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Are Fast Food Salads Healthy?

You’re pressed for time, so you pull into the drive-thru window of your fast-food restaurant and order the “healthiest” thing on the menu – a fast-food salad. After the “not so friendly” fast-food worker hands you a tray of lettuce and other fixings, you head back to the office to refuel before the challenging afternoon ahead – congratulating yourself on resisting the crispy French fries and chicken fingers that tempted you the minute you drove up. Did you make the right choice? Are fast-food salads healthy?

Are Fast-Food Salads Healthy?

Unfortunately, salads aren’t always a healthy choice. Fast-food and sit-down restaurants alike take a perfectly healthy bed of greens and destroy their health benefits with too much fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. What starts out with almost no calories quickly rivals the calories of a Whopper with Cheese at Burger King. When you’re trying to make healthy choices, who needs it?

The Sodium Problem

Most people don’t think of fast-food salads as being high in sodium. After all, greens are sodium-free when pulled from the ground. Where does all that sodium come from? The major culprits are the crunchy salad fixing like croutons and noodles, the crispy coated chicken, and, of course, the salad dressing.

Some examples? The Taco Bell Chicken Ranch Taco Salad has more than half a day’s sodium at 1,660 milligrams. If you think that’s bad stay away from the Burger King Tender Crisp Garden Salad with almost 1,750 milligrams of sodium – especially if you have high blood pressure.

To avoid sodium in fast-food salads, hold the croutons and crispy things – and bring your own lower sodium salad dressing.

The Calories, Fat, and Carbs

That same high-sodium Taco Bell Chicken Ranch Taco Salad is going to set you back 910 calories. For that, you could have almost two Big Macs. Eating it will also line your arteries with 54 grams of fat. You can find high-calorie salads such as these at most fast-food restaurants. Taco Bell doesn’t have a monopoly on unhealthy salads.

How can you avoid eating a day’s worth of calories in a single salad? Stay away from salads that have bacon, fried and breaded chicken, croutons, and crunchy noodles. Ask them to put the cheese on the side, so you can control how much you eat – and don’t eat the “crispy” salad bowl some salads come in. Bring your own salad dressing and dip your fork into it as you eat to reduce how much you get.

The Bottom Line

Salads aren’t always healthy and low in calories, especially when they come from a fast-food restaurant. Read the “fine print” before ordering a salad from a drive-thru or a sit-down restaurant.

Dr. Kristie


Nutrition Data website.

Confectionary News. “Salads saltier than a Big Mac, says survey”

The informational content of this article is intended to convey general educational
information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.