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If you’re new around here, this single most important thing that I like to preach is that you can eat ANY food you like, no matter what your goals are.
Even if you have a goal to lose weight, I want you to understand that nothing is off-limits.
That includes fast food.
I love putting together nutrition guides for fast food menus like these (check out my Chick-fil-A Nutrition Guide or Wendy’s Nutrition Guide for more examples) to show you exactly what you can expect when ordering out.
Maybe you don’t consider McDonald’s to be the highest quality food, but when you break down the and calories, you can see that it’s not as “bad” as you might have previously thought.
- Does McDonald’s Have Healthy Food?
- Healthiest McDonald’s Menu Items for Specific Diets
- Calories & Nutrition for McDonald’s Sandwiches
- Calories & Nutrition for McDonald’s Sides
- Calories & Nutrition for McDonald’s Breakfast Menu
- Calories & Nutrition for McCafe Drinks
- Calories & Nutrition for McDonald’s Bakery & Sweets
- Calories & Nutrition of Shamrock Shakes & Other Limited Items
- Conclusion: is McDonald’s Healthy?
Does McDonald’s Have Healthy Food?
When most of us think about McDonald’s, “healthy” isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind.
Of course, how healthy or unhealthy you consider the menu to be is going to be totally dependent on your own goals and preferences.
If you are eating a high-, you’ll be disappointed by the options at McDonald’s. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still get a quality meal at McDonald’s! diet and are hoping for some kind of
If a low-carb or keto diet is more your style, the traditional menu won’t have many options for you, but you can check out this guide from Joe Duff for some great keto-friendly options.
One thing that is worth noting is that at the time of writing this, McDonald’s is not offering any salads. This isn’t totally uncommon for (Five Guys doesn’t offer any salads), but it does seem that the vast majority of fast-food restaurants are now offering salad to accommodate people who are wanting to eat healthier.
At one point, McDonald’s did offer a handful of different salads, such as the or , but we are waiting to see if they make a comeback.
Note: if specific things such as mg of sodium, total sugar, grams of fiber, trans fat, or saturated fat are a concern for you, please check out the McDonald’s website for more specific nutrition facts.
Healthiest McDonald’s Menu Items for Specific Diets
As you go through this post, I’ll break down every section of the McDonald’s menu with the full nutrition information. But before we dive in, I want to showcase some healthy options for different dietary preferences.
If you follow a keto diet, your idea of “healthy” is certainly going to be different from someone who is just trying to eat more plant-based foods, so there’s no way to give you the healthiest option across the board.
However, I can point you in the direction of a healthy choice based on your specific diet:
McDonald’s Menu Item With the Most Protein
Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese: 740 Calories, 42g Fat, 43g Carbs, 48g Protein
The Double Quarter Pounder is high-calorie and high-fat, but that also comes with the most protein on the McDonald’s menu. It may not be the best option for quality protein, but nearly 50 g protein is pretty appealing nonetheless.
McDonald’s Menu Item With the Most Protein Under 500 Calories
Crispy Chicken Sandwich: 470 Calories, 20g Fat, 45g Carbs, 27g Protein
If you want a high protein option at McDonald’s with fewer calories than the Double Quarter Pounder, the chicken sandwiches are all solid options.
With right around 500 calories each, they all contain 27 grams of protein, which definitely makes them decent options. There are burgers with more protein, but also more calories and fat, so chicken sandwiches are some of the better options.
McDonald’s Menu Item With The Lowest Carbs
4 Piece Chicken Nuggets: 170 Calories, 10g Fat, 10g Carbs, 9g Protein
While a 4 piece order of chicken nuggets is small, if you need a quick bite that’s low carb, they fit the bill. Unfortunately, McDonald’s doesn’t currently have salads, or else that would be the easy choice here!
McDonald’s Menu Item With The Lowest Fat
Hamburger: 250 Calories, 9g Fat, 31g Carbs, 12g Protein
It can be tough to find a low-fat option when eating fast food, but if you stick with a single hamburger without any cheese, you’ll consume under 9 grams of total fat, which may be a great option for you. A double hamburger still only contains 16 grams of fat, so depending on your diet, you may be able to make that work as well!
Calories & Nutrition for McDonald’s Sandwiches
Whether you want to keep it simple with a single hamburger, or go with a massive double quarter-pounder (a half-pounder, in other words), there’s a burger on the McDonald’s menu for you.
It’s worth noting that these burgers all include condiments (ketchup and mustard) and American cheese (except for the hamburgers that don’t include cheese, of course). The condiments will generally add 10-20 calories per sandwich, with cheese adding 50 calories.
A Big Mac at McDonald’s contains 550 calories, which was much lower than I expected. Between the extra sesame seed bun, cheese, and special sauce, it’s easy to assume that the Big Mac calories would be incredibly high. But at 550 calories, the Big Mac calories are actually 100 fewer than that of a Whopper.
