full course of vaccines who have no COVID-19 signs do not need to be tested for the infection, even though they have been exposed to someone who is sick.

The move marks a new step in the disease after nearly a year in which research was the main tool against the virus. Vaccines are also integral to the solution and have significantly reduced hospitalizations and fatalities.

According to experts, the CDC recommendation represents a recent fact in which almost half of Americans have undergone at least one vaccination and almost 40% are completely vaccinated.

“At this point, we also should be questioning whether the benefits of research outweigh the costs — which are a lot of delays, a lot of doubt, and very little clinical or public health benefit,” said Dr. David Paltiel of Yale’s School of Public Health, who advocated for universal testing at colleges last year.

Although vaccinated individuals will still contract the virus, they are less likely to become seriously sick as a result of it. Positive test results, on the other hand, may cause needless worry and disruptions at work, home, and education, such as quarantines and shutdowns, according to many experts.

Other health experts believe the CDC’s sudden updates on the need for masks and monitoring have sent the message that COVID-19 is no longer a significant concern, despite the fact that the United States publishes regular case counts of about 30,000.

“The average Joe Public is interpreting what the CDC is doing as ‘This is over. It’s done,'” said Harvard University’s Dr. Michael Mina, a leading proponent of widespread, accelerated research.

With more than 60% of Americans not completely vaccinated, he believes screening of those without symptoms has a role to play, especially among front-line employees who interact with the public.

The revised recommendations, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, are focused on findings that demonstrate the vaccine’s robust efficacy in reducing illness in a variety of age ranges and settings. And when individuals who have been vaccinated contract COVID-19, their infections are milder, shorter, and less likely to spread to others.

As a result, the CDC states that vaccinated individuals will normally be removed from mandatory COVID-19 occupational screening.

This move could alleviate research headaches like the one recorded recently by the New York Yankees, in which one player and several staffers tested positive on a particularly responsive COVID-19 test despite having been vaccinated.

Baseball administrators are debating whether to discontinue or limit monitoring of players who have no signs.

However, widespread efforts to waive tests for vaccinated individuals can run into the same problem as the CDC’s latest mask guidelines: there’s no straightforward way to tell who has been vaccinated and who hasn’t.

Employers have the legislative authority to prescribe vaccinations for the majority of their employees, but few have used this authority because the vaccines do not yet have full regulatory clearance. Some employment-law experts consider requiring workers to report their vaccine record to be invasive.

For the time being, research seems to be ongoing unabated in areas where it has been implemented, ranging from workplaces to meatpacking plants to sports teams.

Smithfield Foods, a pork manufacturer, said it continues to perform a mix of obligatory and discretionary tests for workers, based on worksite conditions. Amazon has stated that it will continue to provide standard, voluntary research.

The NBA has stated that it intends to keep its testing scheme in place for the time being. The league has been lauded for using robust testing to build COVID-19-free “bubbles” surrounding players, coaches, and personnel.

On a national scale, the availability of COVID-19 tests currently well outnumbers the market. Officials in the United States collect estimates of over 1 million tests every day, down from a high of over 2 million in mid-January, but many rapid tests performed at home and at work go uncounted.

Consumers can purchase 15-minute over-the-counter samples at pharmacies and other retail locations. This is in addition to expanded capacity from labs and hospitals in the United States, which ramped up research following last year’s crushing demand.

According to Arizona State University researchers, the United States will be able to perform 500 million monthly experiments by June.

And as early as this winter, numerous health professionals were pushing for a massive research campaign to reopen classrooms, offices, and other industries in a healthier manner. But this was before it was understood how safe the vaccine would be in use, how easily it could be administered, and whether it would defend against variants.

“The vaccines outperformed expectations,” said Dr. Jeffrey Engel of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. “At this stage, you should start peeling back some of the other layers of mitigation, such as mask usage and screening.”

