McDonald’s Low Sodium Options

McDonald’s Low Sodium Options 

We all love McDonald’s! It’s great when you’ve been busy all day and need something quick or when you’re just not up for cooking and cleaning your kitchen!

The downside to fast food restaurants, including McDonald’s, is it’s chalked full of sodium and other preservatives.

BUT I’m here to help you choose the best McDonald’s low sodium options!

My name is Candace Mooney. I’m a registered dietitian and board certified specialist in renal nutrition. Let’s dive in together!

Why is sodium important?

Sodium is a mineral that is vital for your body to function properly but too much can cause health problems! (1)

Sodium helps keep your fluids and blood pressure in balance, helps your muscles contract, and helps carry nerve signals from your brain to your body. (1)

When you regularly eat too much sodium, your body can retain excess water that damages your veins and arteries. This makes it more difficult to manage your blood pressure, which can also damage your kidneys and heart causing kidney disease and heart disease. 

How much sodium do you need?

Now you might be wondering how much sodium you should be consuming. 

The recommended daily intake of sodium for the average person is less than 2,300 milligrams (mg). (2) If you have kidney disease, you also want to eat less than 2,300 mg per day. (3)

So, if you eat three meals a day, you are aiming for roughly 800 mg of sodium per meal. 

How much are you getting?

Over seventy percent of adults in the United States consume more than the recommended 2,300 mg of sodium per day. (2)

And we eat and drink about one-third of our calories away from home! (4)

Thankfully, fast food restaurants are required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to show the nutritional information for their products. 

This information should be easily accessible. It should be on the menu at the restaurant location or online. It will include total calories, calories from fat, sodium amount, and other nutritional data similar to those found on foods in grocery stores. (5

McDonald’s has their sodium amounts listed inside their online menu. It’s definitely a little cumbersome to flip through each item so here is a better resource for choosing low sodium items at McDonalds. 

***Note that the actual McDonald’s website will be most up to date with menu items available and nutritional information.

Best Low Sodium Meal Options at McDonald’s: 

Here are the best meal choices to stay under 2,300 mg of sodium per day. We’ve made a treasure trove of McDonald’s meals that have less than 800 mg of sodium each!

Breakfast

One of the breakfast options at McDonald’s is fruit and maple oatmeal with 150 mg of sodium. Not only does this fit within the sodium amount we want for you, but you also get 4 grams (g) of fiber with colorful fruit.

You can even add a hash brown with 310 mg of sodium and still be within your recommended amount of sodium for that meal. 

If oatmeal or hash browns aren’t your thing, an egg McMuffin is another good option. It has 770 mg of sodium with everything on it, but you can decrease that if you take the Canadian bacon (220 mg of sodium) and cheese off (210 mg of sodium) to make it only 340 mg of sodium. Yay!

Ordering pancakes and syrup for 480 mg of sodium with eggs for 130 mg of sodium also makes for a low-sodium breakfast at McDonald’s. 

Picture of McDonalds low sodium options for breakfast, pancakes plus eggs equals 610 mg of sodium and a oatmeal plus hashbrown equals 460 mg of sodium.

Lunch

A 4-piece chicken nugget entrée has 340 mg of sodium and can be paired with any size of fries. 

Fries are a surprisingly good option to include in your lunches! A kid’s side fry has 90 mg of sodium, a small has 190 mg, and a medium has 260 mg of sodium. This is great!

A Filet-O-Fish without cheese or tartar sauce has 340 mg of sodium (compared to the 610 mg with both tartar sauce and cheese). If you leave everything on it, you should get a kid size fry to go with it. If you get the modified 340 mg version, you can get a medium fry to go with it. It’s up to you!

If you aren’t wanting chicken or fish, a cheeseburger with 720 mg of sodium is another good option. Again, you can take the cheese off to save 210 mg of sodium. This will allow you to have fries with it!

Picture of McDonalds low sodium options for lunch, 4 piece chicken nugget plus small fry equals 530 mg of sodium and a filet o fish plus medium fry equals 600 mg of sodium.

Dinner

A hamburger is 510 mg of sodium which pairs well with any size fry (anywhere from 90-260 mg of sodium) or apple slices with no sodium. 

A 6-piece chicken nugget entrée has 500 mg of sodium and the McChicken has 560 mg of sodium. Both can be paired with the same sides listed above to create a dinner with less than 800 mg of sodium.

Some of the most popular options at McDonald’s have a lot more sodium in them. We’ll discuss those further below so you can make an informed decision on your next meal choice at McDonald’s! 

Picture of McDonalds low sodium options for dinner, 6 piece chicken nugget plus kids fry equals 590 mg of sodium and a hamburger plus apple slices equals 510 mg of sodium.

Dessert, Sauces and Drinks 

So now you know your best options for your low sodium McDonald’s meal! Let’s move on to the best options for your dessert, sauces, and drinks!

Dessert 

Everyone loves dessert! McDonald’s actually has some great options for your low sodium choices!

You can have a baked apple pie for 100 mg of sodium or a chocolate chip cookie for 95 mg of sodium. And then your lowest sodium dessert option from McDonald’s is the vanilla ice-cream cone for 80 mg of sodium!

Best and Worst Sauces 

The best options when watching your sodium intake are honey with no sodium, a mayonnaise packet with 60 mg of sodium, a ketchup packet with 90 mg of sodium, or a mustard packet with 60 mg of sodium. 

All other sauces at McDonald’s have over 125 mg of sodium and some, like the spicy buffalo sauce, have 520 mg! Whoa nelly!

Best and Worst Drinks 

Of course, water is always the best choice. 

If you want to treat yourself to something other than water, an unsweet tea, sprite, or lemonade are all good options. These drinks don’t have as much sugar, phosphate or potassium additives as other choices like Dr. Pepper or other dark colored sodas. 

Phosphate Disclaimer! 

We’ve talked a lot about how McDonald’s has low-sodium options that are great for occasionally eating. 

Some of these options we’ve discussed at McDonald’s also have added phosphates to make them last longer and taste better. But if you have kidney disease, I recommend avoiding phosphates as much as possible. (6) This will protect your heart and bone health. (7)

Eating at McDonald’s occasionally is perfectly fine but making a daily habit of it may not help you achieve your goals of better kidney health because of the phosphates and limited choices for fruits and vegetables. 

We found the egg McMuffin, hash browns, fries and nuggets are all lower sodium but do contain phosphate additives. Apple slices, cheeseburgers, and hamburgers do not contain phosphates. 

Highest Sodium Options at McDonald’s that you should avoid

Now let’s dive into what some of the highest-sodium options are so you can compare!

MealMilligrams of sodium
Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddles1,230
Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddles1,290
Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit1,330
Big Mac1,050
All variations of Quarter Pounders1,100
Spicy McCrispy1,320
Big breakfast1,530 

If you’d like to make some of these work, take off the pickles, ketchup, and cheese. Cheese adds an additional 210 mg of sodium! Pickles add 50 mg of sodium and ketchup adds ~80 mg of sodium!

Conclusion 

Knowing how much sodium you’re getting at McDonald’s is critical in protecting your heart and kidney health. 

These simple tips, like choosing our suggested meals, limiting the cheese, or getting the smaller portions of fries will help you avoid those extra milligrams of sodium. 

Remember to give yourself some grace! You do not have to eat perfectly to have a well-nourished body. And take it one step at a time. 

You got this!

This article was co-written by dietetic student and digital marketing intern Eva McIntosh & reviewed, edited, and co-written by Candace Mooney, MS RDN CSR.

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