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What’s the Healthiest Thing to Eat at McDonald’s?

With 14,155 restaurants in the United States alone, and 22,744 additional locations outside of the U.S., McDonald’s is arguably the most well-known fast-food chain in the world. And, if you’re taking a road trip, this summer it can be difficult to resist the siren call of fast-food convenience.

While known for its burgers, fries and shakes, you don’t need to blow your calorie budget on a Big Mac Extra Value Meal. These five options, at 420 calories or less, complete with ordering tips from a dietitian, can help you eat healthier the next time you find yourself under those golden arches.



Nutrition stats: 300 calories, 12g fat, 30g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 3g sugar, 18g protein

Why it made the cut: Coming in right at 300 calories, this breakfast sandwich contains 18 grams of satiating protein and 2 grams of fiber.

Dietitian’s tip: Opting out of the processed cheese slashes 50 calories and 190 milligrams of sodium. Skipping the Canadian bacon spares you another 200 milligrams of sodium but you also lose 4 grams of protein.


Nutrition stats: 190 calories, 4g fat, 33g carbs, 4g fiber, 3g sugar, 6g protein

Why it made the cut: Topped with fresh apples and a splash of cream, this unsweetened oatmeal provides 4 grams of fiber and only 3 grams of sugar. At 190 calories it makes a great light breakfast or snack option.

Dietitian’s tip: Make sure you ask for oatmeal without brown sugar (it exists) and skip the dried fruit to slash 120 calories and a whopping 30 grams of unnecessary sugar. Add a little more staying power to this breakfast by asking for a side of scrambled eggs. You won’t find them on the menu but rumor has it they are offered. One side of scrambled eggs adds 140 calories, 9g fat, 1g carbs and 13g of quality protein.




Nutrition stats: 420 calories, 22g fat, 14g carbs, 4g fiber, 6g sugar, 43g protein

Why it made the cut: At just over 400 calories, this salad offers 4 grams fiber and 43 grams of protein, not to mention a whole lot of nutrient-rich veggies.

Dietitian’s tip: Each packet of McDonald’s Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing contains 200 calories so it’s best to use less if you can. Rather than drizzling ranch all over your salad, load up your fork with greens and dip them into the dressing instead. Half packet should be plenty if you use this technique — and you won’t miss the rest.


Nutrition stats: 360 calories, 13g fat, 24g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g sugar, 38g protein

Why it made the cut: With 25% of your daily intake for fiber, this veggie-filled salad is the highest in fiber of all McDonald’s salads and provides plenty of satiating protein, too.

Dietitian’s tip: As is, this salad is fairly high in sugar, but simply asking to hold the cilantro-lime glaze will cut 8g carbs and more than one teaspoon (5g) of added sugar. Use the fork-dip trick mentioned above and you can enjoy the creamy southwest salad dressing for half of the calories, or ask for the lighter balsamic vinaigrette which has just 35 calories per packet in contrast to 120 calories in the southwest dressing.


Nutrition Stats: 420 calories, 14g fat, 38g carbs, 3g fiber, 7g sugar, 36g protein

Why it made the cut: At 420 calories this is a hearty, protein-packed sandwich that also brings some healthy fats to the table thanks to the guacamole topping. The lettuce and pico de gallo add a few extra veggies.

Dietitian’s tip: You’ll get all of the goodness for 100 fewer calories simply by ordering this sandwich with a sesame seed bun instead of the artisan roll it’s typically served on and asking to hold the processed cheese. To get it under 400 calories, skip the buttermilk ranch sauce to shave off another 50 calories and 5 grams of fat.

Of course it’s not the healthiest thing to eat at McDonalds but, if a burger and fries is really what you’re craving, you can always get the cheeseburger kids meal with fries and apple slices for just 430 calories instead of the 1,000 calorie Big Mac Extra Value Meal.

Nutrition note: Most fast foods, even the healthier options, are very high in sodium. To balance things out, try choosing lower-sodium foods at other meals and snacks throughout the rest of the day.

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The One Thing You Can Do to Optimize Your HIIT Workout

With just a few short bursts of high intensity with periods of rest, you can see more results in less time than most workouts. Yes, high-intensity interval training can seem like a workout gift from the gods. Even better, HIIT workouts apply to cycling, swimming, weight training, bodyweight exercises and even walking.

Promising major results in little time, it’s true that HIIT may seem too good to be true. But if you’re not seeing results, you’re not the only one. The biggest caveat of HIIT is that the intensity really has to be high.

