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Is McAlister's Deli Bad For You?



Short answer

Dining at McAlister's Deli can be tailored to your health and nutritional goals. While many menu items are high in calories, sodium, and sugars—such as the full-sized McAlister's Club sandwich (810 calories), Spud Max (980 calories), or sweet tea (44g sugars)—smart choices and strategies can reduce intake. Opt for 'choose two' portions, unsweetened beverages, dressing on the side, and be aware of healthier, lower sodium, and gluten-free options. Moderation is key in balancing treats and overall diet.



Long answer

Caloric Content in Popular McAlister's Deli Menu Items

When considering the health impact of dining at McAlister's Deli, it's important to be aware of the caloric content of their popular menu items. Calories are a measure of energy and essential for maintaining bodily functions, but consuming more than your body requires can lead to weight gain. Here, we'll dive into the calorie counts of some of the most popular dishes offered by McAlister's Deli, helping you make informed choices that align with your nutritional needs and goals.

Firstly, let's break down the calorie content of some standout items:

  • The McAlister's Club: This signature sandwich, when served in full size, packs a substantial 810 calories. It's layered with turkey, ham, bacon, cheddar, Swiss, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and honey mustard on sliced wheat bread.
  • French Dip Sandwich: With 610 calories, this hearty sandwich filled with roast beef and Swiss on a baguette, served with au jus for dipping, is another calorie-dense option.
  • Spud Max: This loaded baked potato, topped with ham, turkey, bacon, cheddar-jack, green onions, black olives, and sour cream is a hefty item at approximately 980 calories.
  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad: A seemingly lighter option, but with dressing, it can reach up to 600 calories, prompting careful consideration for those watching caloric intake.
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup: A bowl of this creamy soup contains around 340 calories. While it’s a lower calorie option, it's often part of a combo, which can drive total calorie counts higher.
  • Mac & Cheese: A classic favorite at McAlister's, the Mac & Cheese contains about 510 calories per serving.

Now, it's key to note that these values represent individual menu items, and many patrons choose to combine them in meals with chips, drinks, or additional sides, all of which contribute to the overall caloric intake. Moreover, portion size, with the choice between "choose two" portions and full-sized dishes, will affect these numbers.

To maintain a balanced diet, it's recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that average adult women and men should consume roughly 1,600 to 2,400 and 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day, respectively, depending on age, height, weight, and level of physical activity. Bearing this in mind can help determine how a meal at McAlister's Deli can fit into your daily caloric needs.

For those managing calorie intake, consider these tips while ordering:

  • Opt for "choose two" portions to reduce the overall calorie count of your meal.
  • Look for lighter options, such as the Harvest Chicken Salad or Ahi Tuna Salad, which offer more balanced calorie counts.
  • Skip or choose smaller servings of high-calorie sides like mac & cheese or potato salad.
  • Choose water or unsweetened iced tea over high-calorie beverages such as sweet tea or sodas.
  • Ask for dressings and sauces on the side to control the amount you consume.

Incorporating these strategies and being attentive to the calorie content will help you enjoy McAlister's Deli without overindulging. Always take into account your individual nutritional requirements and consult with a healthcare provider or dietitian if you have specific dietary goals or health concerns.

Sodium Levels in McAlister's Deli Choices

When considering the healthfulness of dining options at McAlister's Deli, one critical nutritional factor to evaluate is the sodium content. Sodium is an essential mineral for body functions, including nerve transmission and muscle function. However, consuming too much sodium is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams a day, moving toward an ideal limit of 1,500 mg per day for most adults.

McAlister's Deli, like many other restaurant chains, can present a challenge for those monitoring their sodium intake. Here we provide a snapshot of typical sodium levels in various McAlister's Deli menu items and offer considerations for those aiming to maintain a lower sodium diet:

  • Sandwiches: Many of McAlister's sandwich offerings, particularly those with processed meats like ham and turkey, come with substantial sodium. A classic Turkey Club, for example, can have over 1,700 mg of sodium.
  • Soups: Soups are often culprits of hidden sodium. A bowl of Chicken Tortilla soup may contain upwards of 1,000 mg of sodium. In comparison, the cup serving size has a proportionally lower amount, so choosing smaller portions can reduce intake.
  • Salads: Salads can be deceiving as well. While vegetables and greens are low in sodium, additions like dressings, croutons, and cheeses can elevate the sodium content significantly. The Savannah Chopped Salad, for example, exceeds 1,300 mg of sodium primarily due to the presence of blue cheese and bacon.
  • Baked Potatoes: Baked potatoes themselves are naturally low in sodium. However, at McAlister's, the addition of toppings like bacon, cheese, and sauce can cause the overall sodium level to skyrocket. The Spud Max™, a popular choice, contains over 2,100 mg of sodium.
  • Extras: Even extra items like condiments and pickle spears add to the total sodium tally, with a pickle spear containing around 300 mg of sodium.

Fortunately, transparency in nutrition allows customers to make informed choices. McAlister's Deli provides nutritional information on their website and in their establishments, which can help patrons identify lower-sodium options. For individuals looking to lower their sodium intake, requesting sandwiches without added sauces or dressings, choosing salad dressings on the side, or customizing baked potato toppings can make a difference.

In conclusion, while many items are high in sodium, informed decisions and special requests can help manage and reduce sodium consumption when dining at McAlister's Deli. It's also worth noting a trend where restaurants are gradually introducing healthier options with reduced sodium levels, reflecting a growing consumer demand for healthier meals.

Remember, moderation is key, and understanding the context of a full day's dietary intake is crucial when considering a single meal's nutrition profile. Individuals with specific dietary needs or health concerns should consult with a dietitian to better understand how McAlister's Deli can fit into their dietary plan.

Dietary Diversification: Salad, Soups, and Sandwiches

When assessing the nutritional value of menu items at McAlister's Deli, it's critical to consider the diversity of their salad, soup, and sandwich offerings. These items can cater to various dietary needs, from low-calorie diets to high-protein regimens. Below, we delve into the potential health implications of these food categories.

Salads: Salads often conjure up images of a healthy meal, but not all salads are created equal. At McAlister's Deli, patrons can choose from a variety of salads, some of which are packed with fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and fiber-rich toppings. However, calorie-dense dressings and high-fat add-ons such as cheese, croutons, and bacon can transform a seemingly healthy salad into a high-calorie meal.

  • Choose salads with a base of dark, leafy greens like spinach or kale for a rich nutrient profile.
  • Opt for grilled chicken or turkey over fried options to keep the protein lean.
  • Ask for dressings on the side to control the amount you consume. Vinaigrettes are typically lower in calories than creamy dressings.
  • Add a rainbow of vegetables to maximize the variety of vitamins and minerals in your meal.

Soups: Soups can be a nutritious option, particularly if based around broths, vegetables, and lean meats. They can be hydrating and satisfying, especially for those seeking comfort food with fewer calories. Nonetheless, cream-based soups or those with high sodium content can pose health risks if consumed in excess. Regularly consuming high-sodium foods can lead to increased blood pressure and cardiovascular risk.

  • When selecting soups, look for broth-based varieties, which are often lower in calories and fat.
  • Minimize sodium intake by choosing soups labeled as "low-sodium" or "reduced-salt."
  • Incorporate bean or lentil soups to increase your intake of plant-based protein and fiber.

Sandwiches: Sandwiches are a cornerstone of McAlister's Deli's menu, providing an array of options for a satiating lunch or dinner. They can be nutrient-dense and balanced meals, depending on the ingredients selected. Whole grain breads contribute beneficial fibers and nutrients, while lean meats such as turkey and roast beef offer substantial protein. Nevertheless, high-fat condiments, processed meats, and excessive cheese portions can diminish the nutritional quality of a sandwich.

  • Select whole grain breads when possible to increase your dietary fiber intake, which assists with digestion and satiety.
  • Avoid processed meats like salami or bologna, which can be high in saturated fats and nitrates; opt instead for unprocessed protein sources.
  • Limit high-fat condiments like mayonnaise and choose mustard or avocado for healthy fats.
  • Focus on adding plenty of vegetables to your sandwich for extra nutrients and fiber.

Conclusively, while McAlister's Deli offers a spectrum of salads, soups, and sandwiches that can fit into a balanced diet, the key lies in making mindful choices. Opt for items rich in vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, and beware of calorie-dense dressings, high-sodium soups, and processed meat in sandwiches. It's also advisable to customize your order to better align with your specific nutritional goals and health needs.

Hidden Sugars in McAlister's Deli Beverages and Desserts

When dining at McAlister's Deli, many patrons enjoy complementing their meals with a refreshing beverage or a sweet treat for dessert. However, it's essential to be informed about the hidden sugars that can lurk in these items, potentially impacting your overall health and dietary goals.

