Back in 1998, Britney Spears was America's sweetheart. She had just come out with "Baby One More Time," and everyone fell head over heels for her wholesome look and Southern charm; she seemed so innocent. Fast forward nine years to when the songstress shaved her head in an attempt to cover up her drug use, and it became clear that we had all been duped. In the same vein: Every time we open up a restaurant menu, there's a big chance each and every one of us falls victim to more seemingly-wholesome things that should actually have an "I'm not that innocent!" description. We see words like "salad" and "acai vinaigrette" and assume that these dishes are waist-friendly, healthy options. But the truth is that most salads are just as shifty as Spears and that they're calorie calamities being marketed as healthy meals.
To help you stay on the straight and narrow towards weight loss success, we examined the salad menus at 20 popular restaurants in America and pinpointed the very worst bed of greens at each location. Read on to find out what they are, avoid ordering them at all cost, and always steer clear of these #1 Worst Menu Option at 40 Popular Restaurants!
California Pizza Kitchen Waldorf Chicken Salad
Nutrition: 1,310 calories, 94 g fat (20 g saturated fat), 1,840 mg sodium, 73 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 55 g sugar, 56 g protein
If you wouldn’t shove three Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes into your mouth in one sitting, then you’d best steer clear of this super sweet salad. Ordering the half instead of the full will get you down to 27 grams of sugar, but you’d be better off just having the smaller size of the Roast Veggie and Grilled Chicken instead. Keep your calories and fat under lock by asking for dressing on the side and only using a few spoonfuls. For even more calorie-saving hacks, check out these 25 Ways to Cut 250 Calories!
Burger King Bacon Cheddar Ranch Tendercrisp Chicken Salad
Nutrition: 720 calories 50 g fat, 13 g sat fat, 0 g trans fat, 1,960 mg sodium, 32 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 36 g protein
When dieters dine at BK, they know to stay away from the 670-calorie Whopper and the 580-calorie Extra Long Cheeseburger. But the shocking truth is that these meaty sandwiches are actually more weight loss-friendly than this salad. If you take just one look at the dish's ingredient list, it's clear why. Although bacon, fried chicken, and ranch dressing are each okay when eaten on their own—and in moderation—if all three are shoved into one dish, consider it a sign that you should order something else.
Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad
Nutrition: 1,420 calories 99 g fat, 15 g sat fat, 1 g trans fat, 1,530 mg sodium, 96 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 42 g sugar, 39 g protein
A fair number of Applebee's salads live around the 1,000-calorie mark, making them just as dubious as any other menu item. This Asian-inspired bed of greens is no exception. Thanks to the sugary vinaigrette and the double-down of fat coming from the crispy noodles and fried chicken, this "healthy" salad serves up more calories, fat, and sugar than an order of the chain's Cheeseburger Eggrolls!
McDonald's Crispy Chicken Southwest Salad with Southwest Dressing
Nutrition: 630 calories, 34 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 1,090 mg sodium, 54 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 29 g protein
McDonald's will proudly tell you their crispy chicken breast filet is made with real buttermilk and no artificial colors—but they never mention that it has 150 calories more than their grilled chicken breast. Worse, if you add the Newman's Own Southwest dressing, this salad contains nearly half a day's sodium and more calories than two Egg McMuffins! For more shocking calorie bombs you're probably eating, click here for the 50 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet!
Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad
Nutrition: 1,430 calories, 96 g fat, 28 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat, 2,420 mg sodium, 84 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 18 g sugar, 64 g protein
I'm embarrassed to admit it, but—before calorie counts were so readily available—this was my go-to order at Chili's when I was younger. It seemed like the best of both worlds: You could get a solid serving of veggies, all while indulging in some quesadillas. But let this be a lesson for all: If a dish seems too good to be true, it probably is. Not only does this salad pack in more than the recommended daily intake of salt and more than half the day's calories, but it also carries traces of dangerous trans-fats. To learn about more scary stuff lurking in your dinner, check out these 40 Most Horrifying Things Found in Food—and stay far, far away!
