Eating gluten free at McDonald's is easier than at many other fast food restaurants. Product ingredients and nutritional information are easily accessible, and production methods are standardized. This makes McDonald's one of the safer options, if you find yourself in need of a quick meal when you are out of your known element. Having gluten-free options in mind before you go out to eat will make your experience stress-free and enjoyable.
Know the Ingredients
At one time, McDonald's published a list of gluten free menu options that allowed consumers to conveniently assess which menu items were suitable for their particular dietary needs. Unfortunately, because preparation methods and ingredients are often subject to change, the company found this to be an impractical solution.
The franchise now posts a list of menu ingredients on the corporate website, with potential allergens listed in bold capitals at the end of each ingredient list. If, for example, you are contemplating ordering chicken breast strips, you can survey the list of ingredients to see that it does, indeed, contain wheat. This method may be more time-consuming for customers than a simple list of gluten free foods, but is more likely to be accurate and up-to-date and will better allow you to make informed choices.
Eating Gluten Free at McDonalds
There are a number of menu options available to eat gluten free at McDonald's. When ordering, do not be shy about stating your concerns. Staff are trained to accommodate dietary needs and answer questions about food preparation and ingredients.
There are numerous options available for breakfast at McDonald's, provided they are ordered a la carte and not in conjunction with other ingredients. These include the following:
- Scrambled eggs: Order the eggs separately and not as part of a sausage and egg blend. The scrambled eggs are made from whole eggs with preservatives.
- Bacon: The pork bacon is cured with natural smoke flavor and preservatives.
- Breakfast steak: The breakfast steak is made from beef, salt and some preservatives.
- Sausage patty: The sausage patty is made with pork, water and a gluten-free seasoning blend.
McDonald's salads are a great choice for those looking to go gluten-free. All salads start with a vegetable salad blend that is free of wheat and gluten.
- Premium Southwest Salad: Order this salad without the tortilla strips, and set aside the dressing, which contains maltodexterin and modified food starch.
- Premium Bacon Ranch Salad: The ranch dressing on this salad is gluten-free; order it without chicken or croutons.
- Premium Caesar Salad: Skip both the Caesar dressing and the croutons.
- Side Salad: The plain side salad made with the salad blend of vegetables is completely gluten-free.
Order salads without croutons or chicken; the Newman's Own® Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette is a gluten-free choice for dressing.
Snacks and Desserts
There are also numerous desserts at McDonald's that do not contain gluten:
- Apples with Caramel dip: The sliced apples and accompanying caramel dip are gluten-free.
- Sundaes: The ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream on a standard sundae are all fine to eat. Avoid additional toppings like M&M's or Oreo cookie crumbs.
- McFlurries: Most McFlurries are fine to eat; avoid any containing Oreo or other cookie crumbs, as well as M&M's and other candies.
- Triple Thick Shakes: All flavors of McDonald's shakes are gluten-free.
- Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream: The vanilla ice cream, served in a cup, is a great treat as it is highly unlikely to become contaminated with gluten through contact with other foods.
- Smoothies: All flavors of McDonald's smoothies, including the yogurt that is blended with them, are gluten-free.
Nearly all beverages at McDonald's are gluten-free, including the following:
- Specialty coffee drinks
The McDonald's French Fry Controversy
At one time, McDonald's listed their French fries and hash browns as gluten free. This changed in February 2006, when the company disclosed that a flavoring agent used in the deep frying oil contained both milk and wheat ingredients. Since that time, McDonald's lists their French Fries as containing wheat ingredients on their website.
Approach with Caution
Gluten intolerance does not need to spell the end of your social life or leave you starving when you are on the go. With a cautious approach and careful questioning, there is no reason you cannot enjoy an occasional trip to McDonald's for an easy lunch or a casual dinner out with your wheat-eating friends and family. Just make sure that you are well versed on how to approach eating out gluten-free.