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25 Unhealthiest Restaurant Salads in America

Think having a salad is healthy? Think again. These restaurant salads pack in the calories with every bite.
taco salad

We love fast food burgers, and we bet you do, too. However, it's an indulgence—and everyone knows it. Just as you wouldn't order a Whopper or a Big Mac because you're trying to watch your waistline, you'd probably order restaurant salads for the same reason: it sounds like the healthiest item on the menu. Sadly, that's not always the case as there are plenty of restaurant salads that are high in calories.

More often than you realize, that salad is actually the worst choice on the menu. Restaurants across the country have learned that "nutrition" sells, so they smack these salad calorie bombs onto the "lighter fare" portion of the menu, encouraging you to think you're making a healthy selection. To clear up the confusion and call these offending high-calorie salads out, we've rounded up the most prominent examples of unhealthy salads. These restaurant salads are so bad, you'd be better off ordering that Whopper, after all. Or maybe one of these best restaurant salads instead!

In fact, the 25 unhealthiest restaurant salads have thousands of calories, unhealthy trans fats, and more sodium than you should eat in a whole day, all served over a bed of lettuce. Check out the worst offenders from some of the most popular restaurants in America.

1

Applebee's Crispy Chicken Tender Salad

applebees salad
Applebee's Bayshore/ Facebook
Per salad: 1,250 calories, 80 g fat (21 g saturated, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,410 mg sodium, 88 g carbs (8 g fiber, 31 g sugar), 48 g protein

Four of the salads on Applebee's menu break the 1,000-calorie barrier, making them just as dubious as any other menu item, but this one takes the cake with more than the daily recommended amount of sodium in just one salad! Slash calories by switching over to the Thai Shrimp Salad.

Eat This! Instead:

Side Caesar Salad

Per salad: 210 calories, 18 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 390 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 4 g protein
2

Buffalo Wild Wings Honey BBQ Chicken Salad with Ranch Dressing

Buffalo wild wings bbq chicken salad
Courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings

Per salad: 810 calories, 52 g fat (14 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 2,640 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (5 fiber, 33 g sugar), 38 g protein

It's quite baffling seeing the amount of sodium and sugar you get from this salad! Your better option is to choose a side salad, and a side salad only, as most of Buffalo Wild Wings' salads are high calorie.

Eat This! Instead:

Caesar Side Salad 

Per salad: 340 calories, 29 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 910 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 6 g protein
3

California Pizza Kitchen Waldorf Chicken Salad with Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (Full)

cpk waldorf chicken salad
Courtesy of California Pizza Kitchen
Per salad: 1,320 calories, 94 g fat (22 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat) 2,020 mg sodium, 75 g carbs (10 g fiber, 55 g sugar), 54 g protein

There's no reason that this salad should saddle you with over a grand of calories. According to the CPK website, it contains grapes, green apples, candied walnuts, crisp celery, baby greens, and Gorgonzola, all served with housemade Dijon balsamic vinaigrette.

When mixed together in reasonable proportions, there's nothing inherently wrong with these ingredients. In fact, most of them are good for you. It's just that CPK jumbo sizes their menu items. (If you're looking for helpful dining out tips, your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!)

Eat This! Instead:

Roasted Veggie Salad with Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, Half

Per half salad: 360 calories, 27 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 610 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (10 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 7 g protein
4

T.G.I. Fridays Million Dollar Cobb Salad with Beyond Meat Patty and Ranch Dressing

tgi fridays cobb salad
Courtesy of TGI Fridays
Per salad: 1,280 calories, 103 g fat (35 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 3,370 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (13 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 61 g protein

You might think choosing a salad that has Beyond Meat might make it healthier but alas, that is not the case. Here, mixed greens, sliced carrots, red cabbage, avocado, tomatoes, chopped cage-free egg, bacon, blue cheese, red onions, cucumber, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses all come together along with ranch dressing for a salad that is overloaded with fat and sodium.

Eat This! Instead:

Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken with Caesar Dressing

Per salad: 780 calories, 59 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 1 trans fat), 1,870 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (6 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 45 g protein
5

Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad With Crispy Chicken

applebees oriental chicken salad
Courtesy of Applebee's
Per salad: 1,570 calories, 103 g fat (17 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,610 mg sodium, 126 g carbs (11 g fiber, 41 sugar), 42 g protein

Why is this salad so hefty? Part of the blame goes to the tasty Oriental vinaigrette, for sure (the secret is always, at least partially, in the sauce). Another reason: It's topped with crispy noodles (carbohydrate overload). And to complete the triumvirate of dietary doom: Fried chicken. What exactly makes this a salad again?