One of McDonald’s staples over the years has been the McChicken sandwich, which you may be surprised to see only have 14g of protein. With 400 calories, you’d expect the McChicken to contain more protein than it does, but since it is a chicken patty rather than chicken breast, the protein is much lower.
If you’re looking for more protein, the McChicken it is now accompanied by a handful of new chicken sandwiches, all containing 27g of protein.
Lowest Calorie McDonald’s Sandwich
Hamburger: 250 Calories, 9g Fat, 31g Carbs, 12g Protein
The single hamburger from McDonald’s is pretty much on par with all the other fast-food burgers out there in terms of nutrition. For reference, a single hamburger from Burger King is 240 calories, 10g fat, 26g carbs, and 13g of protein. Very similar!
The nutrition for a McDonald’s Cheeseburger is 300 calories, 13g of fat, 32g carbs, and 15g protein. We can estimate that each slice of cheese adds 50 calories, 4g fat, 1g carbs, and 3g protein based on the nutrition of the hamburger.
Highest Calorie McDonald’s Sandwich
Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese: 740 Calories, 43g Fat, 43g Carbs, 48g Protein
It’s no surprise that this massive half-pound burger tops the charts in terms of calories, but with that, it also packs the most protein. At 740 calories and 48g of protein, that may not be the most ideal calories-to-protein ratio, but it is certainly the highest.
It may come as a surprise to you that the Big Mac is not the highest-calorie option here. This is because the size of the Big Mac is mostly due to the extra bun in the middle, and you’re not getting as much beef as even the single quarter-pounder!
Highest Protein McDonald’s Sandwich under 500 Calories
Crispy Chicken Sandwich: 470 Calories, 20g Fat, 45g Carbs, 27g Protein
One of the newer menu items at McDonald’s is the crispy chicken sandwich, which was McDonald’s answer to Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A when the chicken sandwich wars started a few years back. If you’re looking to maximize your protein intake without going overboard on calories, the Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a solid choice!
Calories & Nutrition for McDonald’s Sides
You can’t talk about McDonald’s without talking about the Chicken McNuggets and the French Fries.
McDonald’s fries are arguably some of the best out there, and they are actually on the low end of the calorie scale when compared to the other options out there. Check out this French Fries Nutrition Comparison I put together to see how these fries stack up:
This guide compares a medium order of fries, which may vary in size depending on where you order from (we’re looking at you, Five Guys), but gives us a general idea.
If ordering a Happy Meal, the “Kid’s Fries” is the size you can expect to find within the meal.
When it comes to Chicken McNuggets, you have the option to order a small 4 piece, or go all the way up 40. If you’re ordering 40 McNuggets, that probably doesn’t qualify as a side anymore, but we’ll still count it as part of this category.
Calories & Nutrition for McDonald’s Breakfast Menu
McDonald’s breakfast is just fantastic. Nutrition aside, they have the best-tasting breakfast of all the fast food out there (in my opinion… and probably Ronald McDonald’s opinion).
As much as I hate to admit it, I absolutely love McGriddles. I’m Team Waffles forever, but their fluffy pancakes make perfect buns.
Pair that with a hash brown patty (or 20 of them… those things are seriously addicting) and an iced coffee, and you’ve got yourself an amazing breakfast.
The breakfast menu at McDonald’s will vary slightly from time to time (we’re still waiting for the bagels to make a comeback) but this is the entire breakfast menu that’s available at the time of writing this.
Personally, I’m hoping to see the Egg White Delight make a comeback because that was one of the best options for a low calorie, high protein breakfast.
McDonald’s Lowest Calorie Breakfast Option
Egg McMuffin: 310 Calories, 13g Fat, 30g Carbs, 17g Protein
A classic Egg McMuffin is one of the lowest-calorie breakfast options you’ll find out there. A basic Canadian bacon, egg, and American cheese on an English muffin, it’s tough to beat. As far as fast food breakfast items are concerned, it’s actually one of the healthier options you’ll find.
Check out this graphic I made that compares the Egg McMuffin to some of the other healthiest options out there:
McDonald’s used to offer the Egg White Delight McMuffin, which was even lower calorie and higher in protein, but it was discontinued in 2019.
We’ll see if it ever makes a comeback!
Highest Calorie McDonald’s Breakfast
Big Breakfast with Hotcakes: 1,340 Calories, 63g Fat, 158g Carbs, 36g Protein
It’s called a Big Breakfast for a reason, and this thing is packed with over 1,300 calories! The Big Breakfast contains a warm biscuit, hot sausage, fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy hash browns, and 3 pancakes with a side of butter and maple syrup. In other words: it pretty much has everything!
