While some may head to the McDonald's drive-thru with healthy intentions, others may choose this fast-food chain to maximize convenience. Either way, there are plenty of McDonald's menu items to choose from. If you are looking for low-calorie fast food options to assist in your weight loss goals, there are a few burgers and sandwich that fit this bill. At the same time, there are also options that are better known for their flavor punch than nutrient density. To help you make the most informed choice when visiting the drive-thru, we combed through the nutrition facts of McDonald's burger and sandwich menu to determine the best and worst options for your health.
When ranking the burgers and sandwiches at McDonald's by nutrition, there are several factors to take into account. Calories tells us the amount of energy in a food, and this is a starting point for how healthy a given item is. The amount of saturated fat and sodium in a food can indicate how heart-healthy a burger or sandwich is, and looking at fiber relative to total carbohydrate can indicate the quality of a food. For example, you'll find items with more calories and higher saturated fat content rank lower on this list. Similarly, burger and sandwiches with high sodium content and added sugar won't rank as high.
All burgers and sandwiches can be part of an overall healthy diet, but some options are better than others. You'll find the items with few ingredients tend to rank better on our list. That is because extra meat, bread, sauce, and cheese can contribute a significant number of calories, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium.
If you are looking to order better-for-you items on your next visit to the Golden Arches, use this list—ranked from best to worst—for all of McDonald's burgers and sandwiches. Read on, and for more, don't miss I Tried McDonald's Entire Burger Menu—and These Were the Standouts.
The Best Option on theMcDonald's Burger & Sandwich Menu: Hamburger
A McDonald's classic, this burger is known for its simplicity. A single patty is topped with veggies, mustard, and ketchup to create a flavorful, yet simple meal. The number of calories in this option can work within a wide range of energy needs, and also allows for a side item to create a full meal. A small order of fries keeps you under 500 calories for a meal, or go with the apple slices for a more nutrient-dense option.
A popular item at McDonald's, this fish sandwich is simply made with a bun, fish patty, tartar sauce, and cheese. Fish is naturally a leaner protein than beef and contains fewer grams of saturated fat, making it healthier option. The sodium content of this sandwich is also lower than most of the other sandwiches and burgers, giving it another edge. Want to make this option healthier? Skip the cheese. This modification will only reduce the calorie count by 20, but it will bring the saturated fat down to 2.5 grams.
A single slice of cheese adds 50 calories to the burger and a few more grams of protein. While it also contributes some saturated fat, the total count is still reasonable for a meal. Similar to the hamburger, this meal still allows for side items to create a balanced option. If you are taking this cheeseburger back home, consider adding veggies and hummus, fruit, or baked sweet potato fries on the side for a nutrient-packed meal.
This sandwich is another classic on the menu and is simply topped with mayo and shredded lettuce. It only contains 560 mg of sodium, much lower than other sandwiches and burgers, but it does pack 21 grams of fat which is more than double the hamburger. At 14 grams of protein, it provides a decent amount for a meal, but is on the low side considering its calorie count. Save 100 calories and 11 grams of fat by skipping the mayo. For a low-calorie flavor punch, use mustard instead.
With a pretty significant jump in sodium and saturated fat, the McDouble® is up next on our list. The calories and fat in the burger come from two patties, one slice of cheese, and the bun. You'll find a few more grams of sugar in this burger compared to the McChicken®, but you can save a few grams and calories by skipping the ketchup. This move will also save you almost 100 milligrams of sodium.
For 70 extra calories you can get this simple chicken sandwich made with a potato roll, pickles, and salted butter. While this roll adds more fluffy bread to the sandwich, it comes along with several more grams of carb and one fewer gram of fiber. Although a good source of protein, this is our first option with over 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Skipping the butter will save you some calories, fat, and saturated fat, but only 30 milligrams of sodium.
Made with the same crispy chicken fillet and potato roll as the original version, this deluxe option swaps butter and pickles for tomato, lettuce, and mayo. This results in a few extra calories and an additional 6 grams of fat. Although it is lower in sodium, it still provides close to half the daily recommended intake. However, if you scratch the mayo, you'll save yourself 100 calories, 11 grams of fat, and drop below 1000 mg of sodium.
Spicy Deluxe McCrispy™
There is only a 60 calorie difference between the McCrispy™ varieties, but they vary quite a bit in sodium content. This option has identical calories, fat, saturated fat, and protein, but an additional gram of carb, 3 more grams of sugar, and an extra 150 mg of sodium. This is due to the Spicy Pepper Sauce that contains salt and sugar. Skip the sauce and you'll end up with an option that is healthier than the original McCrispy™ since this option doesn't include butter
Although this option has the same Spicy Pepper Sauce, it swaps tomato and lettuce for pickles, creating a sandwich with even more sodium. Skipping the pickles will drop your sodium, leaving you with a sandwich very similar to the Spicy Deluxe option. Left unchanged and combined with a medium fry to make a meal, this option could leave you with nearly 1,600 milligrams of sodium in a single meal.
Although this option is lower in calories, it comes along with nearly triple the saturated fat. For about 400 calories there are other options on this list that provide less saturated fat for a similar amount of protein. This option does have two grams of fiber, more than many on this list, but the sodium, saturated fat, and sugar content are marks against this option.
Quarter Pounder® with Cheese
You'll notice the remaining items on this list are burgers. That is because beef and cheese are naturally higher in saturated fat than chicken. Considering the remaining options have multiple patties, slices of cheese, or both, this leads to burgers much higher in fat and saturated fat. This burger has a quarter-pound patty and two slices of cheese contributing the majority of its calories. Skip the cheese and you save 100 calories and 4 grams of saturated fat.
You may have assumed the Big Mac® would be the worst option on this list based on its reputation over the years. However, with less meat than other double patty burgers on this list, its fat, saturated fat, and calories stay lower. The extra bread also gives it an additional gram of fiber, allowing it to be considered better than many of the other items on this list.
Quarter Pounder® with Cheese Deluxe
Take the Quarter Pounder® with Cheese and add mayo and veggies to get the deluxe version. Mayo is traditionally made with oil and egg yolk as its main ingredients which is why is contributes a dense number of calories, fat, and saturated fat grams. Skip the mayo to save 100 calories and you'll end up with an option similar to the non-deluxe version. Although, you'll keep an extra gram of fiber and some nutrients from the tomato and lettuce.
Quarter Pounder® with Cheese & Bacon
Although similar in calories to its deluxe relative, this option with bacon has more saturated fat and sodium. If you can't live without the bacon, consider skipping the cheese for a slightly healthier option. At nearly 1,500 milligrams of sodium, this is the saltiest option on this list. High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke, so limiting this nutrient can be a cornerstone of a healthy diet.
The Worst Option on the McDonald's Burger & Sandwich Menu: Double Quarter Pounder® with Cheese
Take the original Quarter Pounder® with Cheese, add a patty, and you have this burger that contains over 42 grams of fat and 20 grams of saturated fat. This makes it the fattiest option on this list, leading it to be the least healthy in our eyes. Additionally, it has one gram less of fiber compared to the previous three options, and more than enough sodium for one meal. Again, another reason with a simple, traditional burger may be your best bet if health is front of mind.
- Source: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats#:~:text=The%20American%20Heart%20Association%20recommends%20limiting%20saturated%20fats%20%E2%80%93%20which%20are,higher%20risk%20for%20heart%20disease.
- Source: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/sodium.htm#:~:text=Sodium%20intake%20from%20processed%20and,prevent%20thousands%20of%20deaths%20annually.