Is Filet-O-Fish from McDonald’s healthy?

Quick Answer

The Filet-O-Fish sandwich from McDonald’s is not particularly healthy due to its high sodium, saturated fat, and calorie content. However, it is lower in calories and fat than many other McDonald’s menu items. Overall, the Filet-O-Fish should be consumed only occasionally as part of a balanced diet.

Nutrition Information

Here is the basic nutrition information for a Filet-O-Fish sandwich from McDonald’s (values are for one sandwich):

Calories 380
Total Fat 18g
Saturated Fat 3.5g
Trans Fat 0.5g
Cholesterol 25mg
Sodium 830mg
Total Carbohydrates 38g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 3g
Protein 16g

As you can see, the Filet-O-Fish is relatively high in sodium at 830mg per sandwich. The daily recommended sodium intake is around 2300mg, so this sandwich contains over one-third of the recommended amount.

The saturated fat and trans fat contents are also quite high at 3.5g and 0.5g respectively per sandwich. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to about 13g per day and eliminating trans fats completely.

Finally, at 380 calories, the Filet-O-Fish is not exactly low-calorie either.


Here are the main ingredients in a McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich:

– Fish patty – Made from wild-caught Alaska Pollock, breaded and fried

– Tartar sauce – Mainly soybean oil, pickle relish, high fructose corn syrup, egg yolks, onion, capers, sugar, mustard flour, vinegar, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate, spice

– Cheese – Pasteurized process American cheese made from milk, cream, water, sodium citrate, salt, sorbic acid, apocarotenal (color), enzymes, soy lecithin, vitamin D3

– Bun – Enriched bleached wheat flour, water, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, yeast, salt, dough conditioners, wheat gluten, mono and diglycerides, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, potassium iodate, wheat starch

As you can see, the primary unhealthy ingredients are the fried fish patty, tartar sauce with soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup, and enriched white flour bun. The cheese and tartar sauce also contain preservatives like sorbic acid.

Overall, this is not the most wholesome list of ingredients.

Health Claims About Filet-O-Fish

McDonald’s and some nutrition experts make the following health claims about the Filet-O-Fish sandwich:

Lower in Fat and Calories Than Other McDonald’s Burgers

Compared to burgers like the Big Mac and Quarter Pounder, the Filet-O-Fish is lower in total fat, saturated fat, and calories. For example:

Sandwich Total Fat Saturated Fat Calories
Filet-O-Fish 18g 3.5g 380
Big Mac 28g 10g 540
Quarter Pounder with Cheese 30g 12g 530

So in comparison, the Filet-O-Fish is lower in unhealthy fats and calories. However, it is still relatively high in these nutrients compared to many other fast food or homemade options.

Provides Lean Protein

The fish patty provides about 16g of protein per Filet-O-Fish. Protein is important for building and repairing muscles and bones, and fish is typically a lean source of protein.

However, when breaded and fried, the health benefits of the fish are compromised. And there are much healthier ways to get protein, like grilled fish, chicken breast, lean beef, eggs, etc.

Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The Alaska Pollock used in the Filet-O-Fish provides a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are healthy fats that are linked to benefits like lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and improved heart health.

The tartar sauce also contains a small amount of omega-3s from the soybean oil.

However, the omega-3 content is not incredibly high (nowhere near salmon or supplements). And it is outweighed by the less healthy fats in the sandwich.

Potential Benefits

Here are some of the touted benefits of the Filet-O-Fish sandwich, along with evaluations of the claims:

May Help Meet Protein Needs

The 16g of protein is a decent protein serving, especially at lunchtime. Getting enough protein is important for muscle maintenance, wound healing, and keeping you full.

However, there are better protein sources that aren’t deep fried.

Provides Some Omega-3s

As mentioned earlier, the fish patty contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health. Consuming foods with omega-3s may help raise your omega-3 levels.

But the content is not very high compared to fatty fish like salmon. And the omega-3s may be somewhat negated by the less healthy fats.

Relatively Low in Calories

At 380 calories, the Filet-O-Fish will not break your calorie budget like other McDonald’s burgers. This may help with weight management when eaten in moderation.

However, there are much lower calorie fast food options available, or you can make a healthier fish sandwich at home.

Offers Vitamins Like Vitamin D

The Filet-O-Fish provides a small amount of vitamins like vitamin D, primarily from the cheese. Vitamin D is important for bone health.