If calories are a concern, you’re likely not ordering the big breakfast, but it sure would be filling.
Highest Protein McDonald’s Breakfast under 500 Calories
Sausage McMuffin with Egg: 480 Calories, 30g Fat, 30g Carbs, 21g Protein
With 21g of protein, the Sausage McMuffin with Egg is the breakfast options with the most protein at McDonald’s. While it contains almost 500 calories, if you’re looking for the most protein, this is certainly a decent option.
If you’re looking to get more bang for your buck, the regular Egg McMuffin is still a better choice. While it contains slightly less protein with 17g, it contains only 310 calories.
Calories & Nutrition for McCafe Drinks
What’s breakfast without coffee? While McDonalds breakfast is incredible, their coffee selection is even more impressive.
It used to be that McDonald’s only offered simple hot coffee, but as you can see here, their McCafe menu has really expanded.
The breakdown you see here is for medium beverages, but you also have the option to order a small or a large of any drink, which will obviously change the calories and macros of your drink.
You can head over to the McDonald’s website if you need to find nutrition facts for a specific size, but I want to give you a few notes regarding the McCafe menu:
- Black coffee and Americanos are not listed here because they contain 0 calories.
- Iced coffee contains nearly 200 calories, which may be surprising to you. The default iced coffee is served with cream and flavored syrup, but you can order your coffee without either if you prefer.
McDonald’s Coffee Calorie-Saving Tips
As you can see here, some of the McCafe drinks are pretty high in calories. Here are some tips on how you can make your coffee drinks a little bit healthier.
- Ask for no cream in your coffee. Leaving the cream out of your coffee will save you 60 calories for a small coffee, 80 calories for a medium coffee, and 100 calories for a large coffee.
- Substitute the whole milk in your specialty drink. In 2022, McDonald’s started offering dairy-free milk alternatives, so you can swap the whole milk out for a lower-calorie option, or stick with the dairy and opt for nonfat milk.
- Use sugar-free syrup. McDonald’s offers sugar-free French vanilla syrup, and if you were to switch the regular syrup for the sugar-free version in a large iced coffee, you’ll save 120 calories!
Calories & Nutrition for McDonald’s Bakery & Sweets
When it comes to sweets, you’re likely not ordering them to be “healthy,” and that is totally fine. These are treats, after all.
But like I always say, it never hurts to know what you’re consuming!
I won’t compare the lowest calorie & highest calorie options here, because the options are quite obvious based on the size (a small cookie is clearly going to be the lowest calorie, and a large shake is unsurprisingly the highest calorie).
But, I do want to draw your attention to two things:
- A vanilla cone from McDonald’s is only 200 calories, which is not much at all. If you want a sweet treat, enjoying a vanilla ice cream cone may be a great idea. At only 200 calories, it won’t be difficult to fit that into any diet. If you want to save some calories, you can always ditch the cone, which would save you about 60 calories.
- A blueberry muffin contains 440 calories and 20g of fat, which may be surprising to see. Many people look at a blueberry muffin and assume it is a healthy option (in the sense of it being low-calorie) and are shocked to find out otherwise. At 440 calories, it’s more than eating 2 ice cream cones!
Calories & Nutrition of Shamrock Shakes & Other Limited Items
When it comes to fast food, there are always going to be items coming and going from the menu, and McDonald’s is no exception.
The most notable seasonal item at McDonald’s is unquestionably the Shamrock Shakes.
A small Shamrock Shake contains 500 calories, a medium Shamrock Shake contains 540 calories, and a large Shamrock Shake contains 800 calories.
It seems like a rather large jump in calories from a medium to a large, but I don’t make the rules! Regardless of which size you choose, you can save 60 calories by ordering a Shamrock Shake without any whipped cream.
McDonald’s has also been testing their new McPlant sandwich, which is a plant-based burger made with Beyond Meat. With 510 calories, 27g of fat, 45g of carbs, and 22g of protein, it’s less impressive overall than the beef options. But if you follow a plant-based diet, it may be a great option for you!
Conclusion: is McDonald’s Healthy?
Overall, the has a very wide range of options, so you’re likely to find something that suits your dietary needs.
Whether or not it’s “healthy” depends entirely on what it is you are looking for.
The McDonald’s menu doesn’t contain a lot of high-protein options, and many of the items are high in fat, but that doesn’t mean it will be impossible to find an option for you if you’re looking to eat high protein or low fat.
Unfortunately, McDonald’s does not offer any salads right now, so if your definition of healthy means lots of vitamins and minerals, then you’ll be missing out at McDonald’s.
But like anything in life, moderation is always key. Even if McDonald’s doesn’t have ideal options for you, I hope this guide helps to show you that there are still plenty of options you can make work for your diet!