What to Actually Eat When You Suddenly Crave a Big Mac

There’s no doubt McDonald’s is the king of the fast food jungle. About 62 million people visit their stores each day as the highest volume fast-food purveyor in the U.S. If I had to ponder a guess as to why Americans are such ravenous McDonaldphiles, I’d say it’s a combination of convenience, nostalgia (happy meals, childhood birthday parties, the ball pit), that suspiciously addictive taste, and oh… did I mention convenience?

The chain may not have invented the drive-thru, but they certainly popularized its use. That spirit of at-all-costs convenience is one of the main reasons McDonald’s is the bell of the burger ball, but that doesn’t mean those Golden Arches are doing the body good. As a service to our reformed fast foodies (and those aspiring to be), we’ve compiled healthy alternatives to the most popular items on the McDonald’s menu. The best part about it is you can whip up these recipes at home, which means you’ll have total control over your quality of ingredients – key with an establishment known for their mystery meat.

Baked Apple Pie

Both McDonald’s and apple pie have made a name for themselves as American classics, so it makes sense that this item from the chain’s less illustrious dessert menu is on the top 10 favored items list. However, it’s important to note that how you sate your sweet tooth is not a test of patriotism.

With this reduced sugar apple pie recipe, you can have pie and eat it too (without feeling guilty)! The pared-down version offers 199 calories as opposed to 230 in McDonald’s standard pie pocket. Slashing the sugar is honestly no big deal because the apples already provide enough sweetness as it is – in fact, that makes this homemade substitute ideal for anyone trying to keep their glucose levels in check.

Chicken Nuggets

I’ve never been a big meat eater, but before I went vegetarian, McDonald’s chicken nuggets were my kryptonite. It took every ounce of self-control to keep myself from ordering a 20-piece every time I got within 500-feet of a Mickey D’s. With over 14,000 locations in the United States, it was dangerous predilection to suppress.

healthier chicken nuggets

Photo via Gina Homolka / skinnytaste.com

Luckily, if you’re chicken nuggaholic, this Skinnytaste recipe for healthy baked chicken nuggets is the kind of stand-in that makes you forget the star. Perfectly seasoned organic chicken breast baked with olive oil instead of dropped in the deep fryer delivers a finger-licking 188 calories per serving without sacrificing taste.

So what if your kids are begging for the classic Mickey D’s McNuggets? Trust us, one bite of these healthier nuggets with their kid-friendly flavor will turn your young’uns into instant converts. Which means you’ll find them just as effective in bribing your brood – a victory for everyone involved!

McGriddles Breakfast Sandwich

Maple syrup makes me salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs, so I’m not surprised the McDonald’s McGriddles is among the chain’s most ordered food items. The sandwich is essentially an entire breakfast buffet stacked on top of each other. Of course it’s mouthwatering… but is it a good way to start the day?

Obviously, if you’re reading this, you already know the answer. Don’t worry, you know I got you a scrumptious substitute! This paleo-friendly pancake breakfast sammie comes in at 235 calories, while the most low-cal version at Mac’s is a whopping 420. This alternative to a decadent morning meal will put you almost 200 calories ahead of the game. Not to mention, the protein pancakes, organic farm fresh eggs, and nitrate-free bacon featured in this recipe blow the ingredients in the OG McGriddles out of the water.

Big Mac

Coming in a number two on the list of usual suspects, the Big Mac is McDonald’s most in-demand sandwich. The allure is two-fold: their promise of 100 percent beef and that gluttonous “secret sauce,” which basically amounts to Thousand Island dressing on steroids.

Big Mac Alternative

Photo via Dannii / hungryhealthyhappy.com

We know what you’re having for dinner because this delicious DIY alternative still packs a palatable punch, yet with lean turkey breast mince instead of beef (or so they say) and a lighter version of the infamous sauce with Greek yogurt versus mayonnaise. This sandwich yields a slim 403 calories instead of the Big Mac’s more substantial 540.

French Fries

How is it that French fries are hands down the most popular menu item, even though they’re a prime example of what you shouldn’t eat? Perhaps the addictively delicious MSG has something to do with it. If not that, then definitely the salt…

Well, no need to continue ranking the evils McDonald’s fries when you can make this purist French fry recipe – literally just spuds and a sprinkle of salt – from the privacy of your own kitchen. Which means you can enjoy the nutritional benefits of potatoes, namely potassium, vitamin C, and fiber, without all that yucky stuff.

Huzzah! We hacked the McDonald’s mainframe and found a more wholesome way to get that old school Mickey D’s fix – without the regret you normally feel after dumping a greasy bag of fast food into your tummy.

So what’s your favorite fast food indulgence and how can you make a healthier version at home?

About the Authorcourtney-kocak

Courtney Kocak is a writer on Amazon’s Critics’ Choice-nominated animated series Danger & Eggs. Her other bylines include the LA Times, Bustle, xoJane, LadyGunn, Nerve, and many others. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @courtneykocak.

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