The Unhealthiest Thing You Can Order At McDonald's Might Surprise You

"I need to eat healthy, let's go to McD's," says no one ever. And while we know McDonald's is working hard to turn the nutritional profile of its offer around by adding more healthy food choices (via Shape), it's probably safe to assume that the chain will keep serving up things that we should be considering as treats, and not make part of our daily diet – at least for the foreseeable future.

Because most of its offers sit within the domain of nutritionally questionable foods, we'd have thought that dietary experts would have a problem identifying which Mcdonald's entree we should most avoid ordering on a regular basis. But it seems that at least for registered Dietitian Brenda Braslow, the in-house RD for nutrition app, MyNetDiary, McDonald's worst nutrition offender is easy to spot. She tells Mashed that she would pick the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes "as the most unhealthy because of the extremely high total fat, saturated fat and sodium content."

Breaking down the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes

The Big Breakfast with Hotcakes can't be faulted for false advertising. It comes with hash browns, scrambled eggs, a biscuit, a sausage patty, and, of course, Hot Cakes with butter and syrup. Braslow breaks the menu item down for Mashed, and it doesn't look pretty. "The Big Breakfast with Hotcakes meal has 1340 calories, 63 grams total fat, 25 grams saturated fat, and 2070 mg sodium," she says, adding that "1340 calories might be the entire daily calorie budget for someone desiring weight loss." And after that meal? "Sorry, you can't eat the rest of the day," she responds.

Braslow explains that "keeping daily fat at 30 percent of daily calories and saturated fat at less than 10 percent of daily calories is a common recommendation from national health organizations for disease prevention." For a person eating 1800 calories a day, the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes contains over a day's worth of fat, packing 105 percent of the 60-gram "total fat budget" and 125 percent of the 20-gram saturated fat budget. It's also saturated with sodium. Based on U.S. dietary guidelines, adults should keep their sodium consumption under 2300 mg a day, and "this breakfast provides 90 percent of your daily sodium budget," Braslow says.

And we know sodium isn't to be trifled with. The American Heart Association says taking in too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure which, in turn, raises your risk of heart disease.

There are ways to make the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes healthier

But if you're a fan of the Big Breakfast with Hotcakes and don't want to give it a hard pass, Braslow has good news for Mashed readers. As with many items on the McDonald's menu, there are ways to mitigate the entree's potentially negative effects, and that includes picking what to eat and what to leave on your plate. The dietitian says, "You could remove the biscuit, hash browns, and sausage patty. You still have hotcakes, butter, syrup, and scrambled eggs. Now your total is 730 calories, 24 grams total fat, 10 grams saturated fat, and 660 mg sodium. These are more reasonable numbers for a fast-food breakfast." 

There is a plan B that doesn't involve tossing out half the food on the plate. "Perhaps you could get this breakfast to feed two to three people," Braslow says. "You could divvy up the individual items and add some fresh fruit and yogurt to balance it out and health it up."