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Are Mcdonald’s fries good for diabetics?

McDonald’s french fries are a staple menu item at the popular fast food chain. However, for people with diabetes, enjoying this tasty treat may seem off limits. So are McDonald’s fries actually a good option for diabetics? Let’s take a closer look.

Nutritional breakdown of McDonald’s fries

First, we need to examine the nutritional content of McDonald’s french fries to see how they may impact blood sugar levels.

Here is the basic nutritional information for a medium order of McDonald’s fries (As per the McDonald’s USA Nutrition Facts) [1]:

Nutrition Facts Amount
Calories 380
Total Fat 19 g
Saturated Fat 3 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 270 mg
Total Carbohydrates 44 g
Dietary Fiber 4 g
Sugar 0 g
Protein 5 g

The most notable aspects for diabetics are the total carbohydrates and sugar content. A medium serving of McDonald’s fries contains 44 grams of total carbs, 4 grams of fiber, and 0 grams of sugar. This means there are 40 grams of net digestible carbs.

Effect on blood sugar

When considering how a food affects blood sugar, it’s important to look at the glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods by how quickly and how much they raise blood sugar levels after being eaten [2].

Foods are compared to glucose, which has a glycemic index of 100. The higher a food’s GI number, the more rapidly it is digested and raises blood sugars.

McDonald’s fries have a high glycemic index of 75 [3]. For comparison, table sugar has a GI of 65 and white bread has a GI of 70. This means the carbohydrates in McDonald’s fries are digested and absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream, leading to faster and higher spikes in blood glucose.

Additionally, the total glycemic load (GL) of a medium serving of McDonald’s fries is 33. Glycemic load accounts for the amount of carbohydrates in a serving, so it represents the overall blood sugar impact [4].

A glycemic load of 10 or under is considered low, 11-19 is medium, and 20 or more is high. With a GL of 33, McDonald’s fries fall into the high glycemic load category.

Portion size considerations

When considering the blood sugar impact of McDonald’s fries, portion size is also very important. The nutrition information provided earlier is for a standard medium-size order.

However, McDonald’s fry sizes include [5]:

  • Small: 230 calories, 29 g net carbs
  • Medium: 380 calories, 40 g net carbs
  • Large: 510 calories, 54 g net carbs

As you can see, the carbohydrate content increases significantly with larger portions. Consuming a large versus a small serving of fries equates to 25 extra grams of digestible carbs.

For diabetics who want to enjoy McDonald’s fries occasionally, sticking to a small portion is recommended to better control carb intake and blood sugar spikes.

Fries versus potato

When eaten plain, potatoes generally have a medium to high glycemic index in the 56-101 range depending on the type and preparation method [6].

However, French fries tend to have a higher GI than potatoes because:

  • They are sliced thin, which gives them a larger surface area for faster digestion.
  • They are fried in oil, which can also increase the GI slightly.
  • They often contain extra ingredients like salt, seasonings, and preservatives that may impact digestion speed.

So McDonald’s fries, with their high GI of 75, will cause faster and higher blood sugar spikes compared to plain baked or roasted potatoes.

Role in a diabetic diet

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) provides general guidance on including foods like French fries in a diabetic diet [7]:

  • It’s best to emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, lean protein, healthy fats.
  • Focus on getting adequate fiber with a goal of 25-50 grams per day.
  • Limit added sugars, refined grains, and sodium.
  • Occasional treats like French fries can be worked into the meal plan in moderation by balancing them out with healthier foods.

Following a consistent meal schedule and appropriately dosing insulin around food intake is also important.

Overall, enjoying McDonald’s fries occasionally is not necessarily off-limits for diabetics. But portion control is key, and they are best eaten in moderation as part of an overall balanced diabetic diet.

Tips for ordering

Here are some tips for diabetics to keep in mind when ordering McDonald’s fries:

  • Opt for a small fry instead of medium or large.
  • Request fresh fries with no added salt.
  • Enjoy as part of a balanced meal with protein and vegetables.
  • Verify nutrition info and carb counts when ordering.
  • Bolus insulin to cover the carbohydrates consumed.
  • Check blood sugar before and after to see the impact.

Healthier side options

For diabetics looking for lower carb alternatives, McDonald’s does offer some healthier side options:

  • Fruit & Yogurt Parfait – 150 calories, 26g carbs
  • Side Salad – 15 calories, 2g net carbs
  • Apple Slices – 15 calories, 11g carbs

While these sides are not extremely low in carbs, they provide additional vitamins, minerals, and fiber with fewer carbs and calories compared to fries.

Other considerations

Here are some other quick points for diabetics to consider regarding McDonald’s fries:

  • Fried foods may increase inflammation levels.
  • French fries provide little nutritional value.
  • Pairing fries with burgers, nuggets, etc. further increases carbs.
  • Consuming right before or after exercising can help mediate blood sugar spikes.


Overall, enjoying McDonald’s French fries occasionally can be part of a healthy diabetic diet when consumed in moderation. Sticking to small portion sizes, limiting frequency, and pairing with protein and veggies can allow diabetics to satisfy cravings while managing their blood sugar.

Completely avoiding favorite foods like fries is not necessarily required. With proper portion control, insulin adjustments, and smart pairing, diabetics can work treats like Mcdonald’s fries into their meal plan.