Eat This! Instead:

Side Caesar Salad

Per salad: 210 calories, 18 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 390 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 4 g protein
6

Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad

Chilis quesadilla explosion salad
Courtesy of Chili's

Per salad: 1,410 calories, 94 g fat (29 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 2,230 mg sodium, 82 g carbs (9 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 63 g protein

The "explosion" is what happens to your mind when you realize what's in this "salad." Chili's highest-calorie salad will supply you with 1.5 days' worth of fat, thanks in no small part to its "garnish"—an order of cheese quesadillas!

Eat This! Instead:

Santa Fe Chicken Salad with Chicken

Per salad: 630 calories, 44 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,460 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (7 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 36 g protein
7

Cheesecake Factory Chinese Chicken Salad

The Cheesecake Factory chinese salad as one of the unhealthiest restaurant salads
Courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory

Per salad: 1,740 calories, 106 g fat (15 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 2,840 mg sodium, 141 g carbs (11 g fiber, 62 g sugar), 59 g protein

Bet you weren't expecting to take down the sugar equivalent of six Original Glazed Krispy Kreme donuts in a salad were you? That's not to mention you'll also be wolfing down the same amount of fat as you'd find in 13 bags of Doritos chips. Instead, opt for the more calorically-reserved Seared Tuna Tataki Salad.

Eat This! Instead:

Seared Tuna Tataki Skinnylicious Salad

Per salad: 490 calories, 29 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,380 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (5 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 42 g protein
8

Cheesecake Factory Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad

Cheesecake Factory Barbeque ranch chicken salad
The Cheesecake Factory

Per salad: 2,150 calories, 137 g fat (25 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,870 mg sodium, 161 g carbs (23 g fiber, 67 g sugar), 66 g protein

The dismal dawn of the more than 2,000-calorie salad is upon us. If we're being honest here, nearly every Cheesecake Factory salad dwarfs a Whopper (or two, or even three), but this one is truly the worst of the worst. Save 1,340 calories by switching to the Wellness Salad instead. On the "Super" Food Menu, the Wellness Salad is a kale-based dish with avocado, broccoli, fresh fruit, and nuts.

Eat This! Instead:

Wellness Salad

Per salad: 810 calories, 68 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 940 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (13 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 12 g protein
9

Panera Southwest Chile Lime Ranch Salad With Chicken (Whole)

Panera southwest chile lime chicken salad as one of the unhealthiest restaurant salads
Panera Bread/Twitter

Per salad: 660 calories, 34 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,070 mg sodium, 54 g carbs (14 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 40 g protein

Panera's salads might have fewer calories than a Whopper, but it's worse in almost every other category. This Southwest Chile Lime Ranch Salad packs in more than 1,000 milligrams of sodium. If you're planning to order a salad at Panera, try the antioxidant-packed Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad.

Eat This! Instead:

Strawberry Poppyseed & Chicken Salad, Whole

Per full salad: 360 calories, 14 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 300 mg sodium, 34 g carbs (8 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 29 g protein
10

Chipotle Carnitas Salad With Black Beans, Fajita Veggies, Cheese & Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette

carnitas salad chipotle
Courtesy of Chipotle
Per salad: 705 calories, 38 g fat (15 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,850 mg sodium, 49 g carbs (11 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 40 g protein

If you're looking for a salad at Chipotle, be sure to pass on this vinaigrette dressing on the menu. With 220 calories and 16 grams of fat, it has more than double the calories than the most caloric salsa at Chipotle. Your best bet is to turn the tangy green salsa (just 15 calories per serving) into your dressing and spend the 205 calories you save elsewhere. When you're looking to order at Chipotle, we opt for a burrito bowl over the salad and ask for extra lettuce on the bottom. Basically, just a salad without the caloric dressing.

Eat This! Instead:

Barbacoa Burrito Bowl With black beans, cheese, lettuce, and tomato salsa

Per bowl: 440 calories, 16.5 g fat (7.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,205 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (10 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 39 g protein
11

Cosi Cobb Salad

Cosi cobb salad as one of the unhealthiest restaurant salads
Cosi/Yelp

Per salad: 744 calories, 53 g fat (16 g saturated, 0 g trans fat), 1,817 mg sodium, 87 g carbs (5 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 49 g protein

We're going to say it: the sodium in this salad is just downright scary! Ordering a restaurant salad when dining out is risky business, but the Shanghai standby below offers plenty of lean protein and fresh vegetables without the normal salad pitfalls.