Friendly's Crispy Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard
Nutrition: 1,020 calories, 69 g fat, 16 saturated fat, 1,370 mg sodium, N/A carbs, 4 g fiber, 22 g sugar, 39 g protein
This calorie- and fat-filled salad is really just an excuse to eat chicken tenders and tortilla chips without the guilt. But your waistline doesn't care if this meal is marketed as a healthy salad. All it knows is that you're overfilling it with half a day's calories and an entire day's worth of saturated fat. To discover more restaurant meals that will kill your flat belly dreams, check out our exclusive report, The #1 Worst Menu Option at 40 Popular Restaurants!
Hooters Chicken Caesar Salad
Nutrition: 890 calories, 77 g fat, 14 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat, 2,630 mg sodium, 19 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 35 g protein
Back in the early 2000's, Hooters refused to disclose their food's nutritional information—and now that the info is in the public domain, it's easy to see why. This dish is so gross, in fact, that you'd be better off getting a 6-piece order of wings (750 calories) than sitting down to this dish. To learn more about protein-packed fare that can actually help you trim the fat, check out these 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss.
Chick-Fil-A Cobb Salad with Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing
Nutrition: 820 calories, 60 g fat, 12 g saturated fat, 1,970 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 41 g protein
This is a prime example of how fast food chains turn salads into junk food. The high-fat toppings like fried chicken and shredded cheese make this salad one of the most calorie-high entrees on the menu. And speaking of devious fast food maneuvers, check out these 25 Things Fast Food Chains Don't Want You to Know.
Panera Power Kale Caesar Salad with Chicken
Nutrition: 600 calories, 40 g fat, 16 g saturated fat, 1,280 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 29 g protein
Kale may be one of the most buzzed-about health foods in decades, but Panera's Kale Caesar is far worse than their classic romaine-based variety. And it's all thanks to the addition of parmesan crisps—which they add to the salad in addition to grated parm. If you want to give this dish a try, ask for it without the crisps to enjoy a meal with just 450 calories and a more respectable 830 milligrams of salt. For more ways to eat healthy at your favorite soup and salad joint, check out our report, Every Soup and Sandwich at Panera – Ranked!
Perkins Honey Mustard Chicken Crunch Salad
Nutrition: 1,220 calories, 79 g fat, 21 g saturated fat, 2,320 mg sodium, 83 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 35 g sugar, 47 g protein
What do you get when you combine fatty, honey mustard-topped veggies with bacon and salty chicken tenders? Answer: This sad excuse for a salad from Perkins. Currently, the chain has stores in 34 states, so we're hoping they clean up their nutritional act before it hits the other 16. Besides staying away from this waist-widening salad, there are plenty of other ways to slim down in time for spring. These 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast are just a few of the effective hacks we have on hand.
Red Lobster Classic Caesar Salad with Grilled Salmon
Nutrition: 830 calories, 65 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat,1380 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 4 g fiber,3 g sugar, 24 g protein
Though it's not clear why, this salmon-topped Caesar has far more calories than the chain's chicken and shrimp versions of the dish. If salad is what you crave at Red Lobster (reportedly one of Beyonce's favorite restaurants), stick with the chicken or shrimp Caesars and ask for the dressing on the side. Or better yet, order the Live Maine Lobster, which comes with a small Garden Salad. "I always ask for this dish with the dressing on the side, and sometimes I'll ask to substitute the potatoes for a side of steamed broccoli," registered dietitian Kristen Carlucci tells us.
Quizno's Apple Harvest Chicken with Acai Vinaigrette
Nutrition: 670 calories, 38 g fat, 5.5 saturated fat, 1,150 mg sodium, 61 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 46 g sugar, 22 g protein
Studies show that people tend to perceive not-so-wholesome meals as healthy if they are labeled with certain buzzwords—and Quiznos has marketed this salad with a bunch of them: "apple" and "acai" to name but a few. Brace yourself for the truth: This dish actually has more calories than a Whopper and more than a day's worth of sugar. Yes, seriously! To stay on track with your weight loss goal, skip this fatty, caloric mess and order the chain's Small Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread instead. It may sound less wholesome, but it will actually save you nearly 200 calories and 14 grams of artery-clogging fat.
Romano's Macaroni Grill Parmesan Crusted Chicken Salad
Nutrition: 1,080 calories, 48 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 910 mg sodium, 100 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 16 g sugar, 64 g protein
Romano's has been one of the most responsive restaurants in the past few years—a number of items we've featured in our books and online have shrunk in size or poor nutrition counts, or all but disappeared in the wake of such exposure. The bad news is that dishes like this one still exist on their menu. Just say no to this fatty health food imposter—it's not going to help you reach your body goals.
Ruby Tuesday's Fried Chicken Caesar Salad
Nutrition: 1,054 calories, 76 g fat, N/A saturated fat, 2,198 mg sodium, 49 g carbs, 4 g fiber, N/A sugar, 40 g protein
Another restaurant, another Caesar salad that makes us doubt that Julius—the man for which the salad was named—would have ever actually eaten the dish. (Have you seen his abs!?) With 1,054 calories and nearly an entire day's fat, this greasy combo of chicken tenders romaine, croutons, creamy dressing, and grated cheeses is a total betrayal in our eyes.
Bonefish Grill Florida Cobb Salad
Nutrition: 897 calories, 59 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat, 29 g carbs, 879 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 65 g protein
A blend of grilled chicken, avocado, mango, tomatoes, blue cheese, and greens seems innocent enough—but once Bonefish Grill got its grubby little hands on the ingredients, they transformed it into a "Not That!" we must warn you to stay away from. What should your order instead? Check out our guide, Every popular Fish—Ranked for Nutritional Benefits to find out!
TGI Friday's Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad
Nutrition: 1,080 calories, 71 g fat, 16 g saturated fat, 1,650 mg sodium, 76 g carbs,11 g fiber, N/A g sugar, 39 g protein
In chain-restaurant parlance, "crusted" is a euphemism for "fried." Add sugar-coated pecans, sugar-coated cranberries, and a heap of blue cheese, and you have all the makings of one of America's worst salads. Go for the Cobb and hold the dressing. For even more easy ways to cut back on the sweet stuff, check out these 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar.
Uno Pizzeria & Grill Classic Cobb Salad
Nutrition: 900 calories, 67 g fat, 21 g saturated fat, 2,070 mg sodium, 27 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 55 g protein
If you thought you were ordering a healthy meal when you asked your Uno server for the cobb salad, you were far from spot on. This dish carries more calories than four orders of McDonald's nuggets and more fat than six orders of Ronald's small fries! Move this meal to your "Not That!" list to get one step closer to your flat belly goal.
Wendy's Caesar Salad
Nutrition: 790 calories, 51 g fat, 16 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat, 1,640 mg sodium, 42 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 6 g sugar, 42 g protein
Not that we're suggesting it, you'd be better off slurping down a medium Frosty and a small soda than ordering this shifty beds of greens.
Buffalo Wild Wings Mediterranean Salad with Lemon Pepper Chicken
Nutrition: 1,110 calories, 74g fat, 18 g saturated fat, 4,230 mg sodium, 70g carbs, 14g fiber, 23g sugar, 52g protein
If you're interested in health or weight loss, the odds are good that you've heard about the many benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Rich in nuts, olive oil, and veggies, the diet have been found to reverse metabolic syndrome, according to research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. But that doesn't mean that every dish slapped with a "Mediterranean" label is a healthy bet. This chicken, veggie, pita and hummus topped salad (which comes complete with a tzatziki-feta dressing) is a prime example of the term being used to promote something less than ab-friendly. There are far better ways to eat your way through half a day's calories.
IHop Crispy Chicken Cobb Salad
Nutrition: 1,230 calories, 93 g fat, 27 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat, 2,750 mg sodium, 38 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 59 g protein
The poor greens never saw it coming. The simple menu description screams wholesome and healthy, but nothing could be further from the truth. With this bowl of mischief, IHOP vandalizes one of the most nutritious veggies on the planet by suffocating it with deep-fried chicken, hickory-smoked bacon, one too many handfuls of blue cheese, and a goopy buttermilk ranch dressing. You could order the chain's Chicken & Waffles and a side of bacon and still not reach the calorie load of this health-food fraud.
Photo 14 courtesy of Flickr, photo #12 courtesy of Instagram user darcyhocker.