Here's How McDonald's Makes Vegetables Unhealthy

We'd all love access to quick, easy, cheap, delicious, healthy food all the time. That's why the brightly-colored salads at fast food restaurants look so utterly appealing; they're conveniently located everywhere, and quick to order and consume. Fast food salads are also cheap, and look pretty healthy. But are they any of those things?

Fast food restaurants want you to eat as much and as often as possible. In fact, everything from the music, to the smells, to the color of the signs has been chosen to encourage you to eat. In fact, including healthier options on the menu is part of their strategy. According to MarketWatch, McDonald's uses something called the "health halo" by displaying a photo of a salad or bottled water on their menu. Studies show just this small addition makes customers perceive the entire menu to be healthier. But, even if you do resist the urge to order a Big Mac, and go for the apple slices or the salad, it might not make a difference.

If they look too good to be true, it's because they are

In order to make "healthy" salads tastier, fast food restaurants like McDonald's pair the healthy ingredients with fried chicken, breading, and croutons, not to mention the salt, fat, and sugar in the form seasonings and dressings. With all of that stuff wrapped up in your healthy salad, you've basically just eaten a fast food meal, and added a ton of calories in the process. For instance, one McDonald's Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken is 640 calories; that's more than a Quarter Pounder with Cheese (via Calorie King).

With that in mind, it won't come as a surprise that regularly eating "healthily" at McDonalds is a bad idea according to Kevin Reilly, a video producer at Business Insider, who tried eating just the "healthy options" at fast food restaurants for a week, and at the end reported feeling worse than he had to begin with. "It was weird. I didn't feel healthy at all throughout the week, even though I was eating 'healthy' foods and losing weight." He blamed some of this reaction on the incredibly high salt content of the "healthy" foods. High salt diets can result in high blood pressure, cardiac disease, and increased risk of stroke (via NIH).

What is the healthiest thing to order at McDonald's?

So, if a salad can be worse than a burger, what should you order at McDonald's? There are actually a few decent options, and they're not all wraps or salads. If you're going to get a burger no matter what, try a kid's meal and a side salad. This will keep the portion size under control while still satisfying that burger craving. When it comes to salads, the Southwest Salad with grilled chicken is a pretty good choice. It will set you back 350 calories, but contains enough protein and fiber to keep you going for a while (via Business Insider). 

In the end, while it is possible to find a healthier meal at McDonald's than a Big Mac, don't assume the veggie options are going to be healthier. And of course, eating McDonalds every day is not a good choice, not matter what you order, as this habit could wreak havoc on you gut biome, result in nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, and decreased energy.