The Healthiest Foods to Order at McDonald’s, According to Nutritionists

Updated: Nov. 07, 2022

Drum roll, please!

No matter where you are in the world, you can always count on a cheap, delicious meal from McDonald’s. But as far as your healthy New Year’s resolutions are concerned, you should probably bid farewell to all of your fast food favorites, right?

Wrong. As a matter of fact, you can indulge in several nutritionist-approved items on the McDonald’s menu, according to nutritionist Lisa Richards, creator of the Candida Diet. “Like many fast food restaurants, McDonald’s has attempted to increase their range of health food options,” she says. “This has led to the addition of some healthy options, but also some ‘fake-healthy’ foods. These are foods that appear healthy but are in fact very unhealthy.” Don’t miss these other 33 secrets fast food workers aren’t telling you.

So what does she recommend as the healthiest food at McDonald’s? “McDonald’s salad options can be eaten confidently when trying to stick to a healthy diet. However, choosing grilled chicken over fried is essential,” she says. “When it comes to breakfast, the Egg McMuffin is a good option as it provides low calories and high protein with no added sugars. The oatmeal, despite sounding healthy, is in fact laden with added sugars.” Find out exactly what you should know before you order McDonald’s oatmeal.

Registered dietitians at Boston Medical Center agreed, adding the sausage burrito, a small hamburger, and the yogurt parfait to the list of the healthiest food at McDonald’s. An important note: The parfait should be treated more as a “treat” food than an everyday healthy pick. “While not fried or full of saturated fat like most of the other menu items, they are loaded with added sugars,” Richards adds.

Unfortunately, it may be harder to eat make healthy choices at McDonald’s due to some big changes that occurred in 2020. According to Business Insider, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, McDonald’s limited their menu in two major ways: they removed all salads, and stopped serving all-day breakfast (it’s now only served until about 10:30, although hours may vary by franchise). This is bad news for those looking for healthier choices at McDonald’s, as well as vegans and vegetarians looking for a meal later in the day.

For a healthy McDonald’s meal, your best bet is to get there early. As Richards told Reader’s Digest, “The breakfast menu tends to be lower in calories and healthier overall. For example, hash browns are a healthier choice than fries. McDonald’s hash browns are 160 calories per portion, while an order of fries is 350 calories.”

However, it’s important that you don’t underestimate what a drink can do to the overall health of your meal. Stick with water, low-fat milk, unsweetened iced tea, or black coffee if you want to keep healthy at McDonald’s, our nutritionist experts say. “Diet and zero-calorie drinks are not necessarily healthy choices, but they may be better than the high-sugar alternatives. Neither contain much in the way of healthy nutrition,” says Richards.

McDonald’s has indicated it will be revisiting its healthy menu options in the future, probably post-pandemic. In the meantime, they’ve brought back greasy favorites such as the McRib sandwich—and these facts about the McRib may surprise you.

In terms of overall healthy eating at McDonald’s, these nutritionists recommended aiming for grilled options over fried or breaded when available, limiting the sodas, and staying away from super-sizing. “Don’t say yes just because it’s a deal—’do you want to supersize for an extra dollar? The large is the same price.’ If you didn’t originally order it, don’t order it because they are offering a ‘sell up,'” dietitians at Boston Medical Center added. Now that you know the healthiest food at McDonald’s, find out 75 mind-blowing facts you never knew about the Golden Arches.