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A Nutritionist’s Guide To McDonald’s


Think fast food and McDonald’s will be high up the list. But like all restaurants, some things on the menu are healthier than others. If you’ve got a penchant for a ‘Golden Arches’ now and again, to help you make the best choice, we asked top nutritionist Laura Matthews for her analysis.

“McDonald's can get a bad reputation,” says Laura. “But it includes detailed nutrition information on all its menu items both in store at point of sale and online. In the UK, the kitchens use free-range eggs, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) sustainably sourced fish and there are lots of vegan and vegetarian menu items approved by the Vegetarian Society.”



329 calories

Most of us should have more fish in our diet – ideally two portions per week, one of which should be oily fish. Fish is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Admittedly the Filet-O-Fish is fried in vegetable oil (non-hydrogenated) and baked fish would be a healthier option. However, to ensure there is enough fish to eat both now and in the future, we should be eating fish from sustainable sources and McDonald’s UK only uses fish with MSC certification. 

Vegetable Deluxe

380 calories
The Vegetable Deluxe is approved by the Vegetarian Society and contains red pepper and pesto goujons in a white sesame seed-topped bread bun with shredded iceberg lettuce. It’s a great option for vegetarians or those looking to cut back on their meat intake. 

Bacon Roll With Tomato Ketchup

351 calories
The NHS guidance is to aim for around 400 calories at breakfast, so this menu item comes in just under. We should all be mindful of how much red meat we are consuming for health reasons, and make sure to eat the best quality meat we can when we do. In the UK, all McDonald’s bacon comes from pork farms that are RSPCA assured.

Veggie Dippers (4 Pieces)

321 calories
This relatively new menu addition is made from yellow split peas – a good source of protein – and comes vegan-approved by the Vegetarian Society. McDonald's has been upping its vegan and vegetarian offerings recently and this one is a great option for vegans, vegetarians and anyone else looking to eat a more plant-based diet.

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Side Salad

15 calories
If you want to top up your vegetable intake while eating out, the McDonald’s side salad is a fat-free option composed of lettuce leaves, sliced tomato and cucumber.

Carrot Bag

34 calories
Bear with me here. If you’re looking for a healthier option, this bag of carrots would help contribute towards your five-a-day. Carrots are also a source of fibre – a nutrient we all need to increase in our diet as it helps us feel fuller and can help aid digestion.

Apple & Grape Fruit Bag

46 calories
One of these grab bags counts as one of your five-a-day, so if you’re looking for a lower-calorie dessert option or an on-the-go snack for later, here is your answer.

Flat White

86 calories
I’m not saying this is the best alternative to your independent barista or local coffee shop but, when coffee options are limited, McDonald's does now have a wider range of hot drinks to choose from. The milk which accompanies its tea and coffee is organic and comes from UK dairy farms.


Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese

750 calories
In just one meal, this option provides a day’s worth of saturated fat for an adult and around half a day’s worth of salt. The two beef patties and two slices of processed cheese contribute to its high saturated fat content. Eating too much saturated fat in your diet can raise your low-density lipoprotein or ‘bad’ cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease or stroke. All foods are welcome in moderation, just be wary of not making this your regular go-to option.

Double Big Mac + Large Fries

694 calories + 444 calories = 1,138 calories
 If you combine and consume these two menu items together, that meal will deliver almost half a day’s worth of a man’s recommended calorie intake (2,500 calories) and over half a day’s worth of saturated fat (30g). This is not to say that you can’t eat these types of foods once in a while, just maybe not on a frequent basis.

Double Sausage & Egg McMuffin

565 calories
On its own, this McMuffin variant is already over the NHS target of 400 calories for breakfast. The item also comes in at over a third of the daily amount of saturated fat for a man at 12g and almost half a day’s worth of salt in just one meal. It’s lacking in any vegetables, so isn’t a balanced choice either.

Chicken McNuggets (9 Pieces)

388 calories (no condiment)
Chicken nuggets aren’t a snack or a main meal, rather somewhere in between. Chicken McNuggets are made from 45% chicken breast meat, with the rest of them made up of water, vegetable oil, flour, starch, breadcrumbs, glucose syrup and salt. Similar in protein content and other nutrition values is the crispy chicken and bacon salad at 311 calories, but this one also contains vegetables (iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber), making it a healthier choice.

Orange Juice 

108 calories
Fruit juice does contain vitamins and minerals, but the process of juicing releases the sugars, giving them a high sugar content. With this in mind, fruit juice should be limited to a 150ml portion per day, which counts as a maximum of one portion towards your five-a-day (no matter how much you drink). You’re also better off drinking fruit juice with a meal to minimise the damage it does to your teeth. Rather confusingly, this bottle actually provides two servings, so either share it or save the rest for the next day.


So which items should you choose together to ensure a balanced meal?  Either the Vegetable Deluxe or Filet-O-Fish are lower in saturated fat than the red meat options and both contain an element of protein and carbohydrate. I’d also go for a carrot bag and the fruit bag. These foods in combination tick off each of the food groups to provide a balanced meal.


Visit and follow Laura on Instagram at @Lau_Matthews_Nutrition

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