A healthy lifestyle blog by ACE Certified Group Exercise Trainer.

Beware of the Restaurant Salad

When you are out at a restaurant or even a fast-food place you may be tempted to order a salad off of the menu, thinking it must be a healthier option than the sandwhich or burger or steak, etc. This is not always the case, and in fact many salads at restaurants contain over 1200 calories!!! If that's the case you might as well go for the burger!

Most of the danger in salads lies in the dressing - they are often packed with calories and fat, and many have more than 1500 g sodium, which is the max one should have in the entire day! You must also beware of the toppings.


Here's some things to look out for when ordering a salad:

Crispy vs. Grilled - Always go for the grilled chicken instead of crispy. It will save you calories and fat grams

Croutons & Bacon Bits & Tortilla Chips - These add calories to your salad but no nutrition. Bacon bits are artificial too. Just opt to keep these off your salad. If you want a crunch, try adding a tbsp of raw nuts (not the candied kind!). Nuts have fat, but a healthy kind of fat.

Too Much Cheese - Don't smother your salad in cheese. If you must have some, try just a tablespoon of low-fat cheese sprinkled on top. A little goes a long way. Feta cheese can be a great flavor boost on a salad, but make sure you use just a bit.

Dressings - Many places list the calories of their salads without the dressing. Try and pick a dressing that is less cream-based and more oil based. I try and go for vinaigrette instead of Caesar or ranch. The dressing alone can add 200+ calories to your salad. You should always ask for it on the side. You can also try dipping your fork in the dressing, then picking up salad and eating it (versus pouring the dressing over top of the salad). This helps you eat less dressing and still get the flavor.

Processed Meat - Salami or similar processed deli meat can add a lot of fat and preservatives to your salad. Shrimp/seafood is also a high-fat meat and should be used in moderation.

Candied nuts and dried fruit - Both of these seem healthy, but candied pecans, walnuts, almonds, have a lot of sugar, as do dried cranberries. Go for raw nuts instead and only a tablespoon. A little goes a long way!

Iceberg Lettuce - This type of lettuce is not nutrient dense like other dark leafy greens. Choose spinach, romaine, kale or other dark green lettuce over iceberg.

Salads to Stay Away from (Salads with over 500 calories or more than 9 g fat):

  • Chili's Southwestern Cobb Salad - Has 1080 calories (and that's before you add dressing!).
  • Wendy's BLT Cobb Salad - Has 50 grams of fat or the equivalent of two Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers
  • Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad - Has over 1300 calories and 90 grams of fat!!! YIKES!
  • Taco Bell's Chipotle Steak Salad - Deep frying a tortilla and using it as a salad bowl defeats the purpose. You are better off ordering hard shell tacos.
  • Applebee's Grilled Shrimp & Spinach Salad - Over 1,000 calories! Order the Weightwatchers Salad instead.
  • Olive Garden Grilled Chicken Salad - 850 calories and 64 g fat
  • Sonic Crispy Chicken Salad with Ranch - 40 g fat and lots of sodium
  • McDonalds Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken and Ranch - 600 calories and 40 g fat.
Other ways to be prepared
  • Download a calorie counter app like My Fitness Pal and you can look up nutritional info on a menu item for many restaurants. Do this in the car on the way to the restaurant or before you go, so you already know what you will be avoiding or ordering.
  • When in doubt, stay away from: Caesar Salads, Anything with the word Crispy in it, Bacon Salads, Seafood Salads, Creamy Dressings, Southwestern Salads. All of these are typically unhealthy.
  • Order dressing on the side. Always.
  • Opt for plain old olive oil or ask for a lemon to squeeze over your salad instead of dressing.
  • Only use half the dressing they provide.

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