Are McDonald’s Salad Dressings Healthy?: Fat and Sodium Abound

When fast food restaurants began responding to public cries for more salads and other ostensibly healthy options, McDonald’s led the charge as the industry’s number one. In their attempt to make their salad line even more popular, they reached an agreement with Newman’s Own in 2003 wherein the specialty food company would exclusively produce McDonald’s salad dressings. But amid all the buzz about premium salads and the other McDonald’s menu items that are supposedly compatible with a healthy lifestyle, questions have arisen about just how good some of those McDonald’s salad dressings really are for customers.

You may get a bed of attractive mixed greens, some bright cherry tomatoes, a few carrot curls, and other salad basics on your black plastic plate, but what happens when you add McDonald’s salad dressings to the mix? Well, unless you pick the right Newman’s Own choice from the list, it’s the same thing that happens when you douse a salad at home in rich dressing: you take in a lot of fat. Yet when you’re at McDonald’s, where burgers and fries are the focus, a premium chicken salad topped with one of McDonald’s salad dressings – say, Ranch – doesn’t seem so bad until you look at the nutrition stats.

According to the McDonald’s nutrition subsite, there are six McDonald’s salad dressings available in most of the restaurants courtesy of Newman’s Own. We do have to give the chain some credit for offering three low-fat options, though each of these is still fairly high in sodium (all representing over 25% of the daily recommended value):

Low Fat Italian: 2.5g total fat (no saturated fat) and 730mg sodium
Low Fat Sesame Ginger: 4g total fat (no saturated fat) and 680mg sodium
Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette: 3g total fat (no saturated fat) and 730mg sodium

But the real questions about healthiness of McDonald’s Salad Dressings comes with the other three choices, all of which pack a LOT of fat along with sodium into a pouch:

Cobb: 9g fat (1.5g saturated) and 440mg sodium
Ranch: 15g of fat (2.5 saturated fat) and 530mg sodium
Creamy Caesar: 18g fat (3.5g saturated fat) and 500mg sodium

Just for reference, an entire Quarter Pounder has the same total fat content as a packet of McDonald’s Creamy Caesar salad dressing. And a small order of french fries contains 2g less fat than a packet of McDonald’s Ranch dressing.

Also worth noting is the serving size of McDonald’s salad dressing packets: two ounces. Even for a dinner-sized salad complete with a chicken “breast,” that’s a substantial amount of salad dressing. After all, I checked a bottle of regular storebought ranch dressing in my fridge and saw that the recommended serving was one ounce – not two. So, one way to reign in the fat and sodium content of McDonald’s salad dressings is to use half the pouch instead of the whole thing.

Whatever you do when eating at McDonald’s, make sure you understand the nutrition facts for ALL components of your meal, not just the main items! As you can see, fat and sodium abound in McDonald’s salad dressings, so you can sabotage your otherwise healthy choices if you’re not careful.

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