However, the vitamin amounts are low and you can get these vitamins from healthier sources. Most people should rely on a multivitamin rather than fast food to meet vitamin needs.

Potential Downsides

Here are some of the downsides of regularly eating a Filet-O-Fish sandwich:

High in Sodium

The Filet-O-Fish is very high in sodium at 830mg per sandwich. Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and fluid retention.

It’s best to limit sodium to around 2300mg per day. The Filet-O-Fish contains over one-third of that in just one sandwich.

High in Saturated and Trans Fats

With 3.5g of saturated fat and 0.5g of trans fat per serving, the Filet-O-Fish is relatively high in these unhealthy fats.

Diets high in saturated and trans fats are associated with increased inflammation, higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

Heavily Processed Ingredients

From the enriched flour bun to the high fructose corn syrup in the tartar sauce, the Filet-O-Fish contains heavily processed ingredients.

These processed foods are linked to health issues like weight gain, blood sugar changes, inflammation, and more. Whole, unprocessed foods are healthier options.

Fried Foods

The fish patty itself is breaded and fried, as are the McDonald’s fries that often accompany the sandwich.

Fried foods are high in inflammatory fats, especially when fried in oils reused for multiple frying cycles. Occasional fried foods are okay, but they should not be a dietary staple.

Food Dyes

The tartar sauce contains food dyes like apocarotenal (orange coloring). Studies link artificial food dyes to effects like hyperactivity in children and allergenicity.


The Filet-O-Fish contains preservatives like sorbic acid, potassium sorbate, and sodium citrate. Studies link high intake of certain preservatives to health issues like allergies, gut health problems, and more.

Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid or limit consumption of preservatives.

Healthier Alternatives

If you want to occasionally eat a fast food fish sandwich, here are some healthier alternatives to the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish:

Grilled Fish Sandwich

Some fast food places like Burger King offer grilled fish sandwiches on a whole grain bun, which is healthier than fried fish.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Chicken breast is a lean protein alternative to fried fish. Go for grilled chicken sandwiches without too many sauces and on whole grain buns.

Salmon Burger

Salmon burgers are becoming more common at restaurants and chains like Red Robin. Salmon provides lots of omega-3 fatty acids. Be mindful of burger toppings.

Tuna Sandwich

Choose 100% whole wheat bread or pita and load up a tuna sandwich with veggies like lettuce, tomato, avocado, sprouts, etc. Use minimal mayo or other sauces.

Homemade Fish Sandwich

Making your own fish sandwich gives you total control over the ingredients. Use whole grain bread, baked or grilled wild fish, light sauce, and veggie toppings.

Healthy Eating Guidelines

If you want to regularly eat fish as part of a healthy diet, here are some guidelines to follow:

Choose Wild-Caught Fish

Go for sustainable, wild-caught fish like salmon, cod, tilapia, trout, etc. These have more omega-3s than farmed fish.

Bake, Broil, or Grill It

Baked, broiled, or grilled fish is much healthier than fried. Lightly coat in spices, lemon juice, etc. instead of heavy breading.

Eat 2-3 Servings Per Week

Aim for at least 2 to 3 servings (about 6 oz) of fatty fish per week for the omega-3 benefits. More is even better.

Pair with Vegetables

Eat fish along with a serving of vegetables or a green salad for healthier meals. Good options include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, greens, etc.

Watch the Sauces

Lemon juice, vinaigrettes, salsa, mustard, and other lighter sauces are best for topping fish. Avoid creamy, high-fat sauces.

Limit Fried Fish

It’s fine to enjoy breaded, fried fish occasionally, but it shouldn’t be your normal preparation method. The extreme heat of frying creates harmful compounds and destroys omega-3s.

The Bottom Line

In summary, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich from McDonald’s is lower in calories and fat than a traditional burger, but it is still relatively high in sodium, saturated fat, and heavily processed ingredients.

Eating it occasionally poses little risk for most people. However, regular consumption may lead to health issues over the long term due to the high sodium, unhealthy fats, and food additives.

For the healthiest diet, limit fast food consumption and make fish dishes at home with fresh, wild-caught fish. Bake, broil, or grill it, and pair with vegetables or salads.

While the Filet-O-Fish does contain lean protein and some omega-3s, there are many healthier and more nutritious ways to get these. Overall, the Filet-O-Fish sandwich is not the most healthy choice, but can be eaten in moderation as part of an overall balanced diet.

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