Eating at a fast food restaurant is a convenient option for many people because of the fast service and, often, lower price points. Fast food restaurants’ menus may be heavy on fried and fatty items, but most also provide salads as a healthier option. Although salads generally seem like a healthy option, especially when compared to burgers or fried chicken, not all salads are created equal. In a fast food salad, the added sugar and sodium can quickly add up, and both can cause weight gain and kidney stones if consumed in excess.
I consulted Jessica Ball, M.S., RD, the nutrition editor at EatingWell, to help you choose the healthiest meal from the menu. If you’re looking for a healthy fast food salad, these are your top nine options.
Dressing-Free Caesar Salad from Wendy’s
Wendy’s Caesar salad is a twist on the traditional restaurant salad, with grilled chicken breast, Parmesan crisps, and a three-cheese blend atop a bed of crispy romaine lettuce. You can cut 140 calories and 320 mg of sodium by not using the dressing. To keep you full until your next meal, we’ve added some grilled chicken breast for some protein.
Without the dressing, the nutrition for a Parmesan Caesar salad is as follows: Calories 300, Fat 14g, Saturated 7g, Cholesterol 125mg, Sodium 790mg, Carbohydrate 5g, Fiber 3g, Sugars 2g, Protein 41g
Fresh and Sweet Guacamole Greens
Health Benefits of Guacamole Greens: The nutritional breakdown of this dish is as follows: 515 calories, 31g total fat, 5g saturated fat, 58mg cholesterol, 334mg sodium, 29g carbohydrates, 14g fiber, 3g total sugars, 27g protein.
Chicken Sesame Sesame Salad from Panera
The next time you stop by Panera for lunch or dinner on your break, give the Asian Sesame Salad with Chicken some serious thought. A bed of romaine lettuce, chicken, almonds, sesame seeds, wonton strips, cilantro, and an Asian sesame vinaigrette make up this delicious meal. Anyone with a nut allergy can safely order the salad without almonds.
Chicken Asian sesame salad nutrition facts: 410 calories, 22 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 800 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, seven grams of sugars, and 27 grams of protein.
No-Drizzle Southwest Chipotle Ranch Salad from Saladworks
Ball suggests trying the Southwest Chipotle Ranch Salad (no dressing, please) from Saladworks’ extensive menu. This option, which features grilled chicken and beans, is loaded with protein, with a total of 28 grams thanks to the inclusion of romaine, iceberg, avocado, corn, tomatoes, pepper Jack cheese, and tri-color tortilla strips. Protein is an essential macronutrient for many bodily processes, including building and maintaining strong muscles and aiding digestion.
Without the dressing, the nutritional value of Southwest Chipotle Ranch salad is as follows: 28 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 710 milligrams of sodium
Recipe for Chipotle Steak Salad with Black Beans, Fajita Vegetables, and Tomatillo-Green Chili Salsa
Because of Chipotle’s customizable menu, it’s simple to build a balanced meal. Greens, black beans, steak, and fajita vegetables come together in a satisfying salad that is our top pick. Use the tomatillo-green chili salsa as a dressing on your salad instead of oil and vinegar, which would add 220 calories and 850 mg sodium.
Steak salad nutrients: 330 calories, 8 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 965 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbs, 11 grams of fiber, seven grams of sugar, and thirty-one grams of protein.
Toss Grilled Chicken Into a Traditional Salad Like the Cobb, Santa Fe, or Palm Beach
When shopping at Chopt, Ball found it difficult to settle on just one nutritious suggestion, so she ended up with three. First, we have the Classic Cobb Salad, which consists of romaine, grape tomatoes, blue cheese, croutons, avocado, hard-boiled egg, bacon, and grilled chicken. Due to the high calorie and sodium content of this tasty mixture, Ball recommends limiting yourself to half an order rather than the full serving. You’ll still get 26 grams of protein, but your intake of sodium will drop from 1,183 milligrams to 592 milligrams.
The Santa Fe salad, which includes romaine, avocado, grape tomatoes, corn, pepper Jack cheese, and crispy shallots, is another one of Ball’s recommended combinations. Vegetarians will love this dish because of the savory and spicy chipotle vinaigrette. The Palm Beach salad is Ball’s third recommendation. This white balsamic vinaigrette-dressed salad features avocado, grape tomatoes, English cucumbers, hearts of palm, and romaine. You can increase your level of enjoyment by adding grilled chicken to your order. You can’t go wrong with any of the many salad options available.
The half-order nutrition facts for the Classic Cobb are as follows: The nutritional breakdown of this meal is as follows: 318 calories, 20 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 193 milligrams of cholesterol, 592 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 26 grams of protein.
Santa Fe has 450 calories, 29.5 grams of fat, 14.5 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 402.5 milligrams of sodium, 29.5 grams of carbohydrates, 11.5 grams of fiber, 7.5 grams of sugars, and 22 grams of protein.
Protein, carbohydrate, and fat content of grilled chicken at Palm Beach: Nutrient breakdown: 285 calories, 12 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 272.5 milligrams of sodium, 19.5 grams of carbohydrates, 10.5 grams of fiber, 6.5 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein
Sandwich with Tuna Salad from Subway
Did you know you can make a salad out of any Subway sandwich? Make your fast food tuna sandwich into tuna salad the next time you order it! For a meal that’s high in healthy vegetables without sacrificing flavor, try this classic tuna salad mix on a bed of lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, olives, and cucumbers. Also, tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial because of their anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy effects.
This salad has 362 calories, 24 grams of fat, four grams of saturated fat, forty milligrams of cholesterol, three hundred and ninety milligrams of sodium, ten grams of carbohydrates, four grams of fiber, five grams of sugars, and fifteen grams of protein.
The Garden Salad at McAlister’s Deli, Undressed
Ball suggests ordering the Garden Salad the next time you visit a McAlister’s Deli. Mixed greens, Cheddar-Jack cheese, tomato slices, cucumber slices, and croutons make up this nutritious vegetarian salad. If you choose to add a dressing to your meal, do so sparingly because it can significantly increase the calorie and sodium content.
Garden Salad, sans dressing, calorie and nutritional breakdown: 310 calories, 19 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 540 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugars, and 18 grams of protein.
Fast-Food Joint Called Jack in the Box
Salad with Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken salad is what Ball recommends at Jack in the Box. In addition to iceberg and romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, Cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and seasoned croutons make up this delicious salad. All of the ingredients come together in harmony thanks to a low-fat balsamic dressing.
Grilled chicken salad has 220 calories, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugars, and 23 grams of protein.
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