McDonald’s has been there for us when we needed it most during 2020. As we braved quarantine, the company helped get us through time spent at home, especially when we just didn’t have the strength to cook another meal. While the chain took some of the pressure off our life, it didn’t do always do us favors for our figures. According to Yale Medicine, the time spent at home during quarantine caused many of us to gain some significant weight, with some of us gaining as much as 30 pounds! As the year draws to a close, we can pinpoint some of the unhealthiest McDonald’s items of 2020 that probably contributed to this number.
Whether these items loaded up on fat, salt, sugar, or a combination of all three, a handful of their offerings truly earned the mantle of “unhealthiest menu items” during 2020. Many of the worst offenders are tried and true classics, making the fast-food chain’s menu a true nutritional minefield. Trying to figure out which McDonald’s items do the most damage can make anyone’s head spin, but luckily, we assembled the top unhealthiest McDonald’s items in 2020 with the help of doctors and registered dietitians to keep your diet on track. Read on, and for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work.
Per 1 small drink: 500 calories, 14 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 80 g carbs (0 g fiber, 68 g sugar), 11 g protein
“For those consuming a 2000-calorie diet, this [shake] accounts for a quarter of your energy for the day, potentially making it harder for you to meet your needs for essential nutrients,” says Dr. Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, and professor of nutrition.
“Consumers might think that there is some health benefit from this shake, as ‘strawberry’ makes it seem as though perhaps it would contain quite a bit of fruit,” says Dr. Banna. “The vanilla ice cream included also contains a lot of sugar, as it is the second ingredient listed. All in all, while you will get some calcium and potassium out of this shake, it will probably put you over your limit for calories, sugar, and saturated fat for the day in the context of the typical American diet.”
If you can’t get enough of McDonald’s but don’t want to sacrifice your diet for a burger, check out 7 Healthiest McDonald’s Orders, According to a Dietitian to learn which items can make or break your eating plan when you crave some deep-fried goodness.
Per 1 muffin: 470 calories, 22 g fat, (3.5 g saturated fat) 360 mg sodium, 64 g carbs, (2 g fiber, 36 g sugar) 6 g protein
“Oh… the innocent blueberry muffin,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, and Fitter Living advisory board member. “The main problem here: If you eat this for breakfast, it’s got enough calories to really put a dent in your daily calorie intake—in just one food item. With only 2 grams of fiber, it likely won’t keep you very full. If you’re trying to lose weight, it might be best to avoid this as a ‘snack’ since it has nearly 500 calories!”
If you ever believed a pastry with blueberries makes your day more wholesome, you are in for a shock. If you crave the tastes of a blueberry muffin but don’t want to deal with the calories, check out 20 Healthy Blueberry Muffin Recipes.
Per 1 small drink: 420 calories, 17 g fat , (11 g saturated fat) 120 mg sodium, 60 g carbs (1 g fiber, 54 g sugar), 7 g protein
A regular cup of black coffee never hurt anyone, but when you load up your cup with cream and sugar, you end up with one of the unhealthiest McDonald’s menu items of 2020.
“It’s advertised as a ‘hint of coffee’ and they’re right,” says Miller. “If you’re using this as your daily cup of Joe…there are far healthier options. In the small Mocha Frappe, there’s 420 calories, 17 grams fat, 54 grams sugar, and a measly 1 gram fiber. Think of this drink as a big dessert.”
Per 9 pieces: 435 calories, 23 g fat (2.6 g saturated fat), 1,300 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (1.7 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 25 g protein
Many of us couldn’t get enough of the Spicy Chicken McNuggets, a special 2020 offering that has since disappeared from menus. While many of us loved the item, our bodies definitely did not feel the same way.
“Just 10 pieces contain [over] 420 calories (60% from fat) and nearly 1000 milligrams of sodium (half a days worth),” says Dr. Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim. “Stick with grilled chicken instead.”
Per 1 sandwich: 550 calories, 30 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 1,010 mg sodium, 45 g carbs (3 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 25 g protein
“The fast-food industry has been known to design food items for the consumers’ convenience rather than for improving their health… and one of the worst well-loved fast food items that are detrimental to health is McDonald’s Big Mac,” says Dr. Gan Eng Cern. “Not only is it swimming in fat, sodium, and calories that lead to obesity, kidney and liver anomalies, and heart diseases, but it also includes tomatoes and lettuce which makes people think that it is somehow ‘healthy’ and good for frequent consumption.”
“The truth of it is that all [McDonald] burgers, no matter how many more lettuce and slices of tomatoes are added, still provide 0 nutritional value,” says Dr. Cern.
Instead, why not make your own version at home with our Best Copycat Big Mac Recipe?
1 small serving: 220 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein
“These world-famous fries may be celebrated for [their] taste, but certainly not for [their] nutritional value,” says Dr. Cern. “Fries are swimming in preservatives and chemicals, a small order will give you 230 calories and 11 grams of fat, but the worst thing about this food item is that it’s addicting!”
“People simply can’t get enough of it so they consume large amounts on a frequent basis, this ultimately leads to kidney and liver problems, metabolic disturbances, imbalanced gut health, and CVDs,” says Dr. Cern.
If you love McDonald’s but need to stick to more wholesome items, you have your work cut out for you. By remaining vigilant and avoiding these nutritional disasters, you can end 2020 on a nutritional high note and move into the new year with better health.
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