Firstly, let's delve into the world of McAlister’s beverages. Signature sweet tea, lemonades, and specialty drinks may seem like harmless accompaniments to your sandwich or salad; however, they can be significant sources of added sugars. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily limit for added sugars is no more than 36 grams for men and 25 grams for women.

  • Sweet Tea: A typical 32 oz serving of McAlister's sweet tea contains approximately 44 grams of sugar. This means a single serving exceeds the recommended daily limit for both men and women.
  • Lemonade: McAlister's lemonade is another popular choice that contains a high amount of sugar. One regular sized serving holds about 50 grams of sugar, which is significantly higher than the daily recommendation.
  • Flavored Beverages: Seasonal or specialty beverages can often contain even more added sugars, with some drinks surpassing the 60-gram mark. It's recommended that these be consumed sparingly.

Now, turning our attention to desserts, the sugar content in these delectable items can be surprising. Whether it’s a cookie, a slice of cake, or a brownie, these sweets can contain more added sugar than one might expect. A single dessert item often contains enough sugar to reach or exceed the daily recommended limit.

Dessert Item Sugar Content
Chocolate Chip Cookie 30-40 grams
Carrot Cake 60 grams
Pecan Pie 35-45 grams
Brownie 50 grams

Considering these figures, it's important for health-conscious individuals to make informed choices. If you're watching your sugar intake, there are a few strategies you can apply:

  • Opt for unsweetened or "half-sweet" tea options, diluting the sweet version with unsweetened to cut down on sugar content.
  • Choose water or zero-calorie beverages to avoid added sugars altogether.
  • When selecting desserts, ask for smaller portions or share a piece with a friend.
  • Always inquire if sugar-free or lower sugar versions of your favorite desserts are available.
  • Ask for nutritional information before making your choice, and consider the impact on your total daily sugar intake.

Remember, enjoying a balanced diet means making space for treats in moderation. Being mindful of hidden sugars is crucial for maintaining good health and avoiding potential negative outcomes such as weight gain, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Always approach your food choices with awareness, and don't hesitate to ask for modifications that align with your dietary needs.

McAlister's Deli Allergens and Gluten-Free Options

When dining out, especially for those with food sensitivities or allergies, it's important to understand the potential allergens present in menu items. McAlister's Deli, like many restaurants, caters to a variety of dietary needs, however, cross-contact of allergens can be a concern.

Common Allergens at McAlister's Deli:

  • Wheat: Many of McAlister's sandwiches, breads, and baked goods contain wheat.
  • Dairy: Cheese, cream-based soups, and dressings are prevalent throughout the menu.
  • Eggs: Found in certain salad dressings and sandwich spreads.
  • Soy: Soybean oil and other soy products are commonly used in various items.
  • Nuts: While not as common, some salads and desserts may include nuts, posing a risk for those with nut allergies.
  • Fish and Shellfish: Certain soups or special menu items may contain these allergens.

Diners with severe allergies should always alert the staff and inquire about the measures taken to prevent cross-contact. A published allergen guide is available on the McAlister's Deli website, which can help customers identify menu items containing specific allergens.

Gluten-Free Alternatives:

For the gluten-sensitive or individuals with celiac disease, cross-contamination is a significant concern. McAlister's Deli provides the following gluten-free options:

Menu Category Gluten-Free Options
Salads Garden salads without croutons, certain dressings
Entrées Some potato and meat-based dishes without gravy or sauce
Sides Fruit cups, coleslaw, and some chip varieties
Beverages Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and most beverage options

Moreover, McAlister's Deli also offers a gluten-sensitive menu and suggests that their sandwiches can be made with gluten-free bread. However, it's crucial to note that these options are not prepared in a gluten-free environment. As such, the risk of cross-contamination can be high, and these offerings may not be suitable for those with celiac disease or significant gluten sensitivity.

It's imperative for individuals with dietary restrictions to communicate their needs and conduct due diligence. Consulting with healthcare professionals or a dietician, and reviewing the restaurant's allergen information before dining, can greatly reduce the risk of adverse reactions.

Evaluating Healthier Alternatives at McAlister's Deli

When dining out, making healthier choices can often be a challenge, especially at popular eateries like McAlister's Deli. However, with a thoughtful approach to menu selection, it's possible to enjoy a meal there without derailing your dietary goals. Here's a breakdown of some healthier alternatives you can consider at McAlister's Deli.

Choose Your Bread Wisely

  • Opt for Whole Grains: Whole grain bread options are a fantastic way to increase fiber intake and maintain stable blood sugar levels. If available, choose sandwiches made with whole grain bread or rolls.
  • Go Open-Faced or Wrap It Up: Cutting down on carbs can be as simple as removing the top slice of bread or choosing a lettuce wrap over a traditional sandwich.

Selection of Lean Proteins

  • Turkey and Chicken: These are excellent lean protein options that will help you stay full without the added saturated fats found in red meat or processed meats.
  • Vegetarian Options: Try the veggie sandwiches or salads for plant-based protein sources, such as black beans or chickpeas, which are also high in fiber and nutrients.

Load Up on Vegetables

  • Choose Veggie-Dense Salads: Start with a base of dark, leafy greens, and pile on the vegetables. Be cautious with dressings—opt for lighter vinaigrettes or ask for the dressing on the side to control portion size.
  • Customize Sandwiches: Request extra vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, or avocado for added nutrients and to enhance satiety.

Mind Your Dressing and Sauce Portions

  • Lighter Dressings: Always choose dressings described as "lite" or those that are clear, like a balsamic vinaigrette, and be sure to get them on the side to avoid excess calories.
  • Limit Heavy Sauces: Mayonnaise, ranch, and other creamy sauces can add significant calories and fat; ask for them to be left off or served on the side, and use sparingly.

Be Strategic with Side Choices

  • Opt for Healthier Sides: Instead of chips or coleslaw, consider the side salad, fruit cup, or steamed vegetables if available.

Stay Hydrated with Better Beverages

  • Skip Sugary Drinks: Avoid sodas and sweet teas in favor of water, unsweetened iced tea, or black coffee.

Healthy Soup Selection

  • Broth-based Soups: Choose soups that are broth-based instead of cream-based to cut down on calories and fats. Look for vegetable, chicken noodle, or minestrone options.

Lighter Portions

  • Consider Half Portions: Many delis, including McAlister's, offer the option of a half sandwich or smaller salad. This can help control calorie intake and prevent overeating.

Remember, navigating the menu at McAlister's Deli with an eye towards healthier alternatives is a proactive step towards better health. These suggestions are made with the aim to provide wholesome, nutritionally-balanced options that can be incorporated into a health-conscious diet. For those with dietary restrictions or specific nutritional goals, consulting with a registered dietitian or a medical professional is advisable.

Note: While we aim to provide accurate nutritional advice, menus change and it's important to check the most current menu for updated options and nutritional information.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, McAlister's Deli offers vegetarian protein options such as black beans, chickpeas, and other plant-based ingredients that can be included in salads or veggie sandwiches. These provide a good source of protein and fiber, contributing to a balanced vegetarian diet.

To ensure a low-sugar option for your beverage at McAlister's Deli, opt for unsweetened teas, black coffee, or water. You can also ask for 'half-sweet' versions of sweetened beverages, mixing equal parts of sweetened and unsweetened tea to reduce sugar intake. Be mindful of sugar content in specialty drinks and lemonades, and inquire about sugar-free alternatives if available.

McAlister's Deli does offer the option to have sandwiches made with gluten-free bread. However, since these are not prepared in a gluten-free environment, they may not be suitable for individuals with celiac disease or a severe gluten intolerance due to the risk of cross-contamination.

Individuals with nut allergies should be cautious as some McAlister's Deli salads and desserts may include nuts. It's important to inform the staff about the allergy, check the allergen guide available on their website, and verify the ingredients in your chosen menu items to avoid cross-contamination.

Ask a question about McAlister's Deli and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • increased calorie intake
  • high sodium consumption
  • sugar spike
  • allergic reactions
  • potential cross-contact of allergens
  • gluten intake in sensitive individuals

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • type 2 diabetes

Ingredients to be aware of

  • added sugars
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • saturated fats
  • trans fats
  • high sodium levels
  • artificial sweeteners
  • processed meats
  • gluten
  • common allergens (wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, fish, shellfish)


  • nutrient intake with diverse food choices
  • fiber from whole grains
  • lean proteins in turkey and chicken
  • vitamins and minerals from vegetables
  • hydration from water and unsweetened beverages

Healthier alternatives

  • whole grain breads
  • lettuce wraps
  • lean meats
  • plant-based proteins
  • dark leafy greens
  • lighter vinaigrettes
  • broth-based soups
  • smaller portions
  • water and unsweetened beverages

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-17-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Diane Saleem
Published on: 01-17-2024

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