For most people, fast-food meals are considered an indulgence or can only be enjoyed as ‘cheat’ meals, but the truth is that McDonald’s does have some healthy meals and drinks that can make you reevaluate that perspective.
In fact, in this article, we have 17 healthy menu items you can find at McDonald’s. Some of them are snacks, others can be a complete meal, so you can choose what you prefer according to your circumstances.
The company was founded by Ray Kroc in 1955 and has since evolved into becoming a cultural icon in the industrialized nations, with most people having ordered or sat at least in one of the millions of locations it has across the world.
McDonald’s (see also ‘15 Items On The McDonalds 1 Dollar Menu You Have To Try‘) is still growing stronger after more than 65 years, and that is greatly due to the fact that the company’s kept evolving.
With new menu options coming out every year, the fast-food chain keeps introducing many healthy menu items too, making its menu appealing to even hard-core dieters.
So, what’s healthy and safe calorie-wise in a McDonald’s menu (see also ‘The 11 Most Delicious Gluten Free Menu Items From McDonald’s!’)? Keep on reading below to find out!
You might be surprised to see that the McDonald’s classic hamburger is actually one of the healthiest items on the restaurant’s menu.
With a short and ‘clean’ list of ingredients, the hamburger contains just 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. What is noteworthy is that the beef burger is made from 100% true beef with no artificial flavorings, thickeners, or additives!
The burger is topped with condiments like ketchup and mustard, as well as onions and pickles. Exactly what a classic hamburger needs.
The only thing that contains some preservatives are the pickles, but the amount used in a burger is insignificant, so don’t let that hold you back from enjoying it guilt-free.
A small portion of fries on the side can double the fat while keeping the total count under 500 calories.
However, we do suggest you go for something else like a salad or some apple slices (more on both of them in a bit) to keep your meal lower in fat and more balanced.
Just like the McDonald’s Hamburger, the restaurant’s cheeseburger is another burger on this list that can be considered a healthy option on the menu.
Providing a total of 300 calories, it contains the same ingredients as the hamburger – 100% pure beef, onions, pickles – and the additional ketchup and mustard that you can go with or without.
Of course, what makes it a cheeseburger is the addition of a slice of cheese that also adds those extra calories to the burger.
As of 1988, the iconic McChicken burger has been a staple on the restaurant’s menu, and it continues to be among the greatest and cheapest McDonald’s healthy options (see also ‘Top 12 Best Breakfast Items To Order At McDonald’s‘).
This burger contains a handful of ingredients, which lowers the cost and calories. A fried and flavorful chicken burger is topped with shredded lettuce and mayo and hugged by a spongy, toasted bun.
In contrast to McDonald’s artisan chicken sandwiches, the McChicken burger is a mix of dark and white meat rather than all white.
The dark meat keeps the burger moist and delicate, whereas the correct ratio of burger to mayo adds a rich, creamy mouthfeel to the burger.
All in all, the McChicken is a good and healthy lunch or dinner option on the McDonald’s menu with only 400 calories per burger.
It is not easy to find a tastier and more unique fish burger than the Filet-O-Fish in other fast-food restaurants.
McDonald’s fish cakes used for these burgers come from sustainable fisheries, so that’s one small but nice way to reassure yourself of the fact that fast food can sometimes be healthy and even sustainable. At least in some ways.
This wild-caught fish burger has been a healthy option on the McDonald’s menu for years (see also ‘25 of the All-Time Greatest McDonald’s Menu Items‘). The fish patties are fried until they are crispy and perfectly golden to be then served on a squishy burger bun and topped with cheese and a zesty tartar sauce.
With less than 400 calories, the Filet-O-Fish is a healthier alternative for a fat-rich triple cheeseburger, and if you pair it with a salad, it can become a delicious and complete meal.
5. Crispy Chicken Sandwich
McDonald’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich is a crunchy, luscious, and flavorful southern-style fried chicken burger.
What makes it so special is that instead of being made with a classic bun, the chicken in this burger is served in a potato roll.
With 26 grams of protein and only 5 grams of saturated fat, it is an amazing option for people who want a healthy yet out-of-the-ordinary burger meal.
A total of 470 calories per sandwich, can be paired with a green salad on the side for some extra fiber and freshness.
6. 6-Piece Chicken McNuggets
With only 250 calories and 15 grams of fat, the McDonald’s 6-Piece Chicken McNuggets are a perfect choice to add to your order alongside some salad to create a complete meal with less than 400 calories in total.
This Chicken McNuggets portion also comes with 14 grams of protein, which is great for a snack-sized serving.
These nuggets are made from 100% white meat chicken and are covered with a crunchy layer. Just like those store-bought nuggets, but better.
These nuggets are incredibly tasty, but what contributes to their appeal is the sauce variety you can dip them in. Honey and mustard, BBQ sauce, yellow mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise… anything goes!
However, be aware of the extra calories added to your meal when going for high-calorie sauces like mayonnaise.
7. Egg & Sausage Burrito
A stuffed egg and sausage burrito are sometimes what we all need to start our day happy and full of energy.
This breakfast burrito contains only 310 calories and goes great with a cup of coffee. Whether you are in the office or enjoying it on the go, it is a very easy-to-eat and enjoyable meal option.
Scrambled egg sausage and vegetable mix are wrapped inside a tortilla and mixed with some American cheese. Easy, wholesome, and low in calories. What else could one ask for?
8. Egg McMuffin
In the early 70s, McDonald’s introduced the Egg McMuffin as their inaugural breakfast sandwich.
Even though everyone knows what it’s made of by now, let us go through it really quick: an egg, some bacon, and a slice of cheese are sandwiched between some fresh and lightly toasted English muffin slices.
The Egg McMuffin is served without any sauces or garnishes, allowing the melted cheese as well as the fried egg to provide that desired creaminess.
