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The #1 Healthiest Order at 7 Popular Salad Chains, According to a Dietitian

Just because it's a salad doesn't make it healthy. Here are the most nutritious menu options at major salad chains.
FACT CHECKED BY Justine Goodman

Salads can make for a nutritious and satisfying meal, but it's important to remember that not all salads are created equal, especially when you're ordering off the menu at a salad chain. Although you may assume that a veggie-packed bowl of greens is always a healthy choice, think again. Oftentimes salads may include multiple high-calorie and high-saturated-fat ingredients that can quickly turn your 'healthy' lunch into an artery-clogging bomb. Loads of cheese, creamy dressings, and processed meats are just a few of the culprits that can turn a good salad into something less nutritious—especially when it's all served together in one bowl.

If you want to make sure your salad is healthy, start by looking for one that's well-balanced. A side salad will only have basic veggies (like lettuce and tomato) and vinaigrette, but that's not enough to qualify as a whole meal and won't leave you satisfied. You should still have other foods included like protein, fruit, starches, and/or dairy to create a wholesome and satisfying meal. If you're having a salad as a meal, you want to aim for at least four food groups.

We reviewed the menus at seven popular salad chains and identified the healthiest option at each one. Bear in mind that we judged these based on the listed menu offerings, but if you prefer a different salad at any of these chains, you can also tweak it to make it a bit healthier and more to your liking. Swapping the dressing, adding or swapping the protein, and removing ingredients that are high in saturated fat are all easy ways to make many salads just a bit healthier.

Chopt: Mexican Caesar with Grilled Chicken

Chop't Mexican Caesar with Grilled Chicken
Nutrition (Per 1 salad, with dressing):
Calories: 385
Fat: 19 g (Saturated fat: 7 g)
Sodium: 625 mg
Carbs: 26 g (Fiber: 8 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 31 g

Chopt's Mexican Caesar with Grilled Chicken salad is made with romaine lettuce, jalapenos, cotija cheese, tortilla chips, and grilled chicken, and comes topped with a Mexican Caesar dressing. The total calorie count is relatively low, and with 31 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber, this salad will keep you feeling full and satisfied long past lunchtime. Chopt also allows customers to modify orders and even allows 1:1 swaps at no charge; to make this even healthier, swap the Mexican Caesar dressing for the Mexican Goddess, which has about half the calories and saturated fat.

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Just Salad: Tokyo Supergreens with Chicken

Just Salad Tokyo Supergreens, Chicken
Just Salad
Nutrition (Per 1 salad, without dressing):
Calories: 390
Fat: 25 g (Saturated fat: 3 g)
Sodium: 330 mg
Carbs: 25 g (Fiber: 12 g, Sugar: 7 g)
Protein: 26 g

When you order the Tokyo Supergreens salad with chicken at Just Salad, you'll be digging into a blend of nutrient-rich supergreens, roasted chicken, carrots, edamame, Haas avocado, broccoli, almonds, and Japanese furikake shake. The recommended dressing is homemade miso ginger vinaigrette, which adds 120 calories of mainly healthy fats. Even with the dressing, the sodium and calories are very reasonable, as is the distribution of the macros.

Sweetgreen: Hummus Crunch

Sweetgreen Hummus Crunch Salad
Nutrition (Per 1 salad, with dressing):
Calories: 380
Fat: 21 g (Saturated fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 1,041 mg
Carbs: 38 g (Fiber: 7 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 13 g

This flavorful vegetarian option from Sweetgreen is made with hummus, olives, chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded cabbage, red onions, basil, za'atar breadcrumbs, chopped romaine, shredded kale and a pesto vinaigrette. The calories and saturated fat content are very reasonable, while the fiber is a nice 7 grams, which will help keep you full. The sodium is quite high, but it can be significantly reduced by laying off the za'atar breadcrumbs.

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Tender Greens: Grilled Chicken Cobb

tender greens' grilled chicken cobb salad in a white bowl with a fork in it
Tender Greens / Facebook
Nutrition (Per 1 salad, with dressing):
Calories: 663
Fat: 55 g (Saturated fat: 7 g)
Sodium: 1,045 mg
Carbs: 11 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 28 g

This lower-carb salad is made with egg, avocado, blue cheese, bacon, cherry tomatoes, romaine, and tarragon dressing. It's your best salad choice at Tender Greens, and the protein is perfect for a meal, but you can still lower the sodium and saturated fat, and shave off some calories, if you hold back on the bacon and/or blue cheese.

Saladworks: Sophie's Salad

Saladworks Sophie's Salad
Nutrition (Per 1 salad, without dressing):
Calories: 430
Fat: 18 g (Saturated fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 780 mg
Carbs: 48 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 36 g)
Protein: 20 g

Fortunately, enjoying Saladworks' Sophie's Salad is much easier than trying to say it three times fast! This salad is made with a spring mix, grilled chicken, bleu cheese, dried cranberries, honey-roasted pecans, and sliced apples. It's recommended to be served with the lite raspberry vinaigrette. The sugar and sodium are relatively high, but Sophie's Salad still makes our list because it provides four food groups: vegetables, fruit, protein, healthy fat, and dairy. The total calories is reasonable, even if you add the recommended dressing.

Fresh&Co: Shrimp Taco Salad

Fresh & Co Shrimp Taco Salad
Fresh & Co
Nutrition (Per 1 salad, without dressing):
Calories: 165
Fat: 2.7 g (Saturated fat: 0.4 g)
Sodium: 241.8 mg
Carbs: 15 g (Fiber: 3.2 g, Sugar: 4.5 g)
Protein: 22 g

This low-calorie, gluten-free salad at Fresh&Co is made with chipotle-marinated shrimp, radish, corn, pico de gallo, and tortilla chips, and drizzled with a coconut-lime vinaigrette. (The online menu doesn't specify whether the nutrition info includes dressing, but typically you'll see more calories when a dressing is included.) Regardless, it's a nice choice with protein, loads of veggies, a bit of carbs, and not much fat.

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Panera Bread: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

Panera bread fuji apple chicken salad
Panera Bread
Nutrition (Per 1 whole salad, dressing included):
Calories: 550
Fat: 33 g (Saturated fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 950 mg
Carbs: 36 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 22 g)
Protein: 30 g

This popular salad at Panera is made with romaine and mixed greens tossed in a white balsamic vinaigrette and topped with grilled chicken, grape tomatoes, red onions, toasted pecan pieces, feta, and apple chips. The saturated fat is 30% of the recommended daily max, which isn't bad for an entire meal. The protein and fiber are also within the normal limits of a healthy, well-balanced salad. If you want to reduce calories and carbs slightly, ask to hold the pecans.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN
Toby Amidor is an award winning dietitian and Wall Street Journal best-selling cookbook author who believes healthy and wholesome can also be appetizing and delicious. Read more about Toby