With 14,155 restaurants in the United States alone, and 22,744 additional locations outside of the U.S., McDonald’s is arguably the most well-known fast-food chain in the world. And, if you’re taking a road trip, this summer it can be difficult to resist the siren call of fast-food convenience.
While known for its burgers, fries and shakes, you don’t need to blow your calorie budget on a Big Mac Extra Value Meal. These five options, at 420 calories or less, complete with ordering tips from a dietitian, can help you eat healthier the next time you find yourself under those golden arches.
Nutrition stats: 300 calories, 12g fat, 30g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g sugar, 18g protein
Why it made the cut: Coming in right at 300 calories, this breakfast sandwich contains 18 grams of satiating protein and 2 grams of fiber.
Dietitian’s tip: Opting out of the processed cheese slashes 50 calories and 190 milligrams of sodium. Skipping the Canadian bacon spares you another 200 milligrams of sodium but you also lose 4 grams of protein.
FRUIT AND MAPLE OATMEAL, HOLD THE BROWN SUGAR & DRIED FRUIT
Nutrition stats: 190 calories, 4g fat, 33g carbs, 4g fiber, 3g sugar, 6g protein
Why it made the cut: Topped with fresh apples and a splash of cream, this unsweetened oatmeal provides 4 grams of fiber and only 3 grams of sugar. At 190 calories it makes a great light breakfast or snack option.
Dietitian’s tip: Make sure you ask for oatmeal without brown sugar (it exists) and skip the dried fruit to slash 120 calories and a whopping 30 grams of unnecessary sugar. Add a little more staying power to this breakfast by asking for a side of scrambled eggs. You won’t find them on the menu but rumor has it they are offered. One side of scrambled eggs adds 140 calories, 9g fat, 1g carbs and 13g of quality protein.
HEALTHIEST LUNCHES & DINNERS
BACON RANCH GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD WITH 1/2 PACKET RANCH DRESSING
Nutrition stats: 420 calories, 22g fat, 14g carbs, 4g fiber, 6g sugar, 43g protein
Why it made the cut: At just over 400 calories, this salad offers 4 grams fiber and 43 grams of protein, not to mention a whole lot of nutrient-rich veggies.
Dietitian’s tip: Each packet of McDonald’s Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing contains 200 calories so it’s best to use less if you can. Rather than drizzling ranch all over your salad, load up your fork with greens and dip them into the dressing instead. Half packet should be plenty if you use this technique — and you won’t miss the rest.
SOUTHWEST GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD WITH 1/2 PACKET SOUTHWEST DRESSING, HOLD THE CILANTRO-LIME GLAZE
Nutrition stats: 360 calories, 13g fat, 24g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g sugar, 38g protein
Why it made the cut: With 25% of your daily intake for fiber, this veggie-filled salad is the highest in fiber of all McDonald’s salads and provides plenty of satiating protein, too.
Dietitian’s tip: As is, this salad is fairly high in sugar, but simply asking to hold the cilantro-lime glaze will cut 8g carbs and more than one teaspoon (5g) of added sugar. Use the fork-dip trick mentioned above and you can enjoy the creamy southwest salad dressing for half of the calories, or ask for the lighter balsamic vinaigrette which has just 35 calories per packet in contrast to 120 calories in the southwest dressing.
PICO GUACAMOLE GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWICH ON A SESAME SEED BUN, HOLD THE CHEESE
Nutrition Stats: 420 calories, 14g fat, 38g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g sugar, 36g protein
Why it made the cut: At 420 calories this is a hearty, protein-packed sandwich that also brings some healthy fats to the table thanks to the guacamole topping. The lettuce and pico de gallo add a few extra veggies.
Dietitian’s tip: You’ll get all of the goodness for 100 fewer calories simply by ordering this sandwich with a sesame seed bun instead of the artisan roll it’s typically served on and asking to hold the processed cheese. To get it under 400 calories, skip the buttermilk ranch sauce to shave off another 50 calories and 5 grams of fat.
Of course it’s not the healthiest thing to eat at McDonalds but, if a burger and fries is really what you’re craving, you can always get the cheeseburger kids meal with fries and apple slices for just 430 calories instead of the 1,000 calorie Big Mac Extra Value Meal.
Nutrition note: Most fast foods, even the healthier options, are very high in sodium. To balance things out, try choosing lower-sodium foods at other meals and snacks throughout the rest of the day.