As a registered dietitian, I am frequently asked which restaurants and food vendors have the healthiest menus. Unfortunately, even menu items that appear to be healthy, such as smoothies and salads, are often full of added sugar and calories.
In a series of columns assessing the nutritional values of fast-food restaurant menus, “Try It Or Skip It” helps you make the best choices when you don’t have time to prepare meals at home.
Today’s Try It Or Skip It: McDonald’s.
Hamburger: 250 cal, 9 grams fat (14 percent Daily Value), 4 grams saturated fat (20 percent Daily Value), 520 milligrams sodium (22 percent Daily Value), 2 grams fiber (8 percent DV), 12 grams protein.
Comment: Despite the addition of salads, smoothies, and even a yogurt parfait to McDonald’s menu, this classic remains one of the healthier choices. Pair it with milk (100 calories, 12 grams of protein), two packs of apple dippers (30 calories, 6 g sugar), and a side salad. Then grab a chocolate chip cookie (170 calories, 15 g sugar) or kiddie cone (45 calories, 6 grams of sugar) — options that will quell cravings while ensuring that you don’t accidentally overindulge by ordering one of the ubiquitous sweetened beverages on the menu.
Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 380 cal, 7 g fat (10% DV), 2 g saturated fat (10% DV), 1110 mg sodium (46% DV), 3 g fiber (12 % DV), 37 g protein.
Comment: Grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and a herb vinaigrette on an artisan bun. This option made it to the try-it list because it is lower in calories and saturated fat that other menu items. But it is very high in sodium, so people who need to follow a low-sodium diet, have or are at risk of developing heart disease should skip it.
Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (without brown sugar): 260 cal, 4 g fat (6 percent DV), 1.5 g saturated fat (8 percent DV), 115 mg sodium (5 percent DV), 5 g fiber (22 percent DV), 18 g sugar, 6 g protein.
Comment: This hot oatmeal topped with diced apples, cranberries, raisins and light cream is a healthy high-fiber breakfast. Order milk (100 calories, 8 grams of protein) on the side to boost protein to 15 grams for a nourishing balanced breakfast even on your busiest day.
McDonald’s Big Breakfast: 750 cal, 49 g fat (75 percent DV), 18 g saturated fat (90 percent DV), 1490 mg sodium (62 percent DV), 3 g fiber (12 percent DV), 25 g protein.
Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese: 740 cal, 42 g fat (65 percent DV), 19 g saturated fat (95 percent DV), 1380 mg sodium (58 percent DV), 3 g fiber (12 percent DV), 48 g protein.
Oreo Frappe (14.6 ounces): 540 cal, 20 g fat (31 percent DV), 12 g saturated fat (60 percent DV), 170 mg sodium, (7 percent DV), 1 g fiber, 68 g sugar.
Brenda Viens is a Community Life Skills Dietitian for Backus Hospital and Thames Valley Council for Community Action. Email her at Brenda.Viens@hhchealth.org.