Everyone is probably familiar with the iconic Golden Arches. They grace the entrances of the world’s most popular fast food chain, McDonald’s. Now, most people will guilty admit that they’ve shamefully sat in the parking lot shoving fries into their mouths at least once in their lives. We get it, we’ve all been there at some point.
McDonald’s, as tasty and convenient as it is, holds the famous reputation for being obscenely unhealthy. In fact, there are some that say McDonald’s is part of the reason why America has an obesity problem – we’re just saying, Ronald McDonald.
Of course, if you eat at McDonald’s every single day, you're going to have problems. For those who have seen Supersize Me, you'll understand. An occasional meal every now and then, though, won’t mean you automatically gain ten pounds.
Hold up now, it's not all bad. Actually, there are a few things on the menu that could even be considered “healthy” – at least regarding fast foods. So in case you ever need a quick meal and you pass by the giant yellow M, know that there are some options for a decent lunch in there for you. Here are the 10 healthiest McDonald's meals in America and the 10 unhealthiest.
20 Hamburger (Not too bad actually)
When McDonald’s first started back in 1955, their menu was a simple one, hamburgers, milkshakes, and French fries. Their original plain burger is a good option for a quick bite if you are feeling hungry and are a tad peckish. The hamburger is just beef patty, onions, ketchup, and mustard, and is only 250 calories since it isn’t loaded in unhealthy toppings like most of the other menu options. Upgrading to a simple cheeseburger, which is exactly the same but with a slice of cheese only bumps the calorie count to 300, still not too bad for a fast food option!
19 McFlurry with M&M’s (Way too unhealthy!)
Oh, the McFlurry, truly a McDonald’s classic. This deceptively small, sweet, cold treat looks innocent enough. But the calorie count in this dessert is truly horrific. One McFlurry with brightly colored M&M’s is a staggering 630 calories. Considering that this is a dessert and is usually bought alongside a sandwich or meal, you’re looking at possibly over 1,000 calories just for one meal.
A healthy person should be looking at only consuming about 25 grams of sugar a day. Well, a McFlurry with M&M’s contains enough sugar for at least three days.
It also accounts for 69% of your saturated fat intake. That’s a big McNo.
18 Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (Not too bad actually)
We have to admit, we didn’t even know that McDonald’s serves oatmeal in the morning, we’re usually too focused on the Sausage and Egg McGriddle. But, they do, and it’s actually a pretty healthy breakfast option. It comes with some fresh red and green apple chunks, raisins and cranberries, and a dash of cream. It’s only 310 calories and is surprisingly filling because of all the complex carbohydrates in it. It even contains 20% of your daily fiber goal! The oatmeal comes with an option of brown sugar, which we regretfully suggest omitting to keep it a low-calorie breakfast.
17 Milkshakes (Way too unhealthy!)
We know a milkshake, and a burger is probably the most classic of all fast food pairings and as delightful as it is, you’re probably better off just choosing one. A classic small chocolate milkshake at McDonald’s is 530 calories. Strawberry milkshakes come in second with 500 calories, and vanilla with 490 calories.
All three milkshakes go over your daily sugar intake by at least double the recommended amounts, and that’s just for a small milkshake!
You’d have to run for a very long time to burn all those calories off. These numbers are just making us sad.
16 Garlic White Cheddar with Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Not too bad actually)
The average man and woman should be consuming between 500-700 calories for lunch, respectively. If a plain hamburger sounds like it won’t fill you up, a solid choice would be the Garlic White Cheddar Grilled Chicken Sandwich option. The sandwich is only 530 calories and contains 42 grams of protein. If you want to cut out even more fat from it though, you can ask to have the garlic aioli removed, which is the worst thing on the sandwich. The one thing should make sure you are careful about is the sodium content of the sandwich which contains 48% of your daily values. Although if you remove the aioli, it will help.
15 Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich (Way too unhealthy!)
We mentioned above that the Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a decent healthy option for a meal. Well, there is also a fried version of the sandwich, and it packs a whopping 700 calories and accounts for half your daily sodium intake. Yikes!
You don’t even want to know what percent of saturated fat it has. We’re going to tell you anyways. This sandwich has 43% of your daily saturated fat intake.
