The McRib Sandwich: The Legend, The Hype, The Sodium?


Yesterday was the return of the elusive McDonald’s McRib sandwich. Since its debut in 1981, the McRib sandwich has slowly but surely created a cult fan base of diehard McRib-groupies. The sandwich consists of a ground pork patty, shaped like a small rack of ribs with bones, slathered with BBQ sauce, and topped with onions and pickles on a 6-inch roll. When it first debuted, sales were mediocre, and it was pulled a few years later. Due to clever and deceptive marketing by McDonald’s, a slow and steady buzz began. The sandwich became available sporadically in towns across the country, and constantly in other countries, such as Germany; for a limited time (6 weeks), the McDonald’s McRib sandwich is back and hitting every location in the United States, November 2nd, 2010.


With First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, a countrywide health overhaul to battle obesity, a mass movement away from processed foods and toward locally grown, fresh items, and a growing trend of supporting small businesses, markets, and restaurants, it’s almost surprising that a fast food item is garnering so much attention in 2010. Almost. No matter how ambitious our goals, or how much progress we have made throughout the country and within schools, there are just some things that prevail, even if for a limited time only. Here are some nutritional statistics for the elusive McRib sandwich.

mcrib-sandwich-776650According to CalorieKing, one McRib burger is about 7.4 oz, and weighs in at 500 calories. Other online sources have claimed it is only 6 oz. and 450 calories, but we will stick with the former resource for now. While 500 calories for a sandwich is not that incredibly outlandish, consider what kind of calories they are. In one sandwich, you get 10 grams of saturated fat, which is a whopping 50% of your daily value, 980mg of sodium (41% of your daily value), and 26 grams of total fat (40% of your daily value); carbohydrates weight in ‘lightly’ at 44g (15% of DV), sugar at 11g. What should be the one redeeming health quality of the sandwich, protein, is only present at 22g.

Okay, 22 grams of protein is not that bad, you say? If you look at the average of all brands of ribs, from Chili’s entree to pre-cooked grocery store brands, a half-rack of ribs will run you about 300-500 calories anyway, but protein levels are upwards of 30grams in each scenario. Looking at a similarly-sized portion of red meat royalty, the filet mignon, and you will get almost 60grams of protein per serving.

fn6_saltshakerWhile we are all aware that the negative aspects of processed food items greatly outweigh the benefits, remember one of the greatest consequences of processed fast foods: sodium. The U.S. FDA does not officially recommend a specific limit to sodium intake, but the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends approximately 1.6 grams of sodium per day.  Additionally, excess consumption of salt is linked to stroke, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, edema, ulcers, heartburn, and osteoporosis.

One relatively small McRib sandwich may briefly satiate your hunger, but not quite enough to account for the high levels of sodium and total fat present in the sandwich. Line up for a McRib, if you must, but you have been duly warned.

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