McDonald’s best menu picks, by a nutritionist

(CNN)When you hear the name “McDonald’s,” a few things may come to mind: fast food, a Happy Meal, a Big Mac, Ronald McDonald or even shoestring fries. These days, though, the “M” that makes up the golden arches might as well stand for “menu changes.”

The chain claims it’s on a “food journey” and is committed to making changesthat will make a positive difference for customers. As a result, McDonald’s has made several modifications to its menu over the years. In the US, all Happy Meals now include either seasonal fruit (such as apple slices or an orange) or a low-fat dairy option. The Happy Meal still comes with fries, but you can opt for fruit or yogurt instead.
    Other recent changes include baby kale, baby spinach, red leaf lettuce and ribbon-cut carrots to the chain’s salad blends; milk from cows not treated with rBST, an artificial growth hormone; and chicken McNuggets with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.


      The chain’s fruit and maple oatmeal without brown sugar is also rich in carbs and ideal before a morning cardio workout.
      When it comes to post-workout beverages, McDonald’s fat-free chocolate milk jug offers 23 grams of carbs and 9 grams of protein — a favorable ratio for muscle repair and recovery.

      For the road warrior

      Our picks: Filet-o-fish (without tartar sauce); or artisan grilled chicken sandwich; and apple slices
      When you’re on the road, a sandwich is a quick and easy grab-and-go option. One of our favorites at McDonald’s is the Filet-o-fish sandwich, made with omega-3-rich pollock. The tartar sauce doesn’t make a huge dent in your daily saturated fat budget at only 1.5 grams, but skipping creamy sauces is a good habit, especially if you’re watching calories, too.
      We also like the artisan grilled chicken sandwich, with 37 grams of protein and only 2 grams of saturated fat. It will be sure to prevent hunger pangs during your travels. Grab some apple slices to have handy in case your trip ends up taking longer than planned.

      For the carb-conscious

      Our picks: Artisan grilled chicken sandwich (without bun); or Egg McMuffin (without muffin and butter); or cheeseburger (without bun); side salad with Newman’s Own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette
      Ordering the grilled chicken sandwich and tossing the bun brings the carb count of this sandwich down from 44 grams to only 2 grams. Bypassing the bun also slashes 350 milligrams of sodium.
      Low-carb dieters may also enjoy the Egg McMuffin without the muffin and butter, which has only 3 grams of carbs. If you are craving a burger, we recommend a bunless cheeseburger, with only 5 grams of carbs. It also won’t drive sodium or saturated fat levels through the roof. Plus, the cheese offers a calcium boost.
      For some greens, choose a side salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing, which adds only 8 grams of carbs to the meal.

      For the breakfast lover

      Our picks: Egg White Delight McMuffin (without Canadian bacon or butter); or fruit and maple oatmeal without brown sugar
      There’s not a whole lot of healthiness to choose from on McDonald’s breakfast menu, once you eliminate bacon- and sausage-containing sandwiches. Then again, it just takes one, and the chain’s Egg White Delight McMuffin is a healthy, protein and calcium-rich option. The Canadian bacon that it comes with contributes only 20 calories, but it also delivers 200 milligrams of sodium, so we recommend skipping it and ordering it without butter too.

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      If you prefer more carbs in the morning, we really like the chain’s fruit and maple oatmeal without brown sugar but with diced apples, cranberries and raisins. It doesn’t have as much protein as the egg sandwich, but it does offer 5 grams of fiber and is particularly beneficial if your morning routine involves a lot of walking.
      Note that the oatmeal is available on the chain’s all-day breakfast menu. We wish the same were true for the Egg White Delight, but according to a company representative, “Upon request, our restaurants would prepare an Egg White Delight for our customers. It’s just not part of the national advertising.”

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