Eating Breakfast at McDonald’s

October 14, 2009 · 18 comments

McDonald's Golden Arches

One of the approaches I used successfully when I first had some weight loss success on this journey of mine was to continue eating at all the same places I always had but to scale back how much I was eating. I pretty much know my battle is to reduce consumption and having a focus on that really seemed to make a difference.

As my weight has ballooned back up I’ve forgotten all the good habits I had started to establish as it pertains to portion size. One of the first things I did back then was to dramatically reduce how much I was eating at McDonald’s, which is probably not the first time a fat guy like me has said that. McDonald’s is generally not great for a diet, particularly if you have a problem with portion size.

I’ve never had success in daily tracking of calories but I have had some success in researching a few key meals so that I have a good understanding of what is OK or what is not. (hint, a foot long Tuna combo meal at Subway is NOT!).

I’ve sort of forgotten what’s OK at McDonald’s and what is not so I thought I would grab a nutrition sheet and dig in:

McDonald’s Sausage Egg McMuffin

Prior to starting this journey a couple of years ago I had developed a habit of enjoying two sausage egg mcmuffin’s and a hash brown for breakfast. The good news is I know that is SO bad and grossly filling that this time around I have been staying away from that meal. Let’s see if there is any combination of this that could possibly work for a not-so-bad breakfast.

According to the McDonald’s nutritional info:

2 Sausage Egg McMuffins and a hashbrown: 1,050 calories.
2 Sausage Egg McMuffins: 900 colories.
1 Sausage Egg McMuffin and a hashbrown: 600 colories.
1 Sausage Egg McMuffin: 450 calories.

Maybe the occasional sausage egg McMuffin wouldn’t be a terrible thing but anything beyond that and you are really starting to dig into your daily caloric intake.

Egg McMuffin

This breakfast sandwich is their original classic and from what I remember reading it really isn’t so bad from a calorie standpoint. But let’s see how bad:

2 Egg McMuffins and a hashbrown: 750 calories.
2 Egg McMuffins: 600 calories
1 Egg McMuffin and a hashbrown: 450 colories.
1 Egg McMuffin: 300 calories.

300 calories isn’t bad at all, I easily eat more than that with a “good” breakfast. Of course that includes fruit, dairy and other good things for you – I am ignoring all of that and just focusing on calories which of course isn’t healthy either. But what I’m trying to determine here is “what is a relatively filling, cheap meal that I can grab on the go that isn’t go to blow my diet.” It’s not 2 Sausage Egg McMuffin’s and a hashbrown but perhaps it is a single Egg McMuffin.

Sausage Breakfast Burrito

Diving into this analysis I was mostly interested in this one because it is something I have become used to eating and I’ve never before research how bad they were for me. So I was really interested. The problem is that for some reason the nutritional sheet I got at McDonald’s didn’t show this one, it only showed the bigger McSkillet Breakfast Burrito. So I had to use the numbers I found on the Internet:

2 Sausage Breakfast Burritos and a hashbrown: 750 calories.
2 Sausage Breakfast Burritos: 600 calories
1 Sausage Breakfast Burrito and a hashbrown: 450 colories.
1 Sausage Breakfast Burrito: 300 calories.

So it’s basically the same as the regular Egg McMuffin. The problem is that the value meal this comes in, the #11, includes 2 burritos, so by default that’s the 750 calories pack. You can order the ala-carte but again I’m not sure if just one will be enough. I do know that I really don’t like just 1 regular egg McMuffin as I never feel like that meal keeps me going, but perhaps a single breakfast burrito will. I’ll have to try.

For all of you who are no doubt thinking, “don’t go to McDonald’s, make yourself something at home,” you are probably right. But convenience is golden.

As in Golden Arches.

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{ 18 comments }

Fat Daddy October 14, 2009 at 8:39 pm

John…I also try to moderate at Mcdonald’s, and it has worked ok. If I get a sandwich…even one that is not so good, skip the fries and just eat the apples.

I do the same thing at Wendy’s with the mandarin oranges. At least I can still go there though, and eat with my family when we are on the run. It has worked for me.

Greg at Live Fit October 15, 2009 at 5:45 am

A trip to McD’s usually ends up netting me an Egg McMuffin. You can order them without butter and cheese and I think you’ll find them even better still.

Dee October 15, 2009 at 1:04 pm

I’ll have to politely disagree.. its good to moderate but what about “weening” yourself off McDonald’s totally? Watch the movie Supersize Me and Food Inc. Fast food is loaded with bad stuff!

Cynthia October 15, 2009 at 1:10 pm

The game is definitely about calories. I know that at some point, I read a story about some woman, who, as a reaction to the Super Size Me documentary, went and lost weight by eating all her meals at McDonalds. Ultimately, you have to be able to work out a plan that fits in your life.