“For HIIT to be effective, you have to exercise at a challenging intensity. You need to be working hard-to-very hard during the hard bouts in order to put the correct and effective challenge on your cardiovascular system,” explains Dr. Len Kravitz, an exercise scientist at the University of New Mexico. “Often, people get the work-to-rest ratio right and it seems like what they’re doing is a HIIT workout, but what they’re doing isn’t intense enough during the high-intensity part,” explains Jason Loesch, a personal trainer and co-owner of the Minneapolis-based Hell Bent Fitness.


The efficacy of HIIT training hinges on achieving an EPOC state which stands for “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.” According to the ACSM, the high-intensity intervals should clock in at “80–95% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate, the maximum number of times your heart will beat in a minute without overexerting yourself.”

Loesch explains that “you can think of it as oxygen debt. [After a proper HIIT workout] your body is basically running on an oxygen debt, trying to catch up with the lack of oxygen created by the training. It’s because of this debt that you continue to burn calories for somewhere between 24–48 hours after a HIIT workout.”


Kravitz explains that your maximum heart rate can be ‘estimated’ by using the formula: 220 – age = maximum beats per minute. For example, a 40 year old would have an estimated maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute, calculated by subtracting 40 from 220. Therefore, the 80–95% recommendation for this person would be between 144–171 beats per minute.

For those who have a heart monitor or another way to measure your heart rate as you work out, you’re all set. If you don’t, Loesch’s approach is a less complicated one: “You should have a hard time completing an entire sentence when you’ve finished your interval. When I’m working with people, I like to talk to them afterwards, and if they’re able to finish a full sentence, I know they’re not pushing themselves hard enough.”

On the flip side, it’s possible to overdo it. “I see a lot of people going too long on intervals. One minute is way too long. You could probably push it up to 40 seconds, but I’d keep it in the 20–30 second range and even shorter for a sprint. It’s about intensity not endurance,” Loesch adds.

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Is Power Walking Still a Thing?

While there’s no exact point in time that marks when power walking started, or a precise definition, it’s often referred to as aerobic or fitness walking, and it’s a spinoff of race walking, which became an Olympic sport in 1904.

Lately, though, it seems power walking isn’t as popular as it once was — or is it that when people say walking, power walking is just implied. We did a little digging and spoke to experts to get the lowdown on the state of power walking.


Even before race walking, there was what we called pedestrianism. “Individuals would walk for distance or sometimes speed,” says Michele Stanten, American Council of Exercise board member, author of “Walk Off Weight.” “It was a popular spectator sport in Europe back in the 1800s and early 1900s.” Then came Volksmarches, explains Stanten, which were non-competitive distance walks, popular in the ‘60s, followed by the creation of charity walks in the ‘70s, where these events were used to help support a greater good. “The popularity of power walking rose in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s,” says Stanten. “It’s actually even when I started walking along with running and aerobics.”

There’s not an exact definition or reason to explain the rise of power walking, points out Stanten. “During this time period, we all learned that exercise did not have to be extreme — we didn’t all need to run 10Ks or marathons to have cardio fitness,” says Michele Olson, PhD, CSCS, an adjunct professor of sport science at Huntingdon College. “Walking, which is a very body-friendly form of cardio, was something anyone could do, and it was cost effective. The only type of equipment you truly need is a pair of quality exercise shoes.”



If done correctly, power walking counts for fitness — it can even be your sole form of exercise. Just try walking on a treadmill at 5 miles per hour for an extended amount of time without letting your form be affected. You need to have a fast gait and efficient movement, explains Olson, but that can be learned.

“Walking workouts often include interval and fartlek training, where you speed up, go off-road, up and down hills, incorporate walking lunges, walk sideways and backwards,” says Olson. “Recent studies even show that if you walk 15,000 steps a day you can stay fit, lose weight and fight off heart disease.” However, most of these studies talk just about walking — not power walking. So is it just implied that you should be power walking, or is just plain walking enough?


From a public-health standpoint, the goal is to get all people moving, and even regular walking is a very good option for that. “That’s where the focus has shifted — pedometers and the research on steps throughout the day have shown us that all walking counts,” says Stanten. “But there are still reasons to promote power walking, especially to all the people who are already doing some walking.”

In short, if you love power walking, you should power walk loud and proud. Trends may come and go, but anything that keeps us moving — and walking at any speed — is worth doing.

