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We Asked A Dietitian To Find Some Healthy Menu Items At McDonald's

McDonald's burger
The 8 Healthiest McDonald's Menu ItemsS3studio - Getty Images

Look, you know McDonald's isn't exactly the destination for quick, nutritious eats. But if you find yourself hungry on a road trip and somewhere near the Golden Arches—or you're craving drive-thru food—just know that some menu options are better for you than others. With a bit of strategy, you can find some healthy-ish McDonald's foods to add to your order.

If you're curious how healthy your favorite McDonald's menu items really are (or aren't), you can check out the fast food company's website. There, McD's shares key nutritional information and ingredient lists, including allergen information, for specific items.

Overall, there are a few major issues with McDonald's famous fast eats—like loads of saturated fats and added sugars, which are linked to heart disease and inflammation, respectively, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, media dietitian and creator of BetterThanDieting.com. Plus, McDonald's took salads off the menu in the U.S., cutting down on its more nutritious options.

Not to mention, most menu items are also packed with an exorbitant amount of salt. “The sodium in some of these menu items is crazy,” Taub-Dix says.

If consumed in excess (read: anything more than the American Heart Association's recommended 1,500 milligrams a day), sodium can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, plus a slew of other serious conditions. And according to the AHA, the average American consumes twice the recommended amount on the regular, which means you should think again before opting for a combo of McNuggets, fries, and a McFlurry.

Meet the expert: Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, is a media dietitian and the creator of BetterThanDieting.com. She is the author of Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table.

Fortunately, not all of the McDonald's menu nutrition is quite as bleak. In fact, the fast food mainstay has a few solid options to choose from. Here, Taub-Dix shares the eight best eats to consider the next time you find yourself at the drive-thru.

Best Snack: Apple Slices

Full of crunch and natural sweetness, apple slices are probably the cleanest order you can put in at Mickey D's.

“These apple slices are a perfect snack," says Taub-Dix. "They're a no-brainer choice for kids or adults.”

Per serving: 15 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat fat), 0 mg sodium, 4 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 3 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 0 g protein

Cake decorating supply, Underpants,
McDonald's

Best Hearty Breakfast: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal

Looking for a healthy fast-food breakfast? Though this satisfying bowl has 31 grams of sugar, you can take that number down by asking for the brown sugar on the side.

“I’m a big oatmeal fan, and this dish is a quick way to fill up on whole grains rich in soluble fiber," says Taub-Dix. (That's the type of fiber that can help reduce cholesterol levels.)

Per serving: 320 calories, 4.5 g fat (1.5 g sat fat), 150 mg sodium, 64 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 31 g sugar (18 g added sugars), 6 g protein

Dish, Food, Fruit salad, Salad, Cuisine, Ingredient, Bowl, Fruit cup, Produce, Tutti frutti,
McDonald's

Best Burger: Plain Hamburger

While a classic McDonald’s hamburger doesn't exactly contain the highest-quality meat, there is something to be said about its modest portion size. “The plain burger is only 250 calories,” says Taub-Dix. “Plus, in comparison to other menu items, the sodium here is relatively reasonable."

Ask for extra lettuce and tomato to boost the amount of produce piled onto your burger.

Per serving: 250 calories, 9 g fat (3.5 g sat fat), 510 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 6 g sugar (5 g added sugars), 12 g protein

McDonald's Hamburger
McDonald's

Best Drink: Unsweetened Iced Tea

If you're looking for something a li'l more flavorful than plain old water, just know that a small cup of this refreshing sipper has zero calories or sugars—whereas a small fountain soda can have upwards of 39 g added sugars.

Per serving: 0 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat fat), 10 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 1 g protein

a glass of unsweetened iced tea
Courtesy McDonalds

Best Breakfast Sandwich: Egg McMuffin

When you're craving a breakfast sandwich, McD's classic Egg McMuffin isn't a terrible pick. One major plus: It offers a satisfying 17 grams of protein. If you want to cut down the sodium a bit, Taub-Dix recommends skipping the Canadian bacon.

Per serving (including Canadian bacon): 310 calories, 13 g fat (6 g sat fat), 770 mg sodium, 30 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar (1 g added sugars), 17 g protein

Egg McMuffin
McDonald's

Best McCafe Item: Premium Roast Coffee

"Even if you sprinkle a packet of sugar into a McD's Premium Roast Coffee, you wouldn’t get as many calories from sugar or fat as you would from some of their other choices," says Taub-Dix.

Plus, a McD's coffee will probably cost you less than your usual Starbucks order...just sayin'.

Per serving: 5 calories, 0 g fat (0 g sat fat), 20 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 0 g protein

McDonald's Premium Roast Coffee
McDonald's

Best Sandwich: Filet-O-Fish

“As a country, we don't eat as much fish as we should—at least twice a week!—so this could help you meet your seafood quota," says Taub-Dix. In addition to being a good source of protein, fish also provides heart- and brain-boosting omega-3s.

Though the breading and higher fat content aren't ideal, the Filet-O-Fish is still an okay every-once-in-a-while order.

Per serving: 390 calories, 19 g fat (4 g sat fat), 580 mg sodium, 39 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar (4 g added sugars), 16 g protein

McDonald's Filet-O-Fish
McDonald's

Best Happy Meal: 4-Piece Chicken McNuggets

Ordering off the kids' menu can be a smart way to satisfy cravings without going overboard.

"The good thing about the 4-Piece Chicken Nugget Happy Meal is that it only contains four pieces," says Taub-Dix. "I like the choice of 1% milk (vs. regular milk) and apple slices, plus that the size of the fries is not super-sized."

Per serving: 395 calories, 17 g fat (3.5 g sat fat), 500 mg sodium, 41 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 14 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 19 g protein

a box of food
Courtesy McDonalds

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