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The healthiest McDonald’s options

Megan Widdows
Written by

Megan Widdows

Medically reviewed by

Fiona Moncrieff

3 min read
Last updated July 2024

Eating out is an enjoyable social experience that you shouldn’t have to miss out on for the sake of your health journey. Many people worry that going to restaurants always means overindulging, however, it is possible to eat healthily when eating out.

McDonald’s is a popular fast food restaurant that’s a crowd-pleasing choice for a quick meal whilst out and about. Although typically considered ‘junk food’, there are several options available if you’re trying to stick to your healthy lifestyle. 

Eating out is often a much anticipated treat, especially after a year in lockdown, so it’s perfectly ok to choose a more indulgent option if you want to. The important thing is that this isn’t a frequent indulgence, and you focus on finding the motivation to get back to your healthy habits afterwards. 

However, science suggests that a reduced carbohydrate diet is the most effective diet for weight loss. Lower-carb diets are particularly effective for those who struggle with blood glucose control (e.g. people with type 2 diabetes). On top of this, eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables (e.g. broccoli or peppers), protein (e.g. meat or fish), and healthy fats (e.g. olive oil or nuts) has many health benefits.

To save you time and stress, the registered nutritionists here at Second Nature have gone through the menu and nutritional information of this popular chain and picked out some options that generally fit the bill of lower-carb balanced meals. Vegetarian options are marked with a (v).

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Order without adjustments

Most fast food is ultra-processed and should only be enjoyed occasionally. However, if you’re looking for the healthiest things to order at McDonald’s, here are your best options.

  • Chicken McNuggets, side salad, and water meal
  • Crispy chicken salad
  • Veggie dippers, side salad, and water meal (v)

Order with a few adjustments

These options can be adjusted to be slightly healthier:

  • McChicken sandwich meal 

Swap the fries for a side salad, and opt for still or sparkling water

  • Chicken legend meal

Swap the fries for a side salad, and opt for still or sparkling water

  • Filet-o-fish, side salad, and water meal

Swap the fries for a side salad

  • Egg and cheese McMuffin (v)

Swap the hash brown for a fruit or carrot bag

  • Vegetable deluxe, side salad, and water meal (v)

Swap the fries for a side salad

  • The Spicy veggie one wrap meal (v)

Swap the fries for a side salad

Enjoy occasionally 

These are more indulgent options that can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet, just less often:

  • Any burger with fries 
  • Veggie wrap with fries (v)
  • Apple pie (v)
  • McFlurry (v)

The options at McDonald’s don’t offer enough balance, so try to ensure your meals before and after your meal out are balanced and include plenty of fruit and vegetables. 

Take home message

  • McDonald’s might not be your first choice when thinking about healthy eating out restaurants but there are options if you’re trying to stick to your healthy lifestyle
  • Lower carb diets have been shown to be the most effective for weight loss
  • If you want to indulge, enjoy your meal out without guilt and aim to eat healthy meals the next day
  • If you’re looking for a healthy meal, there are a number of healthy, lower-carb options you can choose from
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