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19 Unhealthiest Salads in America

Think having a salad is healthy? Think again.
19 Unhealthiest Salads in America

We kinda love Whoppers. We bet you do, too. With juicy beef, ketchup, mayo, pickles… what’s not to like? However, it’s an indulgence—and everyone knows it. Just as you wouldn’t order a Whopper because you’re trying to watch your waistline, you’d probably order a salad for the same reason: it sounds like the healthiest item on the menu. Sadly, that’s not always the case.

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 caloric calamities 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 salads out, we’ve rounded up 19 examples of unhealthy salads so bad, you’d be better off ordering that Whopper, after all.

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What They’re Up Against

Burger King Whopper Sandwich

Burger king whopper

660 calories, 40 g fat (12 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 980 mg sodium, 49 g carbs (2 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 28 g protein
19

Panera Southwest Chile Lime Ranch Salad With Chicken

Panera southwest chile lime chicken salad Panera Bread/Twitter
Per salad: 650 calories, 34 g fat (7 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,270 mg sodium, 54 g carb (10 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 35 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 a disastrous 1,270 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

Per full salad: 340 calories, 13 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 280 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (6 g fiber, 20 g sugar), 29 g protein
18

Chipotle Chicken Salad With Black Beans, Red Salsa, Cheese & Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette

Chipotle salad Chipotle Mexican Grill/Facebook
Per salad: 680 calories, 32.5 g fat (10.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,065 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (10 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 48 g protein

If you’re seeking solace in salads at Chipotle, be sure to pass on the one and only vinaigrette 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.

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), 1,480 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (10 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 38 g protein
17

Cosi Cobb Salad

Cosi cobb salad Cosi/Yelp
Per salad: 739 calories, 56 g fat (16 g saturated, 0 g trans fat), 1,316 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (3 g fiber, 94 g sugar), 39 g protein

Learn to lighten up! On sandwiches and salads that include Cosi Vinaigrette, this little phrase will switch you to a fat-free vinaigrette. Easiest 300-calorie savings ever. Ordering 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:

Shanghai Chicken Salad

Per salad: 265 calories, 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 870 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (4 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 18 g protein
16

Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad

Taco Bell fiesta salad Dina C./Yelp
Per salad: 760 calories, 39 g fat (10 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,330 mg sodium, 78 g carbs (11 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 26 g protein

Deep-frying an oversized tortilla and using it as a salad bowl completely defeats the purpose of ordering a salad in the first place. No matter what you stick in it, it’s still going to be burdened with a dangerous load of greasy fat. Opt for the hard-shell taco instead—it’s still the best option on the menu after all these years.

Eat this! Instead:

Fresco Crunchy Beef Tacos

Per taco: 140 calories, 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 300 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 6 g protein
15

BJ’s Honey-Crisp Chicken Salad

Honey crisp salad Courtesy of BJ's Brewhouse and Restaurant
Per salad: 1,370 calories, 103 g fat (16 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,333 mg sodium, 77 g carbs (6 g fiber, 36 g sugar), 42 g protein

This 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), 324 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 14 g protein
14

P.F. Chang’s Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Salmon

Pf chang's vietnamese noodle salad Facebook/P.F. Chang's
Per salad: 1,040 calories, 32 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,690 mg sodium, 166 g carbs (6 g fiber, 29 g sugar), 52 g protein

Salmon might seem like an obvious choice to put on top of a salad due to its beneficial omega-3s and protein. However, when you add this healthful fish to carby noodles, it the calorie count soaring over 1,000, not to mention adding 450 milligrams of sodium.

Eat this! Instead:

Spinach Stir-Fry with Garlic

Per side dish: 140 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 900 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (9 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 11 g protein
13

Romano’s Macaroni Grill Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Salad

Romanos parmesan chicken salad Richard B./Yelp
Per salad: 1,080 calories, 48 g fat (16 g saturated fat, 0 g trans 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 on our pages and online have shrunk or all but disappeared in the wake of such exposure. The bad news is that dishes like this one still exist on their menu.

Eat this! Instead:

Fresh Greens Side Salad

Per salad: 190 calories, 16 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat) 190 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein
12

El Pollo Loco Chicken Tostada Salad with Light Creamy Cilantro Dressing

El pollo loco double chicken tostada salad Bryan R./Yelp
Per salad: 1,160 calories, 76 g fat (17 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 1,810 mg sodium, 77 g carbs (7 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 40 g protein

The dressing may be light, but this bowl is anything but. 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 Mexican Caesar Pollo Bowl instead. This Itali-Mex hybrid bowl makes significant improvements on the standard Caesar that so routinely underdelivers. Plenty of freshly grilled chicken adds a big dose of protein, and the hulking scoop of salsa ensures that the lettuce isn’t mere token greenery. You can also go for…

Eat this! Instead:

Double Shrimp Mango Bowl

Per bowl: 420 calories, 21 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 850 mg sodium, 43 g carbs (6 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 16 g protein
11

On the Border Grande Taco Salad With Ground Beef with Chipotle-Honey Mustard Dressing

On the Border taco beef salad Michael N./Yelp
Per salad: 1,160 calories, 88 g fat (25 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,140 mg sodium, 62 g carbs (11 g fiber, n/a sugar), 33 g protein

You could almost have two Whoppers in this salad! This beltline-busting bowl boasts two days’ worth of saturated fat and almost a full day’s worth of heart-taxing sodium.

