Drive-thru restaurants offer convenience and meals that appeal to kids and adults alike—but this is often at the expense of quality nutrition. McDonald’s is known for its burgers, fries, crispy chicken McNuggets, and more. While these foods may taste delicious and satisfy your need for a quick meal, these McDonald’s menu items are loaded with calories, sodium, fat, sugar, and saturated fat. In fact, you may be surprised to learn some of the chain’s popular menu items can contain nearly a full day’s worth of sodium.
Fast food restaurants aren’t known for their wide selection of nutrient-dense, calorie-conscious offerings. So, if you find yourself pulling through drive-thrus often and have a particular penchant for the allure of the Golden Arches, you may want to think twice about the items you select when placing an order at McDonald’s. Highly processed foods, like those offered at most fast food restaurants, have been scientifically linked to weight gain and potentially increase your risk for other serious diseases and health conditions.
The good news is there are still plenty of items on the McDonald’s menu that can work within a balanced diet. To lessen the potential negative impact of your next McDonald’s order, here are a few tips:
While 600 calories isn’t unreasonable for a meal, this burger packs 34 grams of fat, providing 44% of the daily value. Additionally, over 30% of the fat grams come from saturated fat, a nutrient that may negatively affect your heart health. To save a few calories and grams of fat, skip the cheese and ask for less sauce.
If you thought the fat content of the Big Mac was alarming, this breakfast option has nearly double the fat content! And, at over 1,300 calories, this single meal provides a full day’s worth of energy for some people. Unless this meal is being split amongst several people, you may be better offer scrapping the order altogether. Instead, go with the Big Breakfast® and skip the butter for nearly half the calories.
At nearly 500 calories, this medium size coffee drink could be a meal on its own. However, this drink is more likely to be enjoyed alongside food, making for an especially high-calorie meal.
While this drink is high in fat and carbs, the sugar content may be the most shocking aspect of this drink. To put things in perspective, chugging down all 62 grams of sugar contained in this beverage will put you over the recommended daily threshold for sugar intake by about 24%. Added sugar may also increase your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even some cancers.
While it’s best to limit your sugar intake as much as possible, if you are looking for a sweetened coffee drink, opt for the small Iced French Vanilla Latte for 180 calories and 15 grams of added sugar.
Another drink sure to exceed your sugar needs for the day is the medium Chocolate Shake. Not only does this amount to 170% of the recommended daily intake for sugar but also this shake has more than a meal’s worth of calories. Sure, it provides 15 grams of protein which could suffice for some meals, but at over 100 grams of carbs, you’re better offer skipping it.
For a more reasonable dessert option, go for a simple Vanilla Cone for just 200 calories.
Don’t let the blueberries in this pastry fool you; it contains similar calories, fat, and sugar as a donut. With only 5 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, this muffin also won’t keep you very full, either. You’re better off skipping the pastries at McDonald’s and choosing a more satiating breakfast, like the Egg McMuffin®.
Known for their mild sweet maple flavor, the McGriddles® also packs a high amount of sodium. This nutrient is essential, although high amounts can contribute to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Current recommendations for sodium suggest adults consume fewer than 2,300 mg per day. At more than half that amount, this order makes a dent in your daily intake. To cut back on sodium and calories at breakfast, choose the Sausage McMuffin® instead.