Not all restaurant salads are healthy choices

Published On: Feb 21 2013 09:17:05 PM EST
Updated On: Feb 22 2013 06:20:00 AM EST

When your meal involves a drive thru or dinner out, which is a better choice, a cheeseburger or a salad?

Consider this: a McDonalds’ Big Mac weighs in at 550 calories, 29 grams of fat and 1,000 milligrams of sodium, but this pales in comparison to these gut-busting greens!

Applebee’s oriental chicken salad sounds healthy, but the numbers don’t add up. Almost 1,400 calories, 98 grams of fat and 1,600 milligrams of sodium.

The calories in California Pizza Kitchen’s Moroccan-spiced chicken salad are more than two big macs.

When salads looks more like tacos things get ugly! The Baja Fresh shrimp tostada salad is loaded with everything, including fat and sodium. A better choice, but not a great choice: Taco Bell fiesta taco salad with beef.

At Outback, you can order an entire steak dinner for fewer calories and less fat than you’ll find in the Outback steakhouse salad.

Here’s proof that a good salad can go bad.

Here’s another one to watch out for: in restaurant-speak, “crusted” is code for fried. That’s what takes TGI Fridays’ pecan-crusted chicken salad to 1,100 calories and 71 grams of fat; and the sugar-coated pecans and cranberries will not help your waistline either.

WebMD's list of the best fast food salads:

All the salads on the list have no more than 5 grams of saturated fat, and most have less than 15 grams of fat total.  WebMD says those with more than 15 grams of fat on this list feature nuts, which are nutrient-rich and contribute "smart" fats (monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat).

  • Carl’s Jr. Original Grilled Chicken Salad (with Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette): 315 calories; 15g fat; 4.5g saturated fat; 1330 mg sodium; 2g fiber; 17g protein. Ingredients: Mixed greens, grilled chicken, red onions, shredded cheese, tomatoes, and cucumber slices.
  • Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken & Fruit Salad (with Reduced-Fat Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette): 330 calories; 10g total fat; 4g saturated fat; 700 mg sodium; 5g fiber; 22g protein. Ingredients: Lettuce, carrots, Jack and cheddar cheeses, grilled chicken, fresh fruit medley, Harvest Nut granola.
  • Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad (with Fat-Free Honey Mustard): 280 calories; 6g total fat; 4g saturated fat; 810 mg sodium; 5g fiber; 23g protein. Ingredients: Lettuce, carrots, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, Jack and cheddar cheeses, grilled chicken, garlic and butter croutons, honey-roasted sunflower kernels.
  • Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Salad (with Low-fat Balsamic dressing): 271 calories; 11g total fat; 4g saturated fat; 1,018 mg sodium; 3g fiber; 28g protein. Ingredients: Mixed salad greens, grilled chicken tenders, cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, carrots.
  • KFC Grilled Chicken BLT Salad (with Hidden Valley Ranch Fat-Free dressing): 265 calories; 8g total fat; 2.5g saturated fat; 1,330 mg sodium; 4g fiber; 36g protein. Ingredients: Lettuce, oven-roasted chicken, diced tomatoes, bacon bits.
  • McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken with Southwest dressing): 390 calories; 14g total fat; 3.5g saturated fat; 990 mg sodium; 7g fiber; 28g protein. Ingredients: Mixed greens, oven-roasted tomatoes, fire-roasted corn, black beans, poblano peppers, cheddar & jack cheeses, and tortilla strips.
  • Taco Bell Chicken Fiesta Taco Salad (Fresco Style): 240 calories; 6g total fat; 1g saturated fat; 720 mg sodium; 5g fiber; and 23g protein. Ingredients: Beans, fiesta salsa, lettuce, rice, southwest chicken, tomato.
  • Taco Bell Steak Fiesta Taco Salad (Fresco Style): 220 calories; 6g total fat; 2g saturated fat; 810 mg sodium; 5g fiber; 17g protein. Ingredients: Beans, fiesta salsa, lettuce, rice, steak, tomato.
  • Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad (full-size with 2 packets Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing): 570 calories; 27g total fat; 8g saturated fat; 1,340 mg sodium; 6g fiber; 37g protein. Ingredients: Salad greens, blue cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, apple chunks, grilled chicken fillet, toasted pecans.

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