Eat this! Instead:

Fajita Chicken Salad

Per salad: 330 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 490 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (11 g fiber, n/a sugar), 44 g protein
10

California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad

California Pizza kitchen chicken salad Courtesy of California Pizza Kitchen
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

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
9

California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad

California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad Courtesy of California Pizza Kitchen
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

Shredded carrots, edamame, cabbage, fresh avocado: The menu reads like an Intro to Nutrition class at the local junior college. If that’s the case, CPK is flunking out of school, since this seemingly harmless salad will saddle you with more calories than a pound and a half of sirloin from Applebee’s. Blame the two different dressings, the shower of fried wonton strips, and the sewer-cap size plate.

Eat this! Instead:

Quinoa & Arugula Salad

Per half salad: 540 calories, 36 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 820 mg sodium, 46 g carbs (7 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 14 g protein
8

Applebee’s Crispy Chicken Tender Salad

Applebees crispy chicken tender salad Courtesy of Applebee's
Per salad: 1,180 calories, 79 g fat (21 g saturated, 1 g trans fat), 2,480 mg sodium, 71 g carbs (7 g fiber, 29 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:

Thai Shrimp Salad

Per salad: 410 calories, 21 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,470 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (8 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 25 g protein
7

Buffalo Wild Wings Honey BBQ Chicken Salad with Honey BBQ Ranch Dressing

Buffalo Wild Wings honey bbq chicken salad Rose L./Yelp
Per salad: 1,180 calories, 76 g fat (19 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 4,070 mg sodium, 75 g carbs (7 fiber, 41 g sugar), 48 g protein

We’re as perplexed as you are. How a salad that contains chicken manages to have almost twice as much sodium as the daily recommendation is a nutritional puzzle that only Einstein himself could solve. (We’d never know.) Your better option is to choose a side salad, and a side salad only, as most of Buffalo Wild Wing’s salads have more than 1,000 calories.

Eat this! Instead:

Caesar Side Salad With Light Caesar Dressing

Per salad: 330 calories, 21 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 960 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (3 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 8 g protein
6

California Pizza Kitchen Waldorf Chicken Salad

California pizza kitchen 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

CPK’s salad menu is littered with gigantic gut-bombs like this one. There’s no reason that this salad should saddle you with over a grand of calories. According to the CPK website, it contains field greens, chilled-grilled chicken breast, seedless grapes, Granny Smith apples, candied walnuts, celery and Gorgonzola cheese. 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. Choose the half-size of the Roasted Vegetable Salad instead and consider it your main meal, not a starter dish.

Eat this! Instead:

Half Roasted Vegetable Salad

Per half salad: 360 calories,27 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 610 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (10 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 7 g protein
5

T.G.I. Fridays Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

Pecan crusted chicken salad Courtesy of TGI Fridays
Per salad: 1,400 calories, 84 g fat (19 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,770 mg sodium, 82 g carbs (10 g fiber, 52 g sugar), 40 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.

Eat this! Instead:

Million Dollar Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken (lunch portion)

Per lunch portion salad: 480 calories, 32 g fat (11 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,210 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (6 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 35 g protein
4

Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad With Crispy Chicken

Applebees oriental salad Courtesy of Applebee's
Per salad: 1,440 calories, 97 g fat (15 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,630 mg sodium, 100 g carbs (11 g fiber, 37 sugar), 36 g protein

Why is this salad so hefty? Part of the blame goes to the ìtasty 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 to boot. What exactly makes this a salad again?

Eat this! Instead:

Lunch Caesar Salad

Per salad: 220 calories, 18 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 310 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 4 g protein
3

Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad

Chilis quesadilla explosion salad Courtesy of Chili's
Per salad: 1,400 calories, 93 g fat (28 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 2,390 mg sodium, 81 g carbs (9 g fiber, 17 g sugar), 61 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:

Fresco Salad

Per salad: 130 calories, 10 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 240 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (1 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein
2

Chevy’s Fresh Mex Tostada Salad with Chicken

Chevys tostada salad Chevy's Fresh Mex/Facebook
Per salad: 1,500 calories, 91 g fat (34 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,410 mg sodium, 91 g carbs (n/a fiber, 6 g sugar), 84 g protein

Containing nearly a day’s worth of calories and as much fat as 20 Twinkies (and this doesn’t include the dressing), this bowl of leaves qualifies as one of the worst salads in America. Opt for the Grilled Chicken Tacos instead. Though it is not a healthy food, they are the lesser evil—and drop the cheese and the chipotle aioli while you’re at it.

Eat this! Instead:

Grilled Chicken Tacos

Per 2 tacos: 590 calories, 24 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,280 mg sodium, 49 g carbs (n/a fiber, 3 g sugar), 41 g protein
1

Cheesecake Factory Caesar Salad With Chicken

Cheesecake Factory caesar salad with chicken Jennifir A./Yelp
Per salad: 1,540 calories, 131 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 1,540 mg sodium, 37 carbs (9 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 61 g protein

The dismal dawn of the 1,600-calorie salad is upon us. Truth be told, nearly every Cheesecake Factory salad dwarfs a Whopper (or two, or even three). Their nutrition menu omits a lot of nutrition details, so who knows what can is actually in their salad. The exception is the Weight Management salad menu, which provides rare decent options, even though two of them contain more sodium than this attrocity.

Eat this! Instead:

Seared Tuna Tataki Salad

Per salad: 490 calories, 28 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,400 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (5 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 44 g protein

This article was originally published in January 2016 and has since been updated to reflect the most recent nutrition information.

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