The 12 Worst McDonald’s Items You Should Never Order

From a famous shake to massive breakfasts, here are the McDonald’s items that simply aren’t worth your money.
Last updated Oct. 6, 2022 | By Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore | Edited By Chris Kissell
McDonald's burger box on top of counter

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McDonald’s is one of the most popular fast-food joints in the world for a reason: People love the food, and many welcome the opportunity to grab a quick, convenient, and filling meal at a price that keeps your bank account in great shape.

However, while the burger spot may be a great dinner option for those on a budget, there are plenty of items on the menu that both frequent consumers and McDonald’s employees advise against buying.

We’ve gathered 12 items that McDonald’s enthusiasts say are not worth the money — either because of poor value or shockingly high calorie counts.

Ice cream

wachiwit/Adobe man holding McDonald's vanilla cone

McDonald’s employees, current and former, have taken to the internet to discuss ice cream machines in the past — most prominently lamenting how often they’re not working.

However, one Reddit user who said they worked at McDonald’s warned that sometimes, the machines are not being used because they need to be shut down for mold removal.

Sure, a cheap soft-serve cone really hits the spot every now and then, but you may want to just head to an ice cream shop instead.

Fountain soda

gargantiopa/Adobe Person handing Mcdonald's cup through drive thru window

Adding a fountain soda to your order at McDonald’s may be bad for both your wallet and your waistline.

It’s common knowledge that fast-food restaurants mark up the prices of fountain drinks like crazy. The price may seem more enticing if you get a drink that’s part of a meal with a sandwich and fries, but consider the overall cost and calories of these drinks.

A 16-ounce cup of Coke, for example, is going to add more than 200 calories to an already calorie-dense McDonald’s meal.

Shamrock Shake

Courtesy of Mcdonald's Shamrock shake

A Shamrock Shake might look like a fun and festive way to mark the weeks around St. Patrick’s Day every March, but those funky green shakes come with a few drawbacks.

One 16-ounce cup of the festive green shake contains 550 calories, 13 grams of fat, and a whopping 82 grams of sugar. That’s more than double the amount of sugar the American Heart Association recommends people consume every day.

Large fries

Oleksandr/Adobe french fries McDonald's in a paper box

McDonald’s fries are known and loved all over the world, and some consumers would even peg them as the best fast-food fries you can get. However, if you opt for the large fry, you’re adding 480 calories to your meal.

For comparison, a small fry adds only 230 calories to the meal and a medium fry adds 320.

McCafe Frappe

sutteerug/Adobe mocha frappe in plastic cup

A McCafe Frappe may be a sweet, caffeinated, and satisfying treat, but it's also high in calories and fat. Even a small McCafe Caramel Frappe contains a whopping 430 calories and 18 grams of fat.

If you need a caffeine boost with your McDonald’s order, the health-conscious choice is to go with a regular old cup of coffee and hold the sugar. Your wallet will also thank you.

Big Breakfast with Hotcakes

Courtesy of McDonald's Mc Donald's Big Breakfast plate

McDonald’s Big Breakfast with Hotcakes may seem like a bargain deal since it comes with a sausage patty, scrambled eggs, hash browns, a biscuit, and a pile of three buttery hotcakes. 

However, it’s only really a bargain if you’re aiming to consume nearly all of your caloric intake for the day in one meal.

This meal contains a whopping 1,340 calories and 63 grams of fat and is probably not the best way to kick off the day.

Hotcakes & Sausage

Courtesy of McDonald's

The Hotcakes & Sausage meal may seem like a better choice since it comes in at several hundred calories less than the Big Breakfast. But it still packs a lot of calories and fat into a meal first thing in the morning.

The Hotcakes & Sausage meal is 770 calories and 33 grams of fat. An order of hotcakes alone, which includes three pancakes, is 580 calories and 15 grams of fat.

Sweet tea

Courtesy of McDonald's Cup of sweet tea from McDonald's

Sweet tea is another McDonald’s drink to avoid, at least according to one former employee. In addition to the drink markup customers face, a former employee explained that pounds and pounds of sugar are poured into the drink to give it a sweet flavor.

For every four gallons of the drink, a four-pound bag of sugar is dumped in, the worker said in a viral TikTok video. That may be just a few too many spoonfuls of sugar.

Water bottle

seanlockephotography/Adobe Woman pouring a glass of water Dasani bottle

A water bottle is another item that McDonald's marks up to the extreme. On GrubHub, a bottle of Dasani is listed as nearly $3 at McDonald’s. You can nab a 24-pack of the same water bottles at your local grocery store for just a few dollars more.

If you are dining in at McDonald’s and would like to drink water with your food, you can ask for a cup free of charge.

Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich

walterericsy/Adobe Mcdonalds Mcchicken burger in Manila

According to GrubHub, the price of the Deluxe Crispy Chicken Sandwich is $7.54. But the difference between the deluxe and the regular Crispy Chicken Sandwich is that the deluxe adds lettuce, tomato, and a scoop of mayo. Yet, the deluxe is more than a dollar more.

By comparison, a McChicken, which contains a chicken patty (instead of a filet) and also comes with lettuce and mayo, is only $3.39.

Pro tip: A great way to save more money at McDonald’s is to use one of the best cashback credit cards to pay for your purchase.

Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddle

Courtesy of McDonald's McDonald's breakfast sandwich bacon egg cheese Mcgriddle

It’s not surprising that a breakfast sandwich slapped in between two pancake buns wouldn’t be the most nutritious way to start your morning. The Sausage, Egg & Cheese McGriddle is particularly rough, with 550 calories and 33 grams of fat.

The Bacon, Egg & Cheese McGriddle is a bit better, at 430 calories and 21 grams of fat. But that is still a whole lot of calories to be consuming in a biscuit-sized sandwich in the morning.

Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese

fiermanmuch/Adobe One double cheeseburger and one cheeseburger

A Quarter Pounder with cheese is already a pretty dense sandwich. The burger — which is topped with pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard — is 520 calories and 26 grams of fat. But when you double the meat, it jumps to 740 calories and 42 grams of fat.

Bottom line

rzoze19/Adobe McDonald's service the Drive Thru due to coronavirus

One of the reasons McDonald’s is so popular is because it has many great deals — like the $1 $2 $3 Dollar Menu and various promotions throughout the year — that can help reduce financial stress by saving you a lot of money.

But some items, particularly the pricier or high-calorie ones, don’t offer the best value. If you’re a fan of the burger joint, it may be worth it to download the McDonald’s app and keep track of deals in your area. 

And try to choose wisely, so you aren’t ordering menu items that are unhealthy.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.