In the previous pandemic relief package, Congress set aside $46 billion to increase testing, especially in schools. However, since all Americans aged 12 and over are now registered for vaccinations, many middle and high school children will be completely vaccinated when they return to school in the fall.

Furthermore, several school districts have now opposed routine tests for elementary schools, citing the fact that children rarely become chronically sick and that a positive test can result in destructive quarantines.

Some states have also returned government research dollars, opting for less intrusive interventions such as mask wearing and social distancing.

According to Engel, many school administrators “only see screening services as a massive obstacle that isn’t going to help.”


Rebranding for Health

As all of the largest U.S. retail chains and restaurants are finding out, branding doesn't hinge on attracting customers with a slick advertising campaign. Rather, restaurants must deliver on the promises of the brand. In this case, what McDonald's promises and what McDonald's delivers are two different things when it comes to healthy food choices.

This list of the top ten worst McDonald's menu food items for fat calories is arranged by fat content with the highest at the top. The second list looks at those menu items with the highest trans fat content.


What are the Healthiest McDonald's Menu Items?

Try as it might, McDonald’s still doesn’t have much of a reputation for being a healthy place to visit for lunch. And honestly, as long as burgers, fries, and shakes remain a focal point of its menu, it probably never will. But once you look past the obviously unhealthy menu items, there are actually plenty of opportunities to eat right at McDonald’s, and we’ve identified the 12 healthiest items on its menu.

In that vein, we’re not including burgers or anything fried in our ranking (including French fries and fried chicken), because even though they might be lower in calories than some other menu items, fast food burgers and fried foods lack real nutritional value. All of these menu items aren’t just low(ish) in calories, they also offer some actual nutrition. These menu items aren’t just ranked by calorie count fat, sodium, saturated fat, and vegetable content were also taken into account. These are also all items that can be considered meals (some admittedly light ones) we didn’t include apple slices, for example.

A couple quick notes: Most of the sandwiches contain cheese, so asking for it to be made without that (or creamy sauce) will lower the calorie count. Sandwiches with bacon can also (obviously) be made healthier by taking the bacon off. The salads are also listed without dressing we suggest you order it with the healthiest salad dressing on offer, Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette it’ll add 290 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 680 grams of sodium. You can customize your own meal on McDonald’s nifty Nutrition Calculator, and find the healthiest McDonald’s menu items here.


Non-Keto McDonald’s Menu Items to Avoid

This may seem unbelievable, but pound for pound, ketchup contains as much sugar as soda does [ 15 ].

  1. Honey Mustard Sauce
  1. Tangy Barbecue Sauce
  1. Honey
  1. French Fries
  1. Buns/Bread

A few condiments do work on keto. They are:

  • Spicy Buffalo Sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Creamy Ranch Sauce
  • Mustard
  • Tartar Sauce

The Healthiest McDonald’s Menu Items Gallery

Despite its considerable efforts, people still don’t look to McDonald’s when they want a healthy meal. Its reputation on wellness is mixed, though what people might not know about the international fast food chain is that they’ve made many changes to their menu with nutrition in mind.

Once you look past the obviously unhealthy items like the sugar-spiked milkshakes and burgers piled high with bacon, there are actually plenty of opportunities to make a lighter choice at McDonald’s. We know you’re probably going into your McDonald’s visit with some type of food that you’d like to order in mind. If you’re craving a burger, for instance, you might not be pleased when we tell you to order the salad. And it’s not really fair to compare a vegetable-heavy salad bowl with a bacon-heavy breakfast sandwich anyhow. So we looked into each category of the menu and picked the healthiest options from each.

What makes an item healthy? Well, that’s up for debate. But generally we imagine that, when visiting a fast food joint, you’re looking to limit calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars and maximize the nutrition in the food you’re eating.

McDonald’s lists all of this information online we consulted their American menu for all nutritional data, so this might vary if you’re looking to eat at McDonald’s around the world. You can look for yourself here or consult our list of the healthiest items on the menu.