Eat This! Instead:

Smart Fit Salad

Per salad: 359 calories, 18 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 628 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (13 g fiber, 16 g sugar), 8 g protein
12

Burger King Club Salad with Crispy Chicken Salad and Ranch Dressing

burger king chicken garden salad
FakeFoodBabyNy C./Yelp
Per salad: 800 calories, 61 g fat (14 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,620 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (3 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 32 g protein

When you're at BK, just stay away from this salad! Although it might not seem as bad as some of the other culprits on this list, it's still pacling when it comes to fat and sodium. It has more sodium that one Whopper!

Eat This! Instead:

Garden Side Salad

Per salad: 60 calories, 4 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 95 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 4 g protein
13

BJ's Honey-Crisp Chicken Salad

Honey crisp salad as one of the unhealthiest restaurant salads
Courtesy of BJ's Brewhouse and Restaurant

Per salad: 1,360 calories, 103 g fat (16 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,332 mg sodium, 75 g carbs (6 g fiber, 36 g sugar), 42 g protein

This high-calorie salad comes from BJ's "Garden Fresh" menu, but it's not even close to something you'd find in a real garden. It has multiple nutritional categories in the quadruple digits. Downsize and look to the "Small Salads" section of the menu.

Eat This! Instead:

Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Salad

Per salad: 260 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 321 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 14 g protein
14

P.F. Chang's Mandarin Crunch Salad With Chicken

pf changs mandarin crunch salad
Courtesy of PF Changs
Per salad: 750 calories, 46 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,510 mg sodium, 75 g carbs (8 g fiber, 41 g sugar), 14 g protein

Adding protein such as chicken or fish to a salad is never a bad idea. But as you can see, that doesn't save this salad here. The fact that it has 1 gram more sugar than four donuts is just not OK, along with packing as much sodium as 120 Lay's potato chips.

Eat This! Instead:

Asian Caesar Salad with Chicken

Per salad: 410 calories, 30 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat), 880 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (4 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 15 g protein
15

Romano's Macaroni Grill Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Salad

romanos parm crusted salad
Richard B./Yelp
Per salad: 1,080 calories, 48 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 910 mg sodium, 100 g carbs (7 g fiber, 16 g sugar), 64 g protein

Again, this is yet another example of how you can't just trust that a salad offered up a restaurant will be good for you. The "crusted" salad is just another way of saying breaded and fried. Don't let it fool you!

Eat This! Instead:

Entrée Caesar

Per salad: 470 calories, 41 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 920 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (4 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 13 g protein
16

El Pollo Loco Double Chicken Tostada Salad

double chicken tostada salad
Courtesy of El Pollo Loco

Per salad: 1,000 calories, 49 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,730 mg sodium, 79 g carbs (10 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 61 g protein

Rice and a fried tortilla combine for a one-two punch of empty carbs, while the shredded cheese and sour cream lend these leaves more saturated fat than a dozen strips of bacon. Opt for the surprisingly healthy Double Chicken Avocado Salad instead.

Eat This! Instead:

Double Chicken Avocado Salad

Per bowl: 370 calories, 15 g fat (5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 900 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (6 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 48 g protein
17

California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad with Herb Ranch Dressing, Full

california pizza kitchen bbq chopped salad

Per full salad: 1,180 calories, 74 g fat (18 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat) 1,630 mg sodium, 77 g carbs (13 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 54 g protein

You know something's amiss when the salad packs more than twice as many calories as the pizza. California Pizza Kitchen's menu is a minefield of viscous calorie bombs, and if you try to venture far from the beaten path, you'll likely find yourself with a barrage of clandestine calories clambering for real estate in—and on—your belly.

Eat This! Instead:

Classic Caesar Salad, Full

Per salad: 530 calories, 40 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat) 810 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (8 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 17 g protein
18

On the Border Grande Taco Salad with Ground Beef

On the Border taco beef salad
Michael N./Yelp

Per salad: 710 calories, 49 g fat (18 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 1,600 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (11 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 31 g protein

You could almost have two Whoppers instead of this high-calorie salad! This belt-busting bowl boasts two days' worth of saturated fat and almost a full day's worth of heart-taxing sodium. The Chipotle-Honey Mustard Dressing alone adds 330 calories and 31 grams of fat.

Eat This! Instead:

Sizzling Fajita Salad – Chicken

Per salad: 430 calories, 20 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,070 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (8 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 41 g protein
19

California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad with Lime Cilantro Dressing, Full

Per full salad: 1,180 calories, 73 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat) 1,710 mg sodium, 88 g carbs (14 g fiber, 51 g sugar), 55 g protein

Here, you'll be eating a salad that is made up of crisp veggies (shredded carrots, edamame, cabbage, fresh avocado to be exact), fresh cilantro, chicken, peanuts, wontons, and rice sticks. It comes across as seemingly harmless, but this salad will saddle you with more calories than a pound and a half of sirloin from Applebee's.

