The Truth About McDonald’s Oatmeal

Updated: Mar. 25, 2022

Just how healthy is it? Nutrition experts weigh in.

Boiled oat porridge, macro photographyHENADZI PECHAN/Shutterstock

The history of McDonald’s oatmeal

When you think of McDonald’s, you probably don’t immediately think of breakfast food. Even though the fast food franchise has expanded their offerings since their first-ever menu with these nine items, many people still associate the chain with their burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets. But McDonald’s does sell breakfast items and a surprisingly diverse offering at that. In 2011, McDonald’s launched its breakfast oatmeal nationwide, according to ABC News.  The fruit and maple oatmeal was advertised as a “bowl full of wholesome,” but was lambasted for its added ingredients, including sugars, in the New York Times where food columnist Mark Bittman said the company is “doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice.”

Priced at about $2.38 in New York and with 33 grams of sugar, McDonald’s oatmeal, Bittman pointed out, is more sugary than a Snickers bar and more expensive than a double cheeseburger. You may want to think twice about considering this food for breakfast, just like these other “healthy” fast food choices.

But what do nutrition experts think of this breakfast option now, almost ten years after its nationwide release?

What’s in McDonald’s oatmeal?

McDonald’s oatmeal is made with oatmeal, diced apples, cranberry raisin blend, and light cream, according to the fast food chain’s website. One serving contains about four grams of fat, 62 grams of carbs, six grams of protein, and 310 calories. The calorie count is one P.K. Newby, nutrition scientist and author of Food and Nutrition: What Everyone Needs to Know, says is on par to that of the oatmeal you’d make at home. The average oatmeal made with water at home is about 160 calories, she says, but adding fruit, cream, and sugar for flavor makes the count about equal to what you’d find at McDonald’s.

Nutrition facts to keep in mind when ordering McDonald’s oatmeal

Like every food, McDonald’s oatmeal has nutrition benefits, as well as health facts to keep in mind if you’re enjoying a cup. Lauren Smith, MS, RD, LDN says McDonald’s oatmeal is made with cream, which means higher levels of cholesterol and saturated fats. She also noted the high sugar and carbs.

“The oats don’t contain much protein,” she says. “Six grams total…is very low for a breakfast option. (It) won’t keep you full for hours…While oats are a very nutritious whole grain, that doesn’t mean ordering them at McDonald’s means they are healthy. While it’s awesome they expanded their menu to include this, their rendition of oats packs a lot of sugar and not much protein. I think they’re OK for a treat once in a while, but not an every-day breakfast.” Find out the secret ingredient that makes McDonald’s fries so good, too.

That’s not to say McDonald’s oatmeal isn’t without its benefits. Nyree Dardarian, MS, RD, CSSD, FAND, LDN, Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of the Center for Nutrition and Performance at Drexel University, says when given a choice between McDonald’s oatmeal and that of another chain’s, she would pick McDonald’s due to the portion size, which is smaller yet still packs a punch.

“McDonald’s oatmeal absolutely is a good option for a quick breakfast on the go,” Dardarian says. “It has five grams of fiber, putting it in the category of a high-fiber food. It is a quick and healthy option at McDonald’s.” You should also consider these healthy options when dining out at popular fast food restaurants.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest