Safe Fast Food: Dye-Free Dining at McDonald’s

One of the first things I did upon going dye-free was scour fast food restaurant ingredient lists online.  We probably eat out with the kids once a week; usually as a treat for being cooperative at the store on grocery day.  Even if you don’t do fast food regularly, it’s always helpful to know what you could safely consume if you had to eat there.

This is the first in a series of posts I’m going to do on all the major fast food restaurants.  I figured McDonald’s was the best place to start, because it’s EVERYWHERE.

I want to preface this post by saying that we do not eat at McDonald’s any more.  Ever.  Almost all of their meats and fried foods contain BHA or are prepared in oils with TBHQ – both are horrible preservatives (this is why their food doesn’t decompose).  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I won’t even get into dough conditioners or all the other nasty preservatives they use.  Of all the fast food places I’ve looked at, they are by far the worst.

All this said, if we were stuck in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no other food options, here is a list of all the dye-free things we could potentially eat at McDonald’s.

Our Top 5 Picks:

1. Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait.

2. Side Salad with one of these Newman’s Own dressings: Creamy Southwest, Balsamic Vinaigrette, or Ranch.

3. Fruit Smoothie: Blueberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Banana, or Mango Pineapple.

4. Coffee: regular ol’ hot coffee, a plain iced coffee, or a plain latte.

5. Hotcakes with strawberry preserves, grape jam, or honey.

Pretty underwhelming, right?  Well, there’s not much to choose from if you’re avoiding everything with bad preservatives.  Honestly, if it was me, I’d grab an iced coffee and tide the kids over with a parfait or a smoothie and book it to the next gas station for some healthier food.

Here’s the full list of dye-free foods (* contains BHT or TBHQ):

  • Quarter Pounder Bacon Habanero Ranch*
  • Hamburger*
  • Grilled Onion Cheddar*
  • Premium Chicken Classic Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium Chicken Club Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • McChicken*
  • Buffalo Ranch McChicken*
  • Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken*
  • Bacon Cheddar McChicken*
  • Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich*
  • Bacon Clubhouse Chicken Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  •  Premium Chicken Classic Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium Chicken Club Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium McWrap Chicken Sweet Chili (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips*
  • Chicken McNuggets*
  • Spicy Chicken McBites*
  • Mighty Wings*
Breakfast Foods:
  • Sausage Biscuit*
  • Sausage Biscuit with Egg*
  • Sausage Biscuit with Egg Whites*
  • Sausage McMuffin with Egg Whites*
  • Southern Style Chicken Biscuit*
  • Big Breakfast*
  • Big Breakfast with Hotcakes (no syrup)*
  • Big Breakfast with Egg Whites*
  • Big Breakfast with Hotcakes and Egg Whites (no syrup)*
  • Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel with Egg Whites
  • Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit with Egg Whites
  • Hotcakes (no syrup)
  • Hotcakes and Sausage (no syrup)*
  • Cinnamon melts
  • Hash Brown*
Snacks, SIDes, and Condiments:
  • Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait
  • French Fries*
  • Apple Slices
  • Side Salad
  • Newman’s Own Creamy Southwest Dressing
  • Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Honey
  • Grape Jam
  • Strawberry Preserves
  • Whipped Margarine
Drinks and Desserts:
  • Milk
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Apple Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Dasani Water
  • Sprite
  • Iced Tea
  • Sweet Tea
  • Coffee
  • Iced Coffee (regular, no syrups)
  • Latte (regular, no syrups)
  • Non-Fat Latte (regular, no syrups)
  • Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie
  • Strawberry Banana Smoothie
  • Mango Pineapple Smoothie
  • Vanilla Ice Cream (in a cup, not a cone)
  • McFlurry with OREO Cookies
  • McFlurry with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

If it’s not in that list, it has artificial colors.  I went through every line of their 34 page ingredient listing thoroughly.  If you’d like to check it out the specifics for yourself, here’s the McDonald’s Ingredient List PDF.

As a kid I hated condiments.  I quickly learned that at fast food places you can usually omit ONE thing and they’ll still get your order right most of the time.  With that in mind, here’s a list of all the items you could make dye-free by leaving off one thing (and in parenthesis what that thing is):

  • Quarter Pounder with Cheese (no cheese)*
  • Quarter Pounder Bacon & Cheese (no cheese)*
  • Quarter Pounder Deluxe (no cheese)*
  • Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (no cheese)*
  • Double Cheeseburger, aka McDouble (no cheese)*
  • Bacon McDouble (no cheese)*
  • Daily Double (no cheese)*
  • BBQ Ranch Burger (no BBQ Ranch Sauce)*
  • Bacon Clubhouse Chicken Sandwich – Crispy or Grilled (no Big Mac Sauce)*
  • Fillet-O-Fish (no cheese)*
  • McRib (no McRib sauce)*
  • Premium McWrap Southwest Chicken – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Premium McWrap Chicken and Bacon – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Premium McWrap Chicken & Ranch – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Ranch Snack Wrap – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Chicken – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Premium Southwest Salad with Chicken – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
Breakfast Foods:
  • Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit (no cheese)
  • Steak & Egg Biscuit (no cheese)
  • Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Bagel (no cheese)
  • Steak, Egg, & Cheese Bagel (no cheese)
  • Sausage Burrito (no cheese)*
  • Caramel Frappe (no caramel drizzle)


This burger was cooked in TBHQ.  That's why it doesn't decompose.

Burgers cooked in TBHQ laced oils don’t decompose normally.

Everything with an asterisk (*) in the lists contains BHT or TBHQ.  If you scroll back through the list you’ll notice that the majority of foods listed have an asterisk.  TBHQ has been linked to ADHD, asthma, dermatitis, rhinitis, DNA damage, cancer, and messing with women’s estrogen levels.  BHT is shown to have negative effects on the liver and is linked to many of the same issues as TBHQ: cancer, allergies, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and biochemical or cellular level changes. For more on why avoiding these preservatives is important, check out these articles:

BHT: The Harmful Food Additive in Your Everyday Diet

TBHQ: Why This Preservative Should Be Avoided


I’m working on putting together PDFs for each of the fast food restaurants with lists of all their dye-free foods.  Then you’ll be able to print them out, make a little book, and keep it in your car or purse as a reference when you’re eating out.  Should be awesome if I can motivate myself to finish it off at night when the kids go to bed!  Easier said than done.  😉

But soon it will exist!  And when it does, it’ll be so special it’ll have its own post.  So keep following for updates!


  1. Pingback: Safe Fast Food: Dye-Free Dining at Arby’s | Becoming Hippies

  2. Pingback: Safe Fast Food: Dye-Free Dining at Papa Murphy’s Pizza | Becoming Hippies

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