Is the Salad at Fast Food Joints the Healthiest Option?

Good for you for choosing salad when you head out for fast food! Surprisingly, salad at a fast food joint can sometimes rack up more calories and fat than a burger with cheese. Sniff out the healthy options, gaining vitamins and minerals, while filling up on veggies, but don’t be fooled by all those calorie-packed add-ons that turn your savvy eating into your daily calorie intake.

Nutrition Tricks

Most nutrition information is listed online or at the restaurants, so know what you’re dealing with before you go. The meals are generally listed in their most basic form. Adding croutons and dressing? Better remember to do the math! Those two condiments can add 100 to 200 calories to your meal. Skip them, or stick to the low fat and dress your salad with half the packet of dressing.

Burger Joints

The most popular fast food restaurants are burger joints, where you’d think that the salad would beat a fatty burger any day, right? Wrong! The salads at burger restaurants are often just as high in calories and fat as the burgers, and are also off the charts with the level of sodium in them. In some cases, a salad with fried chicken strips on top ended up being worse than a 4oz (1/4 pound) burger. And the grilled chicken version? At some restaurants, it is more caloric and has double the fat of the grilled chicken sandwich!

Of all of the entree salads in a number of fast food restaurants, the plain McDonald’s hamburger was the lower in calories and contained no more fat than any of the salads. A great choice is a side salad. These scaled down salads are usually topped with veggies only and are ultra-low in calories.

Sandwich Shops

A sandwich shop is a place where you can find salads that are lower in fat and calories than the sandwich. Order the filling of a sandwich on a bed of lettuce with veggies and you are already reducing calories quickly, just by losing the bread! Be aware of the nutrition tricks that even the healthiest sub shops play. Cheese and mayonnaise are usually not included in the fat and calorie content. So whether you choose a sandwich or a salad, steer clear of the add-ons or the fatty toppings. Be sure to swap fatty dressings for low fat options and drizzle them on yourself. Choose a lean protein option to top your salad, like turkey or chicken. Ham is another decent choice, but stay away from fatty meats like salami and bologna.

Keep it Real…Healthy

Keep your eye out for nutritional information so you can make the most informed choices when you’re ordering. Try heading to restaurants that give you a number of choices of salads, or are okay with you making substitutions. Keep the fatty toppings to a minimum, and to get the most bang for your calorie buck, choose flavorful additions like red onion and roasted veggies. Go for lean protein and a mix of lettuces for more flavor.


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