Health Expert's Take On McDonald's Cheeseburgers May Surprise You

Maybe the aroma is tied to childhood nostalgia, or maybe it was a pregnancy craving, or maybe there just happens to be a McDonald's conveniently located along your daily commute, but whatever the reason, sometimes you just really, really have a hankering for a fast-food burger.

Of course, we've been warned for years about the dangers of fast food. Too much of it will destroy your diet, raise your cholesterol, and, to top it off, go straight to your hips. But maybe our love-hate relationship with fast food burgers, at least, can calm down a little. There are better and worse-for-you options among them. And it turns out, that the humble McDonald's cheeseburger is definitely on the "better" list.

Fast food is usually vilified because it tends to be high in calories, saturated fats, refined sugars, and sodium, while being low in nutrients. And by "high," we mean really unhealthily high. Dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix,  author of Read It Before You Eat It, notes "The sodium in some of these menu items is crazy" (Women's Health Magazine).

A McDonald's cheeseburger can be a part of a healthy diet

And the bigger the burger, the worse it is for you. That's where a simple cheeseburger can offer some nutrition and satisfy your fast-food craving, without derailing your diet or ruining your health. Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook, says, "If you are craving a burger, the basic cheeseburger is the way to go! With 15 grams of protein and only 300 calories, this burger can satisfy your craving without killing your calorie budget for the day" (via Eat This, Not That!)

Compare that with the nutritional stats of some of the bigger burgers. A Big Mac has 550 calories, while a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Bacon has 630. These are still a little less than Burger King's Whopper, which packs 660 calories, or it's Bacon King Burger, which contains a heart-stopping 1,313 calories (via Eat This, Not That!). And don't even think of ordering any burger with the word "triple" in it. Remember, these are all calorie counts for the burgers alone – fries and a drink, not included. Let that sink in.

This is where enjoying a simple, single cheeseburger starts to look downright virtuous. If you're craving one, go for it! Just don't supersize it.