You’ll want to choose something that not only satisfies you, but will keep you going until your next meal without “little detours”. If you are talking breakfast, it’s often a good idea to make breakfast a more substantial meal, and then go lighter through the day, ending with a light dinner. So that’s a strategy to keep in mind.

I can’t remember, but does McD offer any kind of fruit on their breakfast menu? If not, consider bringing an apple along with you. If grabbing an apple out of the fridge before you head out for breakfast is “too inconvenient”, then you got work to do! But seriously, if you could add in an apple, you’d a) get something healthy with fiber in and b) apples can be pretty filling, so it might be much easier to live with just one breakfast sandwich at McDs.

At any rate, your approach is good… you’ve found out the options and where they weigh in calorie-wise. You might want to write your best options down on a card, keep it handy in a pocket or your wallet so that you can refer to it when you order. At least until your more diet friendly order is firmly established as a habit.

Hang in there!

Gonzo R October 16, 2009 at 1:52 am

I love sausage Mcmuffin meal. Its my favorite breakfast at Mcdonalds. Im just surprise when I found on your article how much calorie it has. Thanks for the information John. 1050 calories is really high for a meal. Good thing, I only go there twice every 3 weeks.

Weight Loss Center October 16, 2009 at 4:34 pm

I understand the convenience factor, but there’s also the nutrition factor to consider. McDonald’s food contains quite a bit of sodium and saturated fats, which will work against your dieting efforts even if calories are kept to a minimum. Breakfast foods that contain fiber and/or protein, such as oatmeal or granola with yogurt, are also very simple to make, but are much more nutritionally balanced. This will help curb hunger between breakfast and lunch. I used to looooove my cheeseburgers and considered one cheeseburger a lower calorie lunch option. But honestly, I was always starving an hour later and would snack way more adding needless calories to my daily diet. Ahh, the trials and tribulations of losing weight.

Joanne October 16, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Hi John good to see you posting – had to definitely read this post having just returned from a 10 day vacation in the states. I actually walked away from two restaurants during that time – so frustrated that all I could find was hamburgers and calorie laden meals. I was in touristy spots and not near any chain restaurants and it was tough. What I have done since starting this journey (yet again) is record 100% every calorie I eat. Last year I spent the money and bought a hand held calorie counter (Coheso.com). I love technology so decided to make this part of my daily regime – as well as my weighing and measuring. On the second to last night I was ready to chuck it in for one night. I told my husband to hell with it – its just one night. I could hardly wait to purchase a pint of ice cream and dive in – I had it all planned. But the automatic response when I was choosing what to eat was to turn the package over and read the calories — so the automatic response is there – its been over a month and tomorrow is weigh in day. I am hoping for 3 more pounds gone but after being away from home and being not 100% good I am just hoping for a maintain.

Making those good choices are what matters – knowing the calories is so important. And yes staying away from fast food would be nice but its not always realistic and sometimes we do want that fast food fix – so why not make the best choice possible.

Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit October 17, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Sorry, but count me in the group that believes there’s no place for Mickey D’s on a successful weight-loss journey. It’s not even that the Golden Arches is that much worse than most other restaurants (though it is pretty bad); even what look like relatively healthy choices at fast food joints are land mines filled with fat, sugar, sodium and calories.

Yes, I understand the “convenience” argument, but a little planning can take care of that. One a month, I invest about 90 minutes cooking up a huge batch of breakfast burritos, filled with eggs, potatoes, peppers, onions, black beans, cheese… basically whatever’s in the fridge at the time. I wrap them up, cover them in foil and freezer the entire lot. Zap one in microwave for a few minutes and you’re good to go.

There are roughly one billion better breakfast options than McDonalds.

Jake Fuller October 17, 2009 at 2:29 pm

I know McDonald’s is convenient, but it’s also relatively expensive – in calories and in dollars. Have you considered buying some microwavable breakfast foods from the grocery store and just throwing them in to heat up as you shower or get dressed in the morning? I’ve got some more diet tips on my site – like eating spinach instead of potatoes to stay lower on the calorie totem pole but still feel very full.

Cynthia October 17, 2009 at 4:43 pm

When it comes right down to it, just how convenient is McD’s really?

With very little planning, I can usually put together a meal that is FASTER and certainly healthier than stopping by McD’s. Even if it’s just something like dumping some greek yogurt, vanilla protein powder, blueberries (frozen or thawed in microwave) and a few walnuts.

Another really fast one is dumping a can or two of sardines on a bunch of spinach. I buy washed organic spinach in nice big tubs, a meal like that takes far less time than waiting on a McD’s order.

I think people often overestimate the convenience factor of fast food. It’s certainly possible to fix really fast meals at home. Or prepare meals to go.

Barry Hughes October 17, 2009 at 7:42 pm

I sometimes like this morning will eat (2) burritos but I order then individually because the hash brown just have too many calories. I am on a 2000 calorie per day allowance. If I have 600 for breakfast that will give me 1400 calories for lunch and dinner which sometimes I will eat lite at lunch and have a nice dinner or switch.

