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7 Best High-Protein McDonald's Orders, According to a Dietitian

We’re lovin’ it! Get the inside scoop of the high protein picks a dietitian recommends at McDonald's. 
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Some days, the convenience of a quick trip to McDonald's is what your busy schedule allows. Trust me, I get it. As a dietitian and mom of two, I know the rat race of the mealtime rush all too well. Sure, you could whip up a burger at home, but the best plans don't always turn out. A backup plan involving a trip to Mickey D's isn't such a bad idea. Yes, you heard me right. While you won't hear me say, "Add this to your daily meal plan," the Golden Arches can occasionally provide a satisfying bite while offering some redeeming nutrition qualities.

As you enter the drive-thru line surrounded by the latest value meal deals, here's how to stay the course and focus on the better-for-you options that help achieve your goals, not derail them. Enter, protein. This powerful macronutrient offers a variety of benefits that will help keep you full and support your muscle maintenance and growth. It may also help with appetite control and food cravings.

Remember that although a menu item may contain protein, it doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you. Other nutrients, like fiber, saturated fat, and sodium, also come into play. Before you pull up the nutrition information online and feel the panic rising, I'm here to help. With nutrition guidance and fine-tuning of the menu options, you can confidently navigate McDonald's while prioritizing your protein needs and health. Read on for our top picks for the best high-protein McDonald's orders, and for more, don't miss The 20 Best High-Protein Fast-Food Meals.

Tips for ordering high-protein, better-for-you options at McDonald's:

  • Aim for 15 or more grams of protein. Protein needs vary depending on age, gender, activity level, and lifestyle factors. The recommended dietary allowance for protein is between 46 and 56 grams for adults. While needs may be much higher for individuals, this amount covers the essential needs of a generally healthy person. Aiming for 15 to 20 grams of protein per meal, with additional protein delivered at snacks, helps set you up for success in meeting these numbers.
  • Look for items that provide a source of fiber. Fiber helps keep you fuller for longer, keeping mindless munching at bay. While higher protein options at fast-food chains will not likely provide a high source of fiber (upwards of 5 grams), every gram counts. Add extra vegetables to your fast-food menu options and opt for the whole-grain bun when available.
  • Limit saturated fat intake. The recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting saturated fat intakes to no more than 10% of your daily calories. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, that's the equivalent of about 200 calories or about 22 grams of saturated fat total per day.
  • Cut down on the salt. The recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium intakes to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day, or about 1 teaspoon. Many fast-food items are higher in sodium, so it's important to plan your other meals more wisely if a fast-food meal is on your radar that day.

Deluxe McCrispy (27 Grams)

McDonald's Deluxe McCrispy
McDonald's
Nutrition (Per sandwich):
Calories: 430
Fat: 15 g (Saturated fat: 2.5 g)
Sodium: 980 mg
Carbs: 48 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 10 g)
Protein: 27 g

Unlike other popular fast-food chains, McDonald's doesn't have a grilled chicken option (which helps reduce fat and sodium content). You can still enjoy the Deluxe McCrispy without derailing your goals. It packs 27 grams of quality protein and an additional gram of fiber compared to the standard McCrispy (thanks to the added lettuce and tomato from going Deluxe). To lower the calories, saturated fat, and sodium, omit the mayonnaise. Since this is a higher sodium food choice at nearly 1,000 milligrams, be mindful of the other foods you eat that day.

 14 Best High-Protein Fast-Food Sandwiches

Quarter Pounder Deluxe (25 Grams)

McDonald's Quarter Pounder Deluxe
McDonald's
Nutrition (Per burger):
Calories: 430
Fat: 18 g (Saturated fat: 8 g)
Sodium: 740 mg
Carbs: 41 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 10 g)
Protein: 25 g

If you're a burger fan looking to increase your protein, go for the Quarter Pounder Deluxe and forgo the mayonnaise and cheese. This shaves off 200 calories, 470 milligrams of sodium, and 6 grams of saturated fat. The protein is lower by 5 grams, but the total nutrition improvement is worth it. Plus, again, by going Deluxe, you amp up the fiber to 3 grams versus 2 grams in the standard Quarter Pounder.

