Can I Eat Low Sodium at McDonald’s?
When the majority of us are told we have to go low/no sodium, or are put on restrictions we feel that we can never go out to eat again. As you know, I am not one who believes too much in denial as an effective form of developing a healthy habit or lifestyle. Just like my attitude when faced with losing some of my favorite menu items, it becomes a challenge as well to find items out there at any restaurant that I can eat and still stay within my sodium count for the day.
If I was going to prove to myself I could do this and find things to eat, why not start with a restaurant that most low/no sodium people lament that they can never go back to? I chose to start with McDonald’s. It is a favorite of my children (and probably most children) so if I was going to treat them once in awhile to this restaurant I would have to find something I could eat as well.
So welcome to the first of many posts I will categorize as Hacking Salt – The Hacking Menu Editions.
Most restaurants of a certain size and number of locations are required to disclose their nutritional information. They can do this in their locations via brochures, posters, or on menus. They can also post this information online. McDonald’s has their information posted here. If you look at the information, it is quite comprehensive. The information I will share is from me combing through their items and finding the best options for a low sodium diet.
Can I Eat Low Sodium at McDonald’s
So, can I eat low sodium at McDonald’s? Here are some ideas and options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert:
Let’s start with what we should avoid. The Big Breakfast with Hotcakes (Regular Size Biscuit) comes in at 2150 mg of sodium. That comes in well over the 1500 mg recommended for a heart healthy diet.
Now, on to the items we can choose:
- The Fruit & Yogurt Parfait is 80 mg.
- The Fruit & Maple Oatmeal is 160 mg or without brown sugar it is 115 mg
- Scrambled Eggs (2 eggs) are 180 mg
- The Cinnamon Melts are 370 mg.
- The Hotcakes (without syrup) 590 mg add a pat of whipped margarine and you add 55 mg and Hotcake Syrup is 20 mg
- The Hash-browns are 310 mg
Add any size of Black Coffee to the order and you add 0 mg of sodium, except for how many sweeteners or cream you would use.
Most McDonald’s Locations offer fancy coffee drinks. If you keep to the small size of each one, no matter which flavor and type they come in across the board under 100 mg. Please check the Nutrition info if you want to know the specific amount for a specific flavor.
McDonald’s offer smoothies now on their menu with some really nice flavor choices. A small Blueberry-Pomegranate smoothie is 40 mg. A Strawberry-Banana smoothie is 50 mg. The Mango-Pineapple smoothie is also 40 mg.
Lunch & Dinner
Once again, lets talk about what to avoid. The Bacon & Cheese Sirloin Third Pound Burger is 2060 mg. Thinking a salad is a better choice? It could be, but not if it is the Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken is 910 mg before adding dressing and adding a packet of Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing adds 530 mg more.
Now onto the items that are a better choice for us:
- The Hamburger is 480 mg
- The Filet of Fish is 590 mg
- The 6 piece Chicken McNugget is 540 mg (the best choice of dipping sauce is the Sweet & Sour at 150 mg)
- A side salad without dressing is 10 mg
- The Premium Southwest Salad (from above) without chicken or dressing is 210 mg
- The Bacon Ranch Salad without chicken or dressing is 320 mg
Dressings at McDonald’s is what typically contains the most sodium. In fact, the Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette is 400 mg. The best choice they currently offer for a dressing is the Newman’s Own Creamy Southwest Dressing is 300 mg. Here’s my tip and hidden secret for the Dressing. Use only half a packet of the dressing they offer. A full packet really is too much for the portion of salad they sell. My secret Salt Hack is to ask for one of the Ranch Dipping sauces that they have for the McNuggets it is only 150 mg and the amount in that cup is perfect for your salad.
I know, I know, it is time to address the White Elephant in the room. Could I really, possibly, maybe have some French Fries????????
Yes. Yep. No, I didn’t mis-type that. A small French Fries has 130 mg. A medium has 190 mg. A large has 290 mg. Of course it eats up a large portion of your daily sodium milligrams. but as a rare splurge, it should be fine. (A RARE SPLURGE).
To do it even better, you can slice some points by ordering them as “No Salt” fries. The restaurant can prepare a batch of fries without sprinkling them with salt. The key point here is that you need to be willing to wait for them to do this special order. You would have to be willing to park your car if you are in the drive-through, or to wait at the counter. I recommend doing it when they are slower, and not in the middle of a lunch or dinner rush.
Beverages & Desserts
Sodas are a strange thing. As a rule, the diet versions contain more sodium than the regular. A small Coke has 0 mg. A small Diet Coke has 10 mg. The worst soda on the fountain for sodium is a small Dr. Pepper at 45 mg. A small Diet Dr. Pepper has 70 mg.
For non-carbonated beverages, a bottle of Dasani Water is your best choice at 0 mg. A small Iced Tea or Sweet Tea has 10 mg. A small Powerade contains the most sodium at 75 mg.
For desserts, the best option is the Hot Apple Pie at 170 mg.
If you wanted a shake, a small Chocolate is 240 mg, a small Vanilla is 160 mg, and a Strawberry is also 160 mg. My favorite, the small Shamrock shake is also 160 mg (YES!).
Ordering Like A Kid
If you want to regain a little childlike fun in your life, one of the safest routes to go for that McDonald’s meal is to order a Happy Meal. The 4 piece Chicken McNugget is 360 mg. A kids French Fries is 65 mg. The Apple Slices or Cuties have 0 mg. A Go-Gurt has 35 mg. Choose the Sweet & Sour dipping sauce (150 mg) if you must have a sauce.
So now we know the answer to can I eat low sodium at McDonald’s. This should equip you to be able to have something to eat if your family or friends is making a trip there. Surviving and thriving the low sodium lifestyle takes a bit of preparation and a lot of education. If you are willing to take the time, and really explore your options, you can succeed on this path of better health.