And since a good breakfast can give you the energy you need for a busy day, the Egg McMuffin has a good 310 calories and 17 grams of protein which are a great amount to start the day with.
Generally, we can say that it is a healthier alternative to McDonald’s and one that is certainly ranked among the top meal options you can get from fast-food restaurants.
9. Sausage McMuffin
A bit higher in calories than the Egg McMuffin – 90 extra calories to be exact – the Sausage McMuffin is nevertheless a decent and relatively healthy choice from the entire McDonald’s menu.
What you will get when ordering this item is a toasty English muffin sliced in half and stuffed with a sausage patty and American cheese.
With 14 grams of protein and 26 grams of fat, it is still a good option if you need something quick and on the go before a busy day running from one place to the next!
10. Fruit & Maple Oatmeal
For roughly the same number of calories, the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal has less sodium and saturated fat than the Egg McMuffin.
Oats are extremely nutritious, high in fiber and complex carbs that can keep you full and energized for many hours. With 320 calories per serving, it is a great way to add some fruits to your diet too.
This oatmeal is velvety, sweet, and flavorful thanks to the addition of apples, raisins, and cranberries. There is, of course, some sugar in it but even in that case, brown sugar (which is less processed) is used to keep this oatmeal healthy.
So, if you want to compensate for light or no breakfast and that fast-food dinner meal you will get in a few hours, this is a great way to save the day!
Snacks And Treats
11. Hash Browns
144 calories per portion, hash browns are one of the best snack options available on the McDonald’s menu for those who are trying to reduce their daily calorie intake.
Just like the chicken nuggets, hash browns can be eaten on their own or dipped in a wide array of sauces.
While you should be wary of the amount of sauce you eat as it can send you up to 400 calories and more if you are not careful, the hash browns’ low-calorie count can help you stay in your caloric zone.
These crispy potato patties can also be paired with a salad or some French fries, even though the latter can skyrocket the fat content of your meal, so choose wisely!
12. Apple Slices
Cutting out the regular French fries from your daily meals is a wise choice you can make when dieting or when simply wishing to adopt a healthy diet.
So, rather than ordering a deep-fried snack, go for the apple slices. With only 15 calories in a small pouch, you will end up saving 205 calories and avoid the 10 grams of fat found in a small fries McDonald’s serving.
In addition to that, these apple slices are a healthier alternative for a sweet treat than the McDonald’s apple pie or 500-calorie ice cream!
13. Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait
When McDonald’s modified its menu during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait said goodbye to its fanbase.
Even though this low-calorie snack has been removed from the menu, we are hoping that its success in being a healthy option that you can eat guilt-free will bring it back soon.
The Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait is the perfect sweet treat for those that cannot trick themselves with some apple slices and still want to feel like they’re indulging in a milkshake or ice-cream-like dessert.
With only 150 calories and 2 grams of fat, it used to be that perfect post-burger treat that would not kick you off your caloric intake limits. So, fingers crossed you can order it again in the near future!
14. Blueberry Muffin
Interestingly, several of McDonald’s sweet baked products are packed with sodium, with some containing more than 20% of the recommended intake for single servings.
However, the Blueberry Muffin is one of the low-sodium options you can get at McDonald’s, and with 440 calories, it can become a perfect afternoon or dinner snack alongside a black coffee.
Of course, when you are dieting, this number of calories may sound too much to ‘sacrifice’ for a snack.
Nevertheless, if you want to reward yourself or split the muffin in half and turn it into two snacks, you can always fit it into your daily meal plan!
15. Iced Unsweetened Tea
Small, Large, or Medium in size, the McDonald’s Unsweetened Iced Tea has zero calories and is so refreshing that you will even stop at a McDonald’s every day to order just that.
While the Sweet Tea offered is also a low-calorie option – with the Small size providing 100 calories and the Large one 170 calories – if you are counting your caloric intake, going for the unsweetened version is the best thing you can do.
16. Low Fat Chocolate Milk Jug
If you want to accompany your McDonald’s snack with a sweet drink, then this chocolate milk is unexpectedly good.
This drink is offered in a compact chocolate milk bottle and contains low-fat chocolate milk that is packed with vitamins A and D.
But that’s not its best attribute. This chocolate milk is low in sugar and calories, with only 130 calories per jug and only 14 grams of sugar compared to an average of 23 grams in most chocolate milk products.
As for its protein, it packs a good 9 grams, which is a great addition even when you substitute this milk for a snack.
17. Premium Roast Coffee
When you decide to treat yourself to a McDonald’s breakfast meal with an Egg McMuffin, perhaps you’d like to avoid adding any extra calories to your coffee.
Instead of going for a cappuccino or any other coffee with whipped cream and high-calorie syrups (Starbucks alert!), ask for a McCafé® Premium Roast Coffee with your food order.
With zero calories, this black coffee is called a premium for good reason. Not only is it perfectly roasted but they brew a new batch every half an hour!
This way, they can guarantee that the coffee you order will always taste fresh.
Of course, you can add some sugar or any milk and cream you wish, but if you are looking for that zero-calorie beverage, have it black or at least with some 0kcal sweetener.
The Bottom Line
McDonald’s is a fast-food restaurant that has made great progress in including healthier items on its menu.
This article has some of the best healthy options you can find in a McDonald’s restaurant, however, when you are on a diet or trying to eat healthily, it is always best to limit your fast-food meals and focus on eating home-cooked meals.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Eat McDonald’s On A Diet?
McDonald’s offers a diverse selection of foods that can be consumed in a variety of diet plans, such as carnivore, paleo, sugar-free, and low-calorie diets.
Do not forget, though, that the majority of the foods available in these fast-food restaurants are still packed with sodium, saturated fat, processed sugar, and additives.