McDonald’s and Bariatric Surgery

Note: Whether you’ve had bariatric surgery or not, you’ll likely visit a fast-food or fast-casual restaurant at some point. With our rushed and busy lives, fast food may cross our minds. Often, we can get something to hold us over without destroying the diet, but it’s important to choose right. Speak to your bariatric practice and dietician for guidance…do not rely on this guide alone.

Is McDonald’s a good option after weight loss surgery, or should it be avoided? Places like McDonald’s can be a convenient way to keep up our energy and stay fed – if you choose the right options.

It’s no coincidence that McDonald’s is the most popular fast-food restaurant in the US. The well-known Golden Arches serve almost 70 million customers per day across 38,000 locations. Most of their customers choose the restaurant out of convenience; the average McDonald’s meal is ready in 2-5 minutes. The hyper-palatable nature of McDonald’s food also appeals to its customers; the salt, fat, and sugar are designed to make your meal as tasty as scientifically possible. Many health experts are now trying to figure out whether fast food is considered “addictive” due to its engineered deliciousness.

However, “tasty” does not always equal healthy. The average fast food meal contains 1300 calories! This could be the total daily recommended intake for someone who’s had bariatric surgery, and it is not a healthy amount to have at just one meal. Even some McDonald’s salads with dressing contained more calories than a Big Mac! (Note: McDonald’s no longer carries salads, a change during the COVID-19 pandemic to streamline drive-thru efficiency.)

Though most people wouldn’t consider McDonald’s a very healthy place to eat, sometimes our busy lives bring us through the drive-thru line. Fast food can rack up hefty calories, sodium, sugar, and fat. So, is it possible to get a decent meal that supports your goals, or are you doomed to get something that will derail all your hard work? Don’t throw in the towel just yet! Some options at McDonald’s are healthier than others.

Below is a list of meals that could be acceptable for a post-op bariatric patient, depending on the phase, with total nutrient content:

Cheeseburger (no salt) +
Apple slices +
Unsweetened iced tea
TOTAL: 328 calories, 15 grams of protein

Egg McMuffin +
Coffee (1 cream and one sugar-free sweetener)
TOTAL: 288 calories, 17 grams of protein

McChicken +
Low-fat milk
TOTAL: 500 calories, 22 grams of protein

Ten-piece Chicken McNuggets +
Apple slices +
Dasani water
TOTAL: 425 calories, 23g protein

Compared to other menu choices, these meals are all reasonably high in protein and low in sugar and excess calories.

Some foods seem like a good choice, but sneakily pack extra calories, fat, and sugar. For example, while oatmeal is usually a healthy choice, the Fruit & Maple Oatmeal at McDonald’s has 33 grams of sugar – almost as much as a Coke! Those who’ve had bariatric surgery are aware of the risks of eating that much sugar at once; dumping syndrome is a distinct possibility and can be very uncomfortable. Other foods to avoid at this popular fast-food restaurant include the Big Mac or similar large sandwiches, hotcakes, sweetened coffee drinks, milkshakes, and sodas.

Though fast food is never the “best” option for anyone trying to eat healthy, there are ways to make it a “better” choice. Choosing non-fried and low-sugar options is better for anyone looking to reduce their calorie intake. For anyone who’s had bariatric surgery, high-protein meals are a must to ensure they meet their nutritional needs and avoid low energy and muscle loss. As always, consult with your dietitian and other healthcare team members to create the best plan for any eventuality!

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