Updated: November 07, 2018
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McDonald's Japan VS USA Comparison, Same Items Different Calories

You think that your McDonald's Big Mac or fries are the same whether you are in Japan or the USA? Actually, they aren't! Find out they differ in terms of calories and macronutrients.

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McDonald's In Japan

McDonald's in Nara City, Japan
Despite having a strong local food culture, the Japanese people have developped a taste for burgers and fries through the years and now the American fast-food chain known as McDonald's (have you heard of it?) is now ubiquitous throughout the country.
The Moonviewing Burger 月見バーガー
McDonald's famously adapts it's menu to the local taste and culture, hence you'll find in Japan teriyaki burgers and the "Moonviewing Burger" (tsukimi burger 月見バーガー) which has as a main topping an egg. The later comes from the tradition of giving reverence to the moon during the fall festival. For the Japanese, the egg yolk is often compared to the moon, so restaurants often make special menu items that include eggs, including McDonald's.

What about the standard items? Are they the same?

People are curious to know about the local differences in menu items at McDonald's, taking for granted that the standards will be the same. Well, it turns out that if you compare the nutritional properties of the most quintessential McDonald's items, e.g. burgers, fries, drinks, there are some differences worth noting between Japan and the USA. Here they are.

I simply looked at the information on the nutritional information section of the official website of McDonald's Japan and McDonald's in the USA for this comparison.

Big Mac Japan VS Big Mac USA

USA: 540 calories from 28g of fat, 46g of carbs, and 25g of protein.
Japan: 530 calories from 28g of fat, 42g of carbs, and 27g of protein.

The Big Mac is the item that is most similar across both countries. The caloric value is roughly the same, however, if you look at the macronutrients, it is worth noting that the Japanese McDonald's has a Big Mac that has more protein and fewer carbs than the American one.

Medium French Fries

USA: 340 calories from 16g of fat, 44g of carbs, 4g of protein.
Japan: 410 calories from 21g of fat, 51g of carbs, 5g of protein.

Surprisingly, the serving size in Japan for a medium is actually larger than the same medium size in the USA (140g VS 135g). But this difference doesn't explain the entire difference in calories. The Japanese fries for the same weight are fatter which gives them more calories.

Medium Coca-Cola

USA: 220 calories from 59g of carbs.
Japan: 140 calories from 35g of carbs.

Many people order the classic medium Coca-Cola to complete their fries and burger set. As you can see, if you order it in Japan, you'll be getting 80 calories fewer in your drink than if you order it at McDonald's USA.

The reasonable assumption is that the Japanese drink is much less sweet than the American (contains 24g less of carbs than), but actually most of the difference is explained by the volume. Indeed, the Japanese medium size is actually 325 ml compared to a whopping 621 ml for the American medium. So actually, the Japanese one is sweeter it's just that you get a way larger size in the USA. The American Kids size (which is one size larger than small) at 355 ml is still bigger than the Japanese medium!

Total calories in this classic set?

USA: 1,100 calories
Japan: 1,080 calories

If you add up all the calories, you see that the two sets in total differ very little in terms of calories.

Bottom line, if you want to bring down your caloric intake for your McDonald's meal to something that is nearer a recommended healthy value for a relatively active person, you should probably downsize your French fries if you are in Japan, and downsize your soda drinks if you are in the USA.
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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