You might think getting a chicken sandwich would be healthier than a hamburger, but we’re here to tell you that is a big, fat, NO. Get the grilled version instead if you’re looking for a healthy option.
14 Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad (Not too bad actually)
It may sound shocking, but McDonald’s actually has some pretty tasty salads! The Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad starts with a blend of romaine, baby spinach, kale, red leaf lettuce, and carrots. Next, are layers of black beans, roasted corn, tomatoes, and poblano peppers. A sprinkle of cheddar and tortilla strips and cilantro add some extra flavor. And finally, a seasoned and grilled chicken filet sits on top adding an excellent source of protein. The entire salad is only 350 calories and fulfills up to 24% of your daily fiber goal. You can even sub out the cilantro lime glaze dressing for a lighter vinaigrette if you wanted to.
13 Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (Way too unhealthy!)
At some point in time, McDonald’s thought that a simple Quarter Pounder with Cheese wasn’t answering the people’s needs well enough. So they decided to take it to another level and make the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. We’ll admit, back in our college days after a crazy night out, the Double Pounder sounded like the perfect way to finish the night off. Well, after looking at the nutrition facts on the McDonald’s website, we regret ever ordering one of those monsters.
The Double Quarter Pounder is a heart-clogging burger with 770 calories and 104% of your daily saturated fat intake!
12 Egg White Delight (Not too bad actually)
Another great and speedy breakfast option is the Egg White Delight. It’s made with egg whites, extra lean Canadian bacon, white cheddar and a toasted English muffin. It’s actually a great way to start your day because of all the protein that you get, which according to research is the best way to start your day.
If you’re feeling really health conscious, you can request that the white cheddar is removed, and this will cut out 50 calories and some sodium. Although in our opinion, if we’re already choosing an Egg White Delight over a McGriddle, we deserve the cheese.
11 Sweet BBQ Bacon Burger (Way too unhealthy!)
The Sweet BBQ Bacon Burger sounds so innocent because it has the word “sweet” in it. Well, it’s a liar. This burger also packs a gut-wrenching 770 calories. Make it a meal with fries and a drink, and you are definitely shooting around the 1,000 calorie marker. But all those layers of BBQ sauce, and sweet and crispy onions, and cheddar, and thick cut bacon just smells so good…NO. We need to stay far away from the hamburger and its 120 mg of cholesterol. We’re going to be good and graze on our grass … we mean salad instead.
10 Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait (Not too bad actually)
The Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait is probably one of the healthiest menu options at McDonald's.
Made with layers of low-fat vanilla yogurt, fresh blueberries, and strawberries, and low-fat granola, this parfait is only 150 calories!
Let’s be honest though, one parfait is not nearly enough to fill us up. However, the parfait is an excellent side dish to get. You can pair it with the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal or the Egg White Delight instead of the regular fat-laden hashbrowns. Even better is that since McDonald’s now serves breakfast all day, you can also get it as a replacement for French fries.
9 Steak, Egg & Cheese Biscuit (Way too unhealthy!)
If you’re trying to lose weight, we don’t suggest you hit up McDonald’s for breakfast too often. While they do have some healthy options, let’s be real, you’re going to be tempted. Especially when you see the brightly photographed Steak, Egg & Cheese Biscuit. It’s so small you say, how bad could it really be? Well, we’ll give you 530 reasons why it is so bad!
One small breakfast sandwich at 530 calories is not a good deal. Maybe if you took out the cheese, and the salted butter, and the clarified butter, and the steak patty, and the bread, and the onion reduction sauce. Oh, just egg and onions left? Okay, an omelet doesn’t sound too bad.
8 Chicken McNuggets (Not too bad actually)
HALLELUJAH! The Chicken McNuggets make the list for the healthiest option of the McDonald’s menu. Honestly, we don’t care about anything else now.
Actually, there are somethings you need to take note of. The Chicken McNuggets are only “healthy” if you get a proportionate order of them. What we mean is that a single 4-piece order of the McNuggets provides a decent amount of protein (14 grams to be exact). The sodium and fat levels aren’t too high either.
However, if you get a 10-piece McNuggets order, then that’s no longer a healthy option. When you order the nuggets, eat them plain or with ketchup, honey mustard, or bbq sauce. The ranch sauce has the highest calorie and fat levels out of all the sauces.
