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What Can a Diabetic Eat at McDonald's?

author image Marcy Brinkley
Marcy Brinkley has been writing professionally since 2007. Her work has appeared in "Chicken Soup for the Soul," "Texas Health Law Reporter" and the "State Bar of Texas Health Law Section Report." Her degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Nursing; a Master of Business Administration; and a Doctor of Jurisprudence.
What Can a Diabetic Eat at McDonald's?
Fast food restaurants often serve high-calorie, high-fat foods. Photo Credit: Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images

The average fast food meal provides as many as 1,000 calories, according to the American Diabetes Association. Because diabetics need to limit their intake of calories, fat and sugar to control their blood sugar levels, eating at McDonald's may prove challenging. Fortunately, you may fit the occasional fast food meal into a balanced diet if you make your choices wisely.

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The McDonald's website provides downloadable lists of ingredients and nutritional values for each menu item, as well as a list of sample diabetic-friendly menus. If you prefer to design your own meal, an interactive tool calculates the nutritional value of your menu selections, including calories, fat, sugar and carbohydrate content. Based on your nutritionist's guidelines, use the nutrition information to determine if your food selections fit into your daily allotment of calories and carbohydrates. In general, 20 percent of the calories in your meal should come from protein, 40 to 60 percent from carbohydrates and no more than 30 percent from fat, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Breakfast Choices

McDonald's offers several diabetic-friendly breakfast choices. An Egg McMuffin sandwich provides 300 calories, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of protein and 12 grams of fat, according to the restaurant's website. A Fruit ’n Yogurt Parfait with a plain English Muffin contains 310 calories, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. To lower fat intake and boost your protein, ask for your sandwich to be made using egg whites instead of whole eggs. If your daily calorie allotment allows it, add one cup of skim milk to your breakfast. Otherwise, drink plain coffee or water, neither of which adds calories to your meal.

Lunch or Dinner

A McDonald's salad or sandwich can fit into a healthy diabetic diet if you skip the cheese, heavy sauces, high fat dressings and super-size portions. A Quarter Pounder without cheese and a side salad with low-fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing contains 475 calories, 25 grams of protein, 22 grams of fat and 44 grams of carbohydrates. A Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich without mayonnaise, with a side salad with low-fat Italian dressing contains 440 calories, 33 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat and 62 grams of carbohydrates. A Southwest salad with grilled chicken and creamy southwest dressing provides 420 calories, 31 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat and 41 grams of carbohydrates. Add unsweetened iced tea, black coffee or water to any meal to avoid unwanted calories.

Snacks and Desserts

If you can include a snack or dessert in your daily meal plan, try apple slices with caramel for a total of 100 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates and 0.5 gram of fat, according to the McDonald's website. A Fruit 'n' Yogurt Parfait contains 160 calories, 4 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates and 2 grams of fat. If available, a reduced-fat vanilla ice cream cone contains 160 calories, 4 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates and 3.5 grams of fat. Products labeled as snack wraps, however, contain more calories than recommended for a snack, between 330 and 430 calories per wrap.

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