A Closer Look at the New McDonald’s Salads

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Note: This is an abridged version of an in-depth analysis of fast food choices by Lynn Grieger RDN, CDE, CPT, CWC. To access the full article, visit the members-only page Focusing on Dressing: Are We Missing the Point?

McDonald’s recently updated the standard lettuce mix in all their salads, and instead of applauding a switch from iceberg lettuce to a mix of Romaine, baby kale, and baby spinach, bloggers are howling about the calorie, fat and sodium content of the salads!

Personally, I think that those bloggers are off-track.

Any time we switch from pale “greens” like iceberg lettuce to darker-colored leafy greens like kale, spinach and Romaine, we gain important phytochemicals and antioxidants that are present in larger quantities in darker-colored vegetables. While calories, carbohydrate, protein, fat, and even fiber are similar between iceberg and Romaine lettuce, there are also important differences! Namely, Romaine has 2.5 times the calcium and double the potassium and magnesium of iceberg lettuce. Romaine also has 8 times the vitamin A and almost 4 times the folate of iceberg lettuce. And while it’s true that there is far more romaine than baby kale or baby spinach in the new McDonald’s salad mix, both of these dark leafy greens are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and K too.

Choosing a healthy, lower-calorie, lower-fat, lower-sodium salad at McDonald’s or any other restaurant, is all about what you leave out. Let’s take a look at an example, making over a hefty salad with crispy chicken.

First, I would recommend skipping dressing all together, but if you really want one, the balsamic vinaigrette is the lowest-calorie option.

Opt for grilled instead of crispy chicken and you’’ll save 190 calories, 15.5g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, and 17g carbohydrate (remember, there is no carbohydrate in the grilled chicken). Plus, you’ll gain 5 more grams of protein. The only downside is that the grilled chicken contains 120mg more sodium than the crispy chicken, but that’s a small price to pay for more protein and less fat and carbohydrates.

So, in this example, I advise that you order a Premium Southwest Salad with grilled chicken, skip the salad dressing, and get a balanced meal for 330 calories, complete with 33g protein and 6g of fiber.

By Lynn Grieger RDN, CDE, CPT, CWC


  • USDA SuperTracker: https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodapedia.aspx
  • Fruit and Veggies More Matters. What are Phytochemicals?http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/what-are-phytochemicals
  • www.mcdonalds.com

To read the full article and access its new handout, drop by the post Focusing on Dressing: Are We Missing the Point?

And here's a free printable nutrition handout based on the abridged version...

Fast Food Salad

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