7 Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddles (Way too unhealthy!)
Come on, we don’t really need to tell you why the Sausage Egg & Cheese McGriddle is a bad idea, right? It doesn’t even use a standard biscuit! Instead, McDonald’s thought that using mini pancakes as the carbohydrate would be a great idea. Even better, infuse the pancake with pockets of maple syrup. Well, we’re sorry to tell you this, but that one sandwich is 550 calories.
It contains over 54% of your sodium intake for the day and 73% of your daily cholesterol intake.
Maybe stick to the Egg White Delight. Your arteries will thank you (although perhaps not your taste buds).
6 Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad (Not too bad actually)
McDonald’s other salad meal is the Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad. The salad contains mixed greens including spinach, kale and lettuce. Carrots and grape tomatoes add a splash of color, and thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon makes it so much better. To be fair, toss in bacon to anything, and it will make it instantly better.
The entire salad is only 320 calories! There is no reason to feel guilty when you eat this salad. In fact, if you sub out the ranch dressing for a lighter vinaigrette or take out the bacon, we’d say adding a small fries to the meal wouldn’t be the worst thing!
5 French Fries (Way too unhealthy!)
Oh god. The fries. The golden, crispy, salty, fries.
These deliciously fried strands of goodness are probably the best thing on the entire McDonald’s menu. Unfortunately, they also make the list for the unhealthiest item.
A medium order of fries – the average size when accompanying a meal, is 340 calories. If you take a look back at the other things we listed as unhealthy, a single order of these fries with any of the heavy caloric burgers we listed, you’re looking at an average of 1,000 calorie meals.
The McDonald’s website isn’t lying when they claim their fries are crave-able, because they’re all we can think about now.
4 Pico Guacamole Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Not too bad actually)
Yum! Grilled chicken fillet, fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, sharp white cheddar, creamy buttermilk ranch sauce, and crisp lettuce, all sandwiched between an artisanal roll sounds delicious!
The Pico Guacamole Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich is 550 calories, not bad for a McDonald’s sandwich, honestly. If you order this sandwich, we suggest taking out the buttermilk ranch sauce. Although for the most part, the sandwich contains healthy proteins and fats, but it has a very high sodium content. One sandwich includes 56% of a person’s daily value of sodium. Taking out the ranch sauce would help to lower the sodium content of the sandwich.
3 Bacon Ranch Salad with Buttermilk Crispy Chicken (Way too unhealthy!)
A salad sounds like it would be a healthier option and it usually is. And at 490 calories, the Bacon Ranch Salad with Buttermilk Crispy Chicken doesn’t seem like too terrible of a choice. Well, compared to the rest of the menu it may not be one of the worst. But if you actually look at the nutrition facts, you may be surprised.
One salad contains 47% of your daily sodium intake and 32% of your cholesterol intake. That salad isn’t looking too healthy to us anymore! Stick with the grilled version if you’re really trying to make a healthy choice at McDonald’s.
2 Side Salad (Not too bad actually)
You probably don’t want to hear this, but when you’re ordering at McDonald’s, you should probably skip the French fries. Yes, yes, we know, they’re so good! But, as we’ll mention later, they’re not very healthy. Instead, when you’re ordering at McDonald’s, you should look at other side options. One great and healthy alternative to switch to is the Side Salad.
The fresh salad has mixed greens, carrots, and grape tomatoes. There are a variety of Newman’s Own dressings to choose from, we’d recommend the vinaigrette to keep it light.
The salad only has about 15 calories! You can burn those calories just by sneezing.
1 Big Breakfast with Hotcakes (Way, Way, Way too unhealthy!)
We’ve saved the worst for last. If you think the past few items have been unhealthy, wait until you see the calorie count for the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes. Our mouths dropped when we saw the number.
Ready? Here we go. This breakfast meal is an astounding 1350 calories. We'll let that sink in for a second.
This is more than half the recommended calorie intake for a person for an ENTIRE DAY.
The meal contains 126% of your daily saturated fat intake and 169% of your daily cholesterol intake. That is insane! We didn’t think one meal could get that high at McDonald’s. The Big Breakfast includes pancakes, scrambled eggs, a biscuit, hash browns, and a sausage patty.