Eat This! Instead:

California Cobb With Herb Ranch Dressing, Half

Per half salad: 480 calories, 37 g fat (8 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 780 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (5 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 26 g protein
20

Ruby Tuesday Crispy Chicken Ranch Salad

ruby tuesday crispy chicken salad
Ruby Tuesday/Facebook
1,029 calories, 67 g fat (15 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,266 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 39 g protein

When you sat down for dinner, did you expect to blow through your entire day's sodium budget by the end of your salad? Well, that's exactly what would happen if you sat down to this dish at Ruby Tuesday's. While our healthier option is slightly better on the sodium front, it's a clear winner when it comes to being nearly half the calories, fat, and saturated fat.

Eat This! Instead:

BBQ Chicken Cobb

Per salad: 624 calories, 31 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,099 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 49 g protein
21

IHOP Cobb Salad with Crispy Chicken

IHOP chicken cobb salad as one of the unhealthiest restaurant salads
IHOP

Per salad: 1,360 calories, 104 g fat (29 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 3,010 mg sodium, 37 g carbs (6 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 70 g protein

Although it's no surprise that IHOP has some of the unhealthiest restaurant breakfasts options, seeing a salad that has more calories than an order of pancakes is just shocking.

Eat This! Instead:

Grilled Chicken & Veggie Salad

Per salad: 600 calories, 35 g fat (5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,500 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (9 g fiber, 24 g sugar), 38 g protein
22

Chick-fil-A Cobb Salad with Chick-n-Stips and Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing

Chick fil a cobb salad chicken strips
Courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Per salad: 910 calories, 63 g fat (13 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,870 mg sodium, 40 g carbs (4 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 37 g protein

The Cobb salad with Chick-n-Strips and avocado lime ranch dressing off Chick-fil-A's menu will set you back nearly 1,000 calories. That's a hard-pass on this option! Instead, go for the grilled nuggets on the market salad to cut back on calories and fat for a good amount of protein.

Eat This! Instead:

Grilled Market Salad with Light Balsamic Vinaigrette

Per salad: 290 calories, 14 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 890 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (4 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 27 g protein
23

Moe's Southwest Grill Fried Salad Bowl with Adobo Chicken, Black Beans, Shredded Cheese, and Southwest Vinaigrette

moes southwest salad
Moe's Southwest Grill/ Yelp
Per salad: 930 calories, 61 g fat (18 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,406 mg sodium, 62 g carbs (12 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 42 g protein

We think this is clear: if you're trying to eat healthy, a deep-fried taco shell isn't going to cut it. Swap the chicken for steak, leave out the 455-calorie deep-fried taco shell, sub the Southwest Vinaigrette for a Chipotle Ranch, and you're looking at a reasonable meal from Moe's.

Eat This! Instead:

Chopped Romaine Salad with Steak, Pico de Gallo, Shredded Cheese, and Chipotle Ranch

Per salad: 329 calories, 24 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 742 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 27 g protein
24

Zaxby's The Fried Cobb Zalad

Zaxbys fried cobb salad
Courtesy of Zaxby's

Per salad: 820 calories, 46 g fat (16 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,100 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (6 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 56 g protein

Save yourself 30 grams of fat and over double the saturated fat and trans fat by opting for grilled instead of fried when you're ordering a salad at Zaxby's. The fried chicken chain makes some good crispy chicken, but double the calories just isn't worth it if you're eating a salad every day.

Eat This! Instead:

The Garden Blue Zalad

Per salad: 370 calories, 22 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 850 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (5 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 11 g protein
25

Wendy's Full Taco Salad

Wendys taco salad as one of the unhealthiest restaurant salads
Courtesy of Wendy's

Per salad: 690 calories, 34 g fat (13 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,890 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (15 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 30 g protein

Wendy's may have a good number of salad options, but you're going to be in the red when it comes to one macronutrient for each of them. While this Taco Salad takes the cake for the worst of all of them, we're going with the Southwest Avocado Salad as the healthiest fast food salad from Wendy's because many of those fats are healthy monounsaturated fats from avocado. Plus, it serves up a high amount of protein. Go with the half to cut back on calories while maintaining just as much protein as the Taco Salad.

Eat This! Instead:

Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad, Half

Per salad: 220 calories, 12 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 430 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 21 g protein