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. 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 17 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
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 half portion of the Roasted Veggie salad 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!
Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad With Crispy Chicken
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!
Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but—before calorie counts were so readily available—this was my go-to order at Chili’s. 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 almost a full day’s worth of 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
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 nearly a thousand 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
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
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 Bread Southwest Chile Lime Ranch Salad with Chicken
Panera’s Southwest-inspired salad far worse than their classic romaine-based variety. And it’s all thanks to the addition of far too many salt sources. If you want to give this dish a try, ask for it without the crisps to enjoy a meal with just 325 calories and a more respectable 635 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
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. 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
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 Caesar salads 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.
Quiznos Apple Harvest Chicken with Acai Vinaigrette
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 4-inch Apple Harvest sub instead. It may sound less wholesome, but it will actually save you nearly 200 calories.
Romano’s Macaroni Grill Parmesan Crusted Chicken Salad
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.
Bonefish Grill Cobb Salad With Sea Scallops and Shrimp
A blend of seafood, kale, tomato, egg, blue cheese crumbles, fresh avocado and bacon 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 With Balsamic Vinaigrette
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 lunch portion 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 Honey Crisp Chicken Salad
If you thought you were ordering a healthy meal when you asked your Uno server for the chicken salad, you were far from spot on. This dish carries 550 more calories and 42 more grams of fat than a 20-piece order of McDonald’s nuggets! Move this meal to your “Not That!” list to get one step closer to your flat belly goal.
Wendy’s Taco Salad
Not that we’re suggesting it, but you’d ingest less calories by slurping down a small Vanilla Frosty and a small soda than ordering this shifty beds of greens.
Buffalo Wild Wings Santa Fe Salad With Cilantro Lime Ranch Dressing, Soft Tortillas, and Pulled Pork
With fresh greens, pico de gallo, roasted corn and jalapenos, cheddar jack cheese, avocado, and crunchy tortilla strips, you’d think this salad would fill you up without filling you out—not quite. This sketchy bowl of greens manages to pack in more than a day’s worth of artery-clogging trans fats and blood-pressure-spiking sodium. In other words, steer clear!
IHop Crispy Chicken Cobb Salad
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.
This article was originally published on March 4, 2016, and has been updated with the most recent nutrition facts.