17 Best and Worst Fast-Food Salads
Not all leafy greens are good for you. Find out which to eat (and skip) at the drive-thru.
When you're looking to order something relatively healthy from a fast-food menu, you probably go for a salad. But did you know some fast-food salads are as high in calories and fat as a double Quarter Pounder with cheese?
Two key ingredients can make or break your fast food salad: chicken (specifically, whether you choose "grilled" or "crispy" style) and salad dressing. Although some fat helps make salad dressing taste good, many fast-food dressings go too far. A serving of blue cheese dressing at Carl’s Jr., for example, adds 320 calories and 34 grams of fat to your salad.
Below are my picks for some of the best and worst salad options at 10 top fast food chains. The "best" salads were those with the most fiber and the least saturated fat; the “worst” salads had the highest levels of saturated fat, total fat, or calories.
My list is based on what restaurant chains posted on their web sites. Restaurants revamp their recipes and serving sizes from time to time. So I encourage you to check the nutrition information posted on their web sites for the most current information.
If you do that, you may also be able to customize the information to suit your needs. For example, if you only use half a packet of salad dressing, you might be able to filter your results that way. Same thing if you use two packets of dressing. Little things like that make a big difference in your calories, fat, sodium, and more.
Best Fast Food Salads
All these fast food entrée salads have no more than 5 grams of saturated fat, and most have less than 15 grams of total fat. Those with more than 15 grams of fat feature nuts, which are nutrient-rich and contribute "smart" fats (monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat).
Because of the fat and sodium content of many fast-food salad dressings, I've suggested using only half a pack of dressing with some of these salads. That should be plenty for most people.
- 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.