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Low-Carb Options at McDonald's

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
Low-Carb Options at McDonald's
Round out your McDonald's meal with low-carb mandarin oranges. Photo Credit Anna Kucherova/iStock/Getty Images

While many foods at McDonald's are high-carb -- such as fries, burger buns and shakes -- with a few modifications, you can create a low-carb meal with the burgers, cheese and veggies. To help you stay on track, review the menu before you go, so you have a plan in mind. You'll count the net carbs in each food, which is the total carb grams minus the grams of fiber.

McDonald's for Breakfast

Breakfast is served all day at McDonald's, so it's always an option. While the hotcakes, oatmeal and parfait are too carb-rich for your plan, you can modify some of the other choices to make a low-carb breakfast meal. For example, an Egg McMuffin has 27 grams of net carbs, but without the muffin it only has 3 grams of net carbs. The Big Breakfast, which comes with scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuit and hash browns also makes a good option if you skip the biscuit and hash browns -- the eggs and sausage have only 2 grams of net carbs. The Egg White Delight McMuffin or Sausage Biscuit and Eggs, minus the muffin and biscuit, each have 2 grams of net carbs. Or you could get a sausage burrito and just eat the filling with a fork for 3 grams of net carbs. And you might consider a biscuit-less Steak, Egg and Cheese Biscuit, with 3 grams of net carbs, .

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Bunless Burgers

If you'd prefer a burger or sandwich, set aside the bun to keep carbs low. For just 1 gram of net carbs, you can enjoy a McDonald's beef patty with pickles, onions, and mustard. With cheese, the net carb count only goes up to 2 grams. The Artisan Grilled Chicken sandwich also makes a good option with 2 grams of net carbs. That includes the tomato, lettuce and special sauce. A bunless Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with Cheese or Bacon Clubhouse Burger with all the trapings gives you 6, 7 and 8 grams of net carbs, respectively. If you're on a higher-carb plan, you may be able to enjoy a bunless Filet-o-Fish sandwich with tartar sauce and cheese, which has 10 grams of net carbs. If you have a more liberal carb allowance, a four-piece serving of chicken nuggets has 11 grams of net carbs.

Fill Up on Salads

McDonald's salads may be a bit higher in carbs than the meat from the sandwich options, but they're also healthier and more filling. The Bacon Ranch salad with grilled chicken has 6 grams of net carbs. Or, with 2 grams of net carbs per serving, the side salad makes a healthy accompaniment to your bunless burger.

Be careful with the salad dressing you choose, however. Of the menu options, the Caesar dressing and the low-fat balsamic vinaigrette make the lowest-carb choices with 4 and 6 grams of net carbs per packet, respectively.

Drinks and Sides

In addition to the side salad, an order of apple slices, which supplies 4 grams of net carbs, makes a good side dish option at McDonald's. The cuties -- mandarin oranges -- are also a low-carb snack option with 8 grams of net carbs per serving.

Of course, water makes your best choice at any meal. Coffee or tea with creamer and artificial sweetener work, and so does unsweetened iced tea. And, of course, diet soda fits a low-carb meal plan. Order a McCafe iced coffee without liquid sugar and you'll have a creamy drink for only 2, 3 or 5 grams of carbs -- for a small, medium or large.

If you're on a higher-carb plan, you might consider adding a container of milk with 12 grams of net carbs. But you'll probably need to stay away from all the specialty coffee drinks, as some of these drinks have nearly 50 grams of net carbs per serving.

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