Time and time again, it seems, when I have to pick a healthy(er) fast food meal, it boils down to a grilled chicken sandwich. It happened at Chick-fil-a. (Which is not a big surprise given the fact that’s what they do and all.) It happened at Wendy’s. It even happened by accident at Burger King.
So as I stared at the McDonald’s menu, it should have not been a surprise when it came down to one of the new McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwiches. Sure, there were some other possibilities — like a plain hamburger at 250 calories or a cheeseburger at 300 — but those are some tiny ass sandwiches. And I’m a hungry man that needs to eat, damnit.
A chicken sandwich it is, then. But which one?
The arches has three chicken sandwiches in their premium line: the classic (with mayo, lettuce and tomato), the club (with bacon and cheese — I think) and the ranch BLT (with, um, ranch). Each one of those comes in a “crispy” (meaning fried, but fried is clearly a dirty word these days) and a grilled variety. With those options on the table, the choice was pretty clear: the grilled classic. Yet, as I’ve said before, a sandwich does not a meal make. We need some sides here, people. Thankfully, McDonald’s has some nice options there.
To go along with our sandwich, we’ll be having a Caesar salad (without the “crispy” or the grilled chicken it comes with) with Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette and a side of apple “dippers” with caramel dippin’ sauce. That was the plan, anyway. But with fast food and my sh*tty luck, there always seems to be some level of adventure involved.
I went to the McDonald’s closest to my gym (for those in Tuscaloosa, this would be the Taylorville McD’s), but seein’ as how it was after 11, they were down to drive-through only. And that’s never good when it comes to serve. Anyway, so I go through and get the order placed without any trouble — I thankfully didn’t run into any of the “we’re out of this and this and this” problem that’s plagued me before. I get my food, and I’m almost ready to drive off when I think, “Hey, I better take a look at this.” Of course, I do and notice that (1) I have the wrong dressing and (2) I’m sans apple “dippers.” That takes another trip ’round the drive-through, five minutes of idling and burning precious $17-a-gallon gas, but I got the problem fixed.
It was then on to the spacious Nevin estate to eat my bounty. It started off strong with a Caesar salad that (while it doesn’t meet the traditional definition of Caesar with its two or three cherry tomatoes and a few carrot shavings) was pretty good — definitely better than the BK and Chick-fil-a side salads. And the dressing…well, it’s a shame Paul Newman’s not around anymore or I would congratulate him on coming up with some tasty stuff. For a light dressing (or even a full-flavored dressing, for that matter), it was tremendous.
But that’s where the meal started to go downhill. The sandwich, topped with an unruly mess of shredded lettuce, was a disappointment from the start. Aside from being a near-pointless topping, the lettuce was soggy. The meat itself was drier than sun-baked brown grass. Overall, it was probably my least favorite fast-food chicken sammich. (For the record, it goes Wendy’s, Burger King, Chick-fil-a and then McDonald’s.) The apple “dippers” also turned out pretty lame in that it consisted of seven (yes, 7) apple slices. Weak portion there, McDonald’s. The caramel dipping sauce, however, was a pretty nice treat — sweet and thick. And for 70 calories, it was a sin you can live with.
Now, however, we come to the portion of the program where we look at the sins that are very difficult to live with. Yep — here are a few of the out of control meals you can get at McDonald’s. (All nutritional stats courtesy of McDonald’s website.)
Double Quarter Pounder with cheese (740 calories)
Large Fries (500 calories)
Large Coke (310 calories)
TOTAL: 1,550 calories.
Whew. That’s a helluva meal. But it gets worse.
Chicken McNuggets (20 piece, 940 calories)
Barbeque sauce (2 packages, 100 calories)
Large Fries (500 calories)
M&M McFlurry (710 calories)
TOTAL: 2,250 calories.
See, I told you it could get worse. (It can always get worse. Just think — add a large Coke to that, and we go above 2,500 calories. Which is 500 more calories than the average person needs in a day.)
OK, ok — let’s dial it back. Let’s not go for the very worst thing imaginable. What about an average meal?
Cheeseburger (300 calories)
Medium Fries (380 calories)
Diet Coke (0 calories)
TOTAL: 680 calories.
Not too bad, huh? Just keep this in mind — those cheeseburgers are tiny (not much bigger than a slider, in my opinion) and, together with the fries, they squirrel away a lot of fat. So for 600 calories, a sandwich, salad and apple “dippers” aren’t a bad value for your hard-earned calories.
So…the executive summary: The sandwich, at least as it was prepared in the Taylorville McDonald’s, was disappointing. The salad — with its surprisingly good dressing — made up for it somewhat, but think about ordering a few of the apple slices and skipping the caramel dip if you want to end your meal on a full note.