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7 Tricks to Finally Nail the Whole Portion Control Thing

When searching for healthy eating or weight loss tips, the phrase “portion control” pops up time and again. Simply put, controlling your portions means sticking to a set amount (portion) of food in one sitting: The right amount depends on your calorie and nutrient needs. And, of course, what actually fills you up. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just develop healthy eating habits, it’s important to have a good idea of what a healthy portion looks like.

“Portion is different than serving size,” Caroline Kaufman, R.D., tells SELF. “The serving size is a measured amount of food or drink (what you see on a nutrition label) and your portion is the amount you actually consume,” she explains. For example, one serving of granola may be listed as a quarter cup, but if you have two servings, your portion is a half cup. Oftentimes, the right portion size is one serving, but that’s not always true.

Portion control is an important part of a weight loss plan.

If you’re trying to lose weight, knowing the nutrition content of one serving and then controlling your portions is the best way to monitor calorie intake. It’s important to also note that counting calories, and losing weight in general, is not for everyone. There are also many other factors, like sleep habits, stress, and genetics that can influence weight loss, making it about way more than just calorie intake. If you have a history of disordered eating, you should always speak with your doctor before changing your eating habits.

Even if weight loss isn’t your goal, sticking to reasonable portions helps keep meals balanced and nutritious.

The goal is to eat a reasonably sized meal that fills you up and is nutritionally diverse. “You want to make sure your plate isn’t all red meat, for example, and that you’re getting a little bit of variety,” Jackie Baumrind, M.S., senior dietitian at Selvera Wellness, tells SELF.

There are lots of guidelines comparing foods to everyday objects—for example, a single portion of protein should be about the size of a deck of cards. (For more examples, check out this pretty comprehensive list by the Mayo Clinic.) You can also use measuring cups to dole out portions according to serving sizes and then adjust depending on your personal needs.

But we’re not all walking around with a deck of cards or our trusty measuring cups in our purses. Here, Kaufman and Baumrind share some easier ways to naturally eat healthy portion sizes, so you can develop better eating habits without spending so much energy fussing over it.


The best way to eyeball healthy portions? Fill your plate or bowl with 50 percent veggies or salad, 25 percent lean protein, and 25 percent starchy vegetables or carbs. This helps you roughly control portions automatically. “If a quarter of your plate is for protein, it’s hard to fit a 12-ounce sirloin into that corner,” Baumrind jokes. This also helps you fill up on veggies, which are low in calories and fat.


“Use salad plates and cereal bowls instead of dinner plates and large soup bowls,” Kaufman suggests. Why? It essentially tricks your mind into thinking you’re eating more than you are. Whether we’re eating at a restaurant or cooking at home, we all want our plates to look full, Baumrind notes. “We eat with our eyes and nose first.” A salad plate that’s piled high with food looks and seems more filling than a scantily topped large dinner plate—prepping you to expect to be full once you’ve cleaned it.


If you’re cooking dinner and intend to have leftovers for lunch or the next night, portion it out before you even sit down to eat, Baumrind says. That way, you can determine the correct portions before you dig in. It’s much harder to stop eating when there’s still delicious, home-cooked food on your plate.


Either with yourself or another person. “Most places, it’s enough for two people,” Baumrind notes. “Ask the waiter to package up half before they bring it to the table,” she suggests. “Or split a main course with whomever you’re with.”


“Portion out a certain amount of food (use the serving size on the container as your guide) and go back for seconds of the same amount if you want more,” Kaufman says. When you’re taking snacks on the go, portion them into Ziploc bags, Baumrind says. “Grabbing something like a cheese stick or single-serve yogurt is good because it’s already portioned,” she adds.


It’s easy to forget everything you’ve been taught about healthy portion sizes and eating with your stomach not your eyes when you have endless options and feel like you should get your money’s worth. Kaufman suggests taking a lap and surveying all the options on the buffet before digging in. That way, you can decide what you really want to put on your plate and portion accordingly. If you decide you’re hungry for seconds, just stick to the suggested proportions (see #1) when you serve yourself again.


Eating when you’re distracted pretty much guarantees you’ll overeat—if you don’t take the time to pay attention to what you’re putting into your mouth, it’s tough to recognize when you’re full. To be more mindful, avoid eating in front of a screen, Kaufman says. That means both your TV and your laptop. Baumrind goes one step further: “Turn off your phone or put it away and sit quietly, enjoy the company [of others] and the food.”


> Your Quick & Easy Guide to Losing Weight in 2017
> 12 Healthy Foods That Fill You Up Best
> The 5 Worst Things to Say to Someone Who Is Losing Weight
> How to Manage All That Free Food at the Office

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