Americans spend more money on fast food than on books, newspapers, magazines, music, and movies combined! 41% of adults eat at fast food restaurants at least weekly, and over 25% of Americans consume fast food every day.
McDonald’s is the fastest growing fast food chain with over 33,000 locations in 19 countries and boasts annual profits of more than $21 billion.
With more and people choosing to eat at McDonald’s on a regular basis, I can’t help but wonder how it’s affecting people’s overall health.
McDonald’s Mission to be Healthier
“It started with you. Moms and dads are trying hard to get their kids to be more nutrition-minded. We listened. That’s why our popular Happy Meals will have fewer calories and include a side of fruit. It’s why our Chicken McNuggets now have less sodium. And why our national communications to kids will champion their well-being.” -mcdonalds.com
It’s great that McDonald’s is reducing sodium here and there and providing a side of fruit, but is it enough? Let’s check out the nitty gritty details and find out!
Best Food at McDonald’s
I had a hard time finding healthy food at McDonald’s. Yes, some of their meals may be fairly low in calories, sodium, sugar, or fat… but I still wouldn’t consider them healthy by any means. Where are the fresh vegetables? Where’s the fresh fruit (without caramel, thank you very much!)?
So, I did what I could with what I had. This is the “best” food I could find at McDonald’s. I wasn’t so much focused on calories (of course, I included all of that information for you anyways), and I focused more on overall health qualities.
Leave it to McDonald’s to take something perfect and make it…well, less perfect. They peeled the skin off of the apples and toss a “dip”.
Ingredients: Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain color).
Total Fat: 0g
Salads can be a great choice, but just be careful with the type and the amount of salad dressing you use!
Ingredients: Iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, spring mix (may contain baby red romaine, baby green romaine, baby red leaf, baby green leaf, baby red swiss chard, baby red oak, baby green oak, parella, lolla rosa, tango, totsoi, arugula, mizuna, radicchio, frisee), and carrots.
Total Fat: 0g
The nutrition information and ingredients is just for the salad and does not include the salad dressing!
Ingredients: Grilled Chicken Fillet, Salad Mix, Grape Tomatoes, and Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Total Fat: 5g
I’m not so sure what’s in the Cilantro Lime Glaze and the Chili Lime Tortilla Strips, but overall this salad is OK. PS – No need for salad dressing!
Ingredients: Grilled Chicken Fillet, Salad Mix, Southwest Vegetable Blend, Shredded Cheddar/Jack Cheese, Cilantro Lime Glaze, Chili Lime Tortilla Strips, and Lime
Total Fat: 8g
Worst Food at McDonald’s
With shows like Supersize Me and pictures like the one below, McDonald’s is not known for it’s healthy food. Let’s take a look at the worst food available at McDonald’s!
Please note: there were plenty of close seconds and thirds “winners” for the worst foods…
McDonald’s doesn’t provide detailed ingredient information, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that they aren’t using quality (healthy) ingredients when they list it all out.
Ingredients: Scrambled Eggs, Sausage Patty, Biscuit (Large), Hash Brown, Hotcakes (3)
Total Fat: 60g
McDonald’s sure knows how to complicate such a simple thing. Chicken Nuggets don’t need this many ingredients. Just sayin’…
Ingredients: Chicken breast chunks with rib meat, water, maltodextrin, modified rice starch, yeast extract, sodium phosphates, salt, modified tapioca starch, onion powder, garlic powder, sugar, spices, carrageenan, natural (botanical and animal source) and artificial flavors, chicken broth, citric acid, spice extractive, gum arabic, lactic acid, chicken fat.
Battered and breaded with: bleached wheat flour, water, wheat flour, food starch-modified, wheat gluten, leavening (baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate), salt, spices, garlic powder, dried onion, dried garlic, maltodextrin, onion powder, citric acid, natural (plant source) and artificial flavors, lactic acid, yellow corn flower, extractives of paprika and turmeric (color).
Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.
Total Fat: 63g
This sounds like a super healthy snack, right? When you take a closer look at the ingredients, you’d be surprised with how much junk they could add to something as simple as fruit and walnuts!
Ingredients: Apples, calcium ascorbate (a blend of calcium and vitamin C to maintain color), red grapes.
Vanilla Lowfat Yogurt: Cultured pasteurized Grade A reduced fat milk, sugar, food starch-modified, fructose, whey protein concentrate, corn starch, gelatin, natural (plant source) and artificial flavor, potassium sorbate (added to maintain freshness).
Candied Walnuts: Walnuts (TBHQ and BHT added as a preservative), sugar, peanut oil, honey, salt, wheat starch, maltodextrin, xanthan gum, natural (plant source) and artificial flavor.
Total Fat: 8g
Eating at McDonald’s
If you have to go to McDonald’s, at least you know what to order and what not to order. Although, I suggest limiting the amount of fast food you eat since unfortunately, even the “best” foods available at McDonald’s isn’t all that healthy, especially when you compare it to food that you could be preparing for yourself at home.
Image Credits: McDonald’s, Childhood Obesity