Regarding a previous comment above: When your over weight you might die of a heart attack long before you have to worry about the sodium content. I’ll lose weight and work on the nutrition as I go along.

Lyn October 18, 2009 at 9:51 am

It’s about baby steps. Changing what you at at the same place can be a very important step towards changing your diet completely. After awhile, you might try getting some of those high fiber English Muffins (110 cal each), scrambling some Egg Beaters or one egg (30-80 cal), sauteeing some spinach (hardly any cal) and even adding a slice of Hormel thin bacon (40 cal) or a slice of ham (45 cal). Make a bunch of those at once, freeze em, oyu have the convenience and the nutrition AND better flavor than fast food.

You’re on the right track and making ANY change for the better is a good thing!

Cynthia October 18, 2009 at 11:27 am

‘Tis true about baby steps. Sometimes that’s all a person can contemplate, whether it’s on the eating or exercise front. Anything that gets one moving towards healthier decision making is a good thing. John now knows just what kind of calorie load his habitual breakfast packs, so making a change for something else or less of what he usually eats at McD’s is definitely a step forward.

I’ve been at a place where I haven’t been into exercise lately. So anything that’s convenient enough to get me to move for a bit is working. Once the habit is formed again, I’ll worry about increasing activity.

Cynthia October 18, 2009 at 1:44 pm

And I just ran across a link about losing weight eating fast food this morning…

http://eating.health.com/2009/06/30/lose-10-lbs-eating-fast-food/

Gregg October 25, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Hey John!

Interesting post about McDonald’s. Before I started my weight loss program in February, I had been going to Mac’s for breakfast every day. It was a ritual. I would get some food and coffee, read the paper, and get ready for the day.

When I started my program, I knew I would have to change alot of things. I wanted some consistency in my life. I realized that my ritual gave me some comfort independent of the food.

Since I started, I have continued to go to Mac’s for breakfast each morning. I typically order a scrambled egg with a piece of cheese melted on top and a coffee. I read the paper. When I get home (I work from home), I have a piece of toast (45 cal. bread) and either some fruit or some sugar free preserves on the toast. As part of my overall diet, I have lost weight doing this.

If I’m especially hungry, I get two scrambled eggs with two pieces of cheese. At home, I eat the toast and fruit. Or alternatively, I get a breakfast burrito and then skip the toast and fruit. I’ve found I can lose weight with these alternatives too.

On days when I’ve eaten more (a McSkillet burrito or a couple of breakfast burritos or pretty much any combo), I’ve found that I don’t tend to lose.

Since February, I’ve dropped from 280 to 195 following this practice. Obviously, what has worked for me may not be right for you. But I think there are a couple of lessons worth passing on.

First, it is possible to maintain certain rituals while still accomplishing your goal. Second, you have to seriously restrict your choices at Mac’s and other fast food joints if you want to lose weight. Fast food may taste good, but it’s very high in fat, carbs, and/or sodium.

Good luck on your continuing efforts.

Gregg

Derek October 26, 2009 at 5:03 am

I am still in shock at the amount of calories. I knew it was bad. I just didn’t realize how much, especially since I used to get a Sausage Egg McMuffin AND a Sausage Egg and Cheese McGriddle for one breakfast!

I think it is wise to figure out how to eat healthy foods at various restaurants and become really good at it. You can plan all you want and try to avoid such places, but you just may find yourself in a restaurant like McD’s, and you should know what to do. I wonder how many calories are in that Yogurt Parfait?

I never thought about getting the Sausage Egg McMuffin without butter or cheese. I think that alone will reduce the calories by about 200?

Vesone October 28, 2009 at 9:57 am

Interesting article about McDonald’s, when I was 300 lbs I used to eat the exact same thing 2 egg mcmuffs and a hashbrown.

Then I actually switched to the mcgriddles (I don’t even want to know how bad those are)

(Like some of the others have said) I think weening yourself off of McD’s is the best idea or just create what you like a McD’s at home. I REALLY used to love the mcmuffs so I bought the components and put them together myself.

Turkey sausage, wheat english muffins, egg beaters and I used to and still eat those for breakfast, they taste just as good to me and I can control the quality of the food.

(you never know what you’re getting in the drive-thru)

Very informative article, thanks.

Kelly October 30, 2009 at 3:13 pm

For most people, eliminating eating out completely just won’t work, so we have to do the best we can. Does a regular egg mcmuffin have more saturated fats and sodium than your regular breakfast should? Yes. But if you balance that with a healthy lunch and dinner you can keep these outings in your diet and still lose weight. I like to recreate the egg mcmuffin at home with a whole wheat english muffin, egg whites, turkey bacon, and a low fat slice of cheese. Lower in calories, fat, and sodium, and I think it keeps me satisfied longer too. Consider trying something like this next time you get a craving for McDonald’s.

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