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Eating Healthy at McDonalds

My Mom is a very smart woman, though she got smart only recently.

Six years ago, when I was 15, she was the most narrow-minded, tyrannical, and prudish person I knew. But since then, she’s grown a lot as a person. I fully expect that by the time I turn 21 later this year, she will be one of the most awesome people ever. She already is.

But she does have a blind spot.

She hates McDonalds. She thinks that it only serves junk food: Fried stuff. Sugar. Trans fats. Awful, awful, awful. Someone even made a movie about how awful it is.

“I think I’d almost prefer it if you used drugs,” she said. I chose not to enlighten her about a little experimentation I did in high school.

It’s true that some of McDonalds’ food is a little iffy. Red meat burgers, fried. French fries. Even the chicken and fish are fried, though you can also get the chicken grilled. Milk shakes whose ingredients, I suspect, resemble those of a high school chemistry experiment except with chocolate flavoring.

But that’s not true of everything McDonalds sells. There are lots of healthy food items on the menu. Most of them even taste pretty good. Here are some of my favorites.*

My New Favorite: Fruit Smoothies

Strawberry Banana Smoothie made with yogurt. They have other flavors too.

McDonalds fruit smoothies are new this year. They’re thick and cold like milkshakes, but they’re very low in fat and are made with fruit and yogurt. A small strawberry-banana smoothie has 210 calories, compared to 580 calories in the same size of milk shake. It has only half a gram of fat, compared with 17 grams of fat in the milk shake. It has 44 grams of sugar, which is a lot but still much less than the 77 grams in a milk shake. Finally, it’s got 70 percent of your daily Vitamin C, compared to no Vitamin C at all in a milk shake.

The one area where a milk shake is a little better is that it has 11 grams of protein, compared with 2 grams in the smoothie. But overall, the smoothie is healthy and delicious.

Orange Juice

Orange Juice. What could be healthier than that?

You can get it any time, not just for breakfast. Okay, it’s made from concentrate, not freshly-squeezed, but this is fast food. Very few mainstream restaurants have freshly-squeezed orange juice. It’s Minute Maid orange juice, so at least it’s made from a name brand concentrate. It tastes great and is healthy, too. A small orange juice has 150 calories, no fat at all, and 140 percent of your daily Vitamin C.

The only down side, if you’re doing low-carb, is that it’s absolutely loaded with sugar: 30 grams, probably one of the reasons it tastes so good. I’d say, have an orange juice and then hit the elliptical to work off the sugar. Or not.

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

This is another favorite of mine. It’s a yogurt cup with strawberries and blueberries. The granola comes in a separate little bag to keep it crunchy. The ingredients speak for themselves: lowfat yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, and granola. If you include the granola, it has 160 calories, only 2 grams of fat, and 4 grams of protein as well as 21 grams of sugar from the fruit. If you leave out the granola (which I don’t do, because I like it), it’s only 130 calories and 19 grams of sugar. A fruit and yogurt parfait is a wonderful light meal that’s delicious and very cheap, too.

Grilled Chicken Salad

Grilled Chicken Salad

Because the fruit smoothie is a little low in protein, it’s a good snack but not a meal. You can have it with a grilled chicken salad, which has 320 calories and only 9 grams of fat. It’s got a huge 30 grams of protein, which is probably all you need for the whole day, and it has 50 percent of your daily Vitamin C. But it has only 11 grams of sugar. If you’re going low-carb, don’t have it with a fruit smoothie (44 grams of sugar). But otherwise, enjoy it! It’s healthy, filling, and it tastes good.

One suggestion: For salad dressing, get the lowfat balsamic vinagrette, which has only 40 calories and 3 grams of fat. If you choose the Creamy Caesar Dressing instead, you’re getting 190 calories and 18 grams of fat from it. That cancels your nutritional advantage from having a grilled chicken salad.

Fruit and Walnut Snack Salad

Fruit and Walnut Snack Salad

It’s not really a salad, but it is a great snack! Separate compartments hold apple slices, grapes, sugar-coated walnut pieces, and yogurt. It’s got 210 calories, 8 grams of fat (mostly from the walnuts), 4 grams of protein, and 170 percent of your daily Vitamin C! It also has 25 grams of sugar, which isn’t great if you’re doing low-carb. But overall, it’s quick, tasty, and healthy.

I’m not sure if it’s intended that way, but I dip the apple slices in the yogurt. And the sugar-coated walnuts are my favorite part.

The Point Is

The point is that yes, you can eat bad things at McDonalds if that’s your choice. But there are also a lot of good things to eat. They’re tasty, healthy, fast, and cheap.

Someday, I’ll even get my Mom in there for lunch. Then she’ll see.

*Just for the record, I get no money or any other kind of payment from McDonalds. Not even a free fruit smoothie. I’m also not a nutritionist and am not giving medical advice, blah blah blah. This is just what I think.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

  1. David
    June 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Yeah, but I’d still go to McDonalds for a QP/w cheese and fries. What you’re saying is sorta like going to a bar just for the camaraderie. Or drinking non-alcoholic wine or beer. I realize some people like the taste and can’t (or shouldn’t) have alcohol, but if I want to eat healthy, I don’t think of Mickey D’s.

    Disclaimer: I go in McDonalds to eat about once or twice a year…I prefer In n Out and Burger King. Or a local burger joint called Bud’s. Grandchildren like McDonalds, so when we’re together and eating out (even they much prefer to eat at our house), then McDo it is. (That’s not a typo, it’s pronounced MuckDough, and is the nickname for McDonalds in the Philippines).

    • June 29, 2010 at 9:38 pm

      Hi, David —

      Well, everyone has different tastes, and that’s good. How boring the world would be if we all liked the same things!

      I’m always watching my weight, so I try to be careful. And I don’t eat red meat, so I’m not tempted much, though I did have a quarter pounder once just to try it. It was fine. All I was really saying was that you can get healthy food at McDonalds if you want it. Of course, I’ve never been inside a bar :), so I wouldn’t know what you’re talking about there.

      Did you live in the Philippines? That must have been exciting. We’ve been to Hawaii a couple of times, but that’s as close as I’ve got to it. 🙂

      • David
        June 30, 2010 at 12:45 pm

        I know what you’re saying, I just think you put certain places in certain categories. You (er, I) wouldn’t go into a strip club to listen to the Bible being read…I know Mc Do has healthy items, and I was around when fast food restaurants first introduced salad bars. In fact me and three of my buddies would go into a place when they didn’t have all the kinks worded out yet, and order ONE all you could eat salad, and then each of us would go back and have his on the same plate…:)

        I’m watching my weight, too, and it keeps going up…:(

        No, I didn’t live in the Philippines, though if the economy makes me, I have resources there to depend on for income and a place to live. My wife is from there. We have been three times in the past 5 years, though this was the longest trip. I blogged about it at rootofjesse2.wordpress.com, haven’t swung it over to my other site…

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