10-Piece Chicken McNuggets (23 Grams)

McDonald's 10-Piece Chicken McNuggets
McDonald's
Nutrition (Per 10-piece order):
Calories: 410
Fat: 24 g (Saturated fat: 4 g)
Sodium: 850 mg
Carbs: 26 g (Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 0 g)
Protein: 23 g

The classic Chicken McNuggets are a high-protein option, delivering 23 grams of protein in the 10-piece order. Since these are deep-fried and don't come with vegetables, they lack fiber and are higher in saturated fat and sodium than "naked" or baked chicken pieces available at other chain restaurants. If you're grabbing take-out, consider grabbing the six-piece, as it offers 15 grams of protein but only 2.5 grams of saturated fat and 500 milligrams of sodium, and then add the chicken to a big salad at home.

 The Best McDonald's Order for Weight Loss

McDouble (22 Grams)

mcdonalds McDouble
McDonald's
Nutrition (Per burger):
Calories: 400
Fat: 20 g (Saturated fat: 9 g)
Sodium: 920 mg
Carbs: 33 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 7 g)
Protein: 22 g

You can order the McDouble as is if you enjoy cheese on your burger (with the caveat that it's nearly 50% of your daily saturated fat allotment, so you will need to adjust your other eating options that day). The cheese (as well as the additional beef patty) boosts the protein to 22 grams versus 12 grams in a regular hamburger. However, since the amount of cheese used on this burger only adds 2 grams of protein, if you're trying to keep your saturated fat intake down, you can nix it and save yourself 50 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat (that's a 12% reduction when looking at daily values, too).

Sausage McMuffin with Egg (18 Grams)

McDonald's Sausage McMuffin with Egg
McDonald's
Nutrition (Per sandwich):
Calories: 410
Fat: 25 g (Saturated fat: 8 g)
Sodium: 610 mg
Carbs: 29 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 18 g

If you're looking for an option to offer some protein at the start of your day, then the next two menu items are worth considering. The Sausage McMuffin with Egg provides 18 grams of protein—that's nearly triple the amount of protein than the Fruit & Oatmeal (and with 29 grams less sugar.) Plus, it's made with cage-free eggs, a nutrient powerhouse that packs eight essential nutrients. One caveat: This sandwich packs 62% of your daily value of saturated fat and 36% of the daily value of sodium when ordered as is, so consider opting out of the cheese and butter to lower the saturated fat by 20% and sodium by 10%.

 McDonald's Entire Breakfast Menu—Ranked by Nutrition

Egg McMuffin (17 Grams)

McDonald's Egg McMuffin
McDonald's
Nutrition (Per sandwich):
Calories: 310
Fat: 13 g (Saturated fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 770 mg
Carbs: 30 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 17 g

The Egg McMuffin is likely your go-to breakfast option if you prefer bacon to sausage. With 1 gram less protein than the Sausage McMuffin, it's also more forgiving with its saturated fat content at 6 grams versus 8 grams. And, if you ask to omit the butter, you'll save 1.5 grams of saturated fat, too, without losing the cheese (and the protein it offers.) In addition to the protein from the egg, it's also prepared with Canadian bacon, a leaner pork choice that packs 6 grams of quality protein with only 30 calories and 0.5 grams of saturated fat in a 1-ounce serving (approximately 30 grams). For comparison, while a standard slice of pork bacon contains the same amount of calories with 3 grams of protein, it delivers 1 gram of saturated fat for a 6-gram serving. To have an equivalent serving size, you'd nearly quadruple the saturated fat content using classic bacon.

Cheeseburger (15 grams)

McDonald's cheeseburger
McDonald's
Nutrition (Per burger):
Calories: 300
Fat: 13 g (Saturated fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 720 mg
Carbs: 32 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 7 g)
Protein: 15 g

The McDonald's Cheeseburger is a lighter option than the McDouble, and it still satisfies hunger and packs a decent amount of protein at 15 grams. Taking a bite may even transport you back to your early years and memories with the classic Happy Meal.

If you're tempted to add the small fry to live in the moment, it's not as bad as you think. While it will add 230 calories to your meal (unless you split with a friend), a small fry also provides 3 grams of filling fiber and protein with only 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Remember, fiber helps keep you fuller for longer, too, and as much as I wish the menu offered more options to up your fiber intake, the fries are one of the highest-fiber choices on the menu. With that said, if you have your goals top of mind, consider adding low-fat milk to up your protein with an additional 8 grams (and just 100 calories).

Elizabeth Shaw
Elizabeth Shaw (or Liz) is a nationally known nutrition expert, four-time cookbook author and freelance writer, and early nutrition pioneer in the field of fertility nutrition. Read more about Elizabeth
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