Amber Merrick eating a happy meal at German McDonalds

by Dr. Amber Merrick, N.D.

The CBC recently posted an article comparing the nutritional content of McDonald’s new “Asiago Crispy Chicken Salad” with kale to a Double Big Mac and the news is not great.  The new kale salad (with dressing) has more calories, fat and sodium than a Double Big Mac.  Yikes…but is it really?

Thank you to CBC for raising awareness regarding nutritional content.  However, if faced with the decision of what to eat at McDonalds, the kale salad is still probably a better choice.  I applaud McDonald’s for trying to add nutrient value to some of their menu options.  McDonald’s is an easy target as it is high up on the “fast-food” chain but they are not the only ones directly responsible for the obesity epidemic.  There are plenty of other calorie-laden, sugar packed, saturated fatty, preservative filled fast food, processed snack companies world-wide!  McDonald’s has a lot of haters, and is top o’ the list when we think about rising health care costs, chronic disease and obesity.

But adding kale to the menu? Brilliant!!  Let’s not take a crap on kale folks…it’s a “trendy superfood”, but this is what makes kale SUPER:

  • Nutrient dense – Kale is full of vitamin A, C, K and B vitamins, Iron and Calcium, just to name a few. It is one of the most nutrient packed foods per calorie, which makes it SUPER!
  • High fiber – Kale can help keep your bowel movements regular and can help lower cholesterol
  • Low glycemic index – Kale is a great addition if you’re trying to manage weight and decrease blood sugar
  • Antioxidants – Kale contains cancer-fighting and anti-aging nutrients like quercetin, sulforaphane

So, the Double Big Mac may have fewer calories, but it does not have the nutrient value the kale salad has.  Further, not all calories and fat are created equal!

An average adult should eat approximately 2000 calories per day (this will differ depending on your age, size and activity level).  In order to consume these calories, I recommend to my patients that they consume at least 1g/kg of protein per day, which is approximately 75g per day for a 160lb adult, an equal portion of carbohydrates from whole grains and starches, and unlimited vegetables and fruit.

I also recommend fats!! Fats are essential for our bodies and brains to function optimally.  The fats we need to limit are saturated fats (fats that are solid at room temperature, ie. margarine) and trans fats (found in meats, processed foods, and “hydrogenated oils”). These types of fats raise the level of “bad” cholesterol in your blood, which in return increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. We should all limit our daily intake of saturated fats to 10% of our daily caloric intake (approx. 20 grams/day for most adults), and trans fats to less than 1% if any.  Further, we should likely not consume more than 2300 mg of sodium per day according to health Canada.

Check out the comparison (CBC):

McDonalds Comparison


They don’t tell you much about the actual nutrient profile of each choice, however.  Bottom line, these 2 choices are comparable in all macronutrient values, but the salad has more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), and less preservatives.  Have you seen what’s in a Big Mac?  A laundry list of preservatives in the bun alone, which in and of themselves can contribute to weight gain and health concerns.  What they didn’t include in the above comparison is the other kale options on the menu, including the grilled chicken version of the Caesar salad (drastically cutting down on carbs, fat and calories), or the Greek kale salad option.

If you are on the go, on a road trip or the kids are late for hockey, McDonald’s may be the choice tonight. But should you just get the Double Big Mac because it’s the same calorie content as the Caesar salad? I wouldn’t. That Big Mac is full of saturated and trans fats, tons of preservatives, and sodium.  If it was my choice, I’d have the Greek kale salad with grilled chicken.  It’s made with kale, a lettuce blend, red peppers, cucumber, couscous, pita chips and feta (skip the pita chips if you want). If you only use half of the dressing, here’s what that looks like:

  • 350 calories
  • 19g fat (4.25g saturated fat, 0.2g trans fat)
  • 925mg sodium (cut back on the feta if this is too high for you)
  • surprisingly not a lot of preservatives (they’re still in there though)

Check out the McDonald’s Nutrition Centre:

Stay informed and make the best choices you can! And have a happy meal once in a while… 🙂

Dr. Amber Merrick, N.D.
About Dr. Amber Merrick, N.D.
Amber Merrick is a licensed and registered Naturopathic Doctor in St. Catharines, Ontario. Amber feels Naturopathy is not only a profession but a lifestyle. She aspires to live a highly energetic and healthy lifestyle. She can coach you to wellness as she has coached countess others.
Amber Merrick eating a happy meal at German McDonalds
Kale at McDonald’s? What is this world coming to??