All Junk Food at McDonald’s? Not Anymore

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A couple of friends visited me last weekend. One of them teased me and said “You nutritionists don’t eat McDonald’s fast food!” What? Yes we rarely eat fast food and love making fresh meals ourselves, but I do eat McDonald’s! There are items I will never order such as the Super Sized Triple Thick Shake with a shocking 1160 kcal per serving or the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese loaded with 40g of fat!! But here, let me tell you what I order:

A few non junk food at McDonald’s

  • Fruit’n Yogurt Parfait: This adorable yogurt packed with berries is my favorite. With 160 kcal and 2 g of fat, it is not bad at all! If you leave out the granola, you’ll slash off another 30 kcal! Good treat!!
  • Apple Slices with Low Fat Caramel Dip: these skinless apples with creamy caramel dip only carry 100 kcal. If you are like me and can never finish the overly sweet caramel dip, you can easily slash off another 20 – 30 kcal.
  • Egg McMuffin: no you did not read it wrong. I’m usually a toast/OJ/yogurt person but on rare days I do crave eggs for breakfast. Compared to the whopping 1220-kcal Deluxe Breakfast, the Egg McMuffin only has 290 kcal. Not bad! A glass of juice or a serving of fresh fruit will make this breakfast complete with all 4 food groups.
  • Salads: they are not the fanciest salads out there but they are still “healthier” than let’s say a Filet-O-Fish. At the time of this article, McDonald’s offers 3 kinds of salad: Bacon Ranch, Ceasar and California Cobb. Disappointingly, all three salads have the same base – iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, some red cabbage, carrots and tomatoes. Anyway, if you would like to have chicken with your salad, make sure you order the Grilled chicken version instead of Crispy Chicken to save at least 100 calories. Also you’ll shave an additional 100 – 150 kcal by ordering their low-fat salad dressings.

This article by all means does not encourage eating more often at fast food chains or endorse any products. I still encourage eating wholesome low fat meals; it is my intention to simply point out that there are some healthier choices in the fast food chains nowadays. Please note that with the increasing public concerns regarding trans fatty acids, it is best to avoid deep-fried items like french fries and chicken nuggets as fast food chains often use oils containing trans fats.


Surviving a McDonald’s Party

6 year old’s best friend is celebrating a birthday at McDonald’s. Of course, your child is excited but you are not thrilled because you make a conscious effort to encourage your child to eat healthy by avoiding fast foods. What is a parent to do to encourage healthy eating in such a situation? Here are a few tips to help minimize your child’s intake of foods that offer little to no nutritive value…

 1. Try to have your son/daughter eat a healthy snack before going to the party. Examples of such foods include: yogurt with a fruit, bowl of cereal with milk, crackers and cheese, fruit with cheese, ½ peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Doing this will help curb your child’s appetite so that he/she will not eat as much when arriving at McDonald’s.

2. Before you get to McDonald’s, discuss with your child what he or she will order. Encourage options that will be lower in fat and calories while offering some nutritional value. Here are a few examples of healthier choices from the McDonald’s menu (Nutrition facts are available from the McDonald’s website):

Menu Item: Calories / Fat (g)

  • Hamburger: 260 / 9
  • Cheeseburger: 310 / 12
  • Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich: 420 / 9
  • 4 pieces Chicken McNuggets (without sauce): 170 / 10
  • Salads (not including dressings)
    • Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken: 290 / 10
    • Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken: 220 / 9
    • Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken: 220 / 6
  • Desserts
    • Fruit and Yogurt Parfait: 160 / 2
    • Apple Dippers: 35 / 0
    • Apple Dippers with low fat Caramel Dip: 100 / 0.5
    • Vanilla Reduced fat Ice Cream Cone: 150 / 3.5
    • Kiddie Cone: 45 / 1
  • Drinks
    • 1 % Milk carton: 100 / 2.5
    • Small Apple or Orange Juice: 90-140 / 0
    • Child Size Sodas: 70-120 / 0

3. If your child chooses a salad and would like to add some salad dressing, encourage him/her having one of the lower fat versions – they are much lower in calories and fat.

Making healthier choices at McDonald’s is possible by considering menu options before getting there. Discussing meal options with your kids before getting to a restaurant will help narrow down choices – you can help narrow the search at McDonald’s by suggesting the healthier options above.

4. If your child chooses to have a soda and fries, have him/her order the smallest size, and encourage splitting it with you or a friend.


The Bottom Line

Making healthier choices at McDonald’s is possible by considering menu options before getting there. Discussing meal options with your kids before getting to a restaurant will help narrow down choices – you can help narrow the search at McDonald’s by suggesting the healthier options above.

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