So, you’re at McDonald’s, staring up at the menu, tempted by that Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a large fries. But that combo’s 58 grams of protein come with a lot of baggage: a whopping 69 grams of fat and a whopping 109 grams of carbs, not to mention a whopping 1290 calories. That’s fine if you’re supersizing, but not so fine if you’re trying to avoid all those big numbers. If you want to protein-up at Mickey D’s but not fat-up, we have the top four suggestions, as well as a burger that’s not a calorie bomb and even a little something sweet for dessert.
1. BACON RANCH GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD
300 calories, 39 g protein, 13 g fat (6 g sat.), 8 g carbs (3 g sugar, 3 g fiber)
salad blend (lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots, tomatoes), grilled chicken, bacon, cheese
You might think something, even a salad, with both bacon and cheese could never be the fittest choice, but the bacon and cheese portions are small enough to keep the fat stats reasonable. (And if you remove them, you remove almost all the fat.) What we like is the nearly 5-to-1 protein-to-carb ratio and the fact that there’s as much fiber as sugar (keeping your glycemic level low). For a high-protein, low-carb dish, this is the clear winner on the McDonald’s menu.
2. SOUTHWEST GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD
330 calories, 33 g protein, 11 g fat (4 g sat.), 26 g carbs (9 g sugar, 6 g fiber)
salad blend (lettuce, spinach, kale, carrots tomatoes), Southwest dressing, grilled chicken, Southwest vegetable blend (black beans, roasted corn, tomatoes, poblano peppers), cilantro lime glaze, chili lime tortilla strips, cheese
It has a lower protein-to-carb ratio than the bacon ranch salad, but this is still a great meal option.
3. ARTISAN GRILLED CHICKEN SANDWICH
430 calories, 34 g protein, 15 grams of fat (3 g sat.), 40 g carbs (9 g sugar, 2 g fiber)
grilled chicken filet, roll, lettuce, tomato, vinaigrette dressing
Unfortunately, the white bread roll and mayonnaise-laden dressing crank up the sugar and fat tallies, but, if you’re craving a sandwich, this is your best bet. Because of its superior calorie-to-protein ratio and lower saturated fat, we ranked it ahead of the McMuffin below. However, if you’re less concerned with proteining-up and more focused on a low glycemic index, the McMuffin wins.
4. EGG WHITE DELIGHT MCMUFFIN
260 calories: 16 g protein, 8 g fat (4.5 g sat.), 29 g carbs (3 g sugar, 2 g fiber)
whole grain muffin, egg whites, Canadian bacon, American cheese, butter
The various high-fat, high-carb McGriddles are some of the fattest option on the McMenu. By contrast, the Egg White Delight McMuffin (not available everywhere) has nearly as much protein as a McGriddle with only about a third as much fat and much lower carbs and calories.
250 calories, 13 g protein, 8 g fat (3 g sat.), 31 g. carbs (6 g sugar, 1 g fiber)
beef patty, bun, ketchup, mustard, pickles, onions
But, of course, burgers are the thing at McDonald’s. In this category, smaller and simpler is better. A hamburger without cheese is not exactly fit food, but it’s also not fat food. Add a chicken salad to up the protein. Or go with a McDouble, which has 22 g protein (good) and 18 g fat (bad) but virtually the same carb count (okay) as a single-patty hamburger.
45 calories, 1 g protein, 1 g fat (1/2 g sat.), 8 g carbs (6 g sugar, no fiber)
dab of ice cream, tiny cone
Finally, if you’re craving a palette-cleansing dessert, there’s two low calorie options. #1: Packaged apple slices with only 15 calories and 4 grams of carbs. Meh. #2: Ice cream cone. Wait…what? A low-calorie ice cream cone? Yep. The key is in the portion size. A miniaturized kiddie cone doesn’t have enough calories, fat, or sugar to ruin diets.
Opening image: Tony Fischer