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7 Hot Salad Chains That Are Raising The Bar For Lunch

Tender GreensFacebook/Tender Greens

Healthy quick-service restaurant chains are experiencing explosive growth across the U.S. as consumers are increasingly opting for more nutritional alternatives to traditional fast food.

We have compiled a list of the most popular and fastest-growing healthy chains that specialize in salads.

For between $US7 and $US11, these chains offer hundreds of varieties of leafy greens with dozens of add-ons and homemade dressings. Many of them, like Tender Greens, source ingredients from local farms and offer a changing menu of seasonal salads.

Sweetgreen

Why it's great: Sweetgreen sources its ingredients from local organic farms. The chain offers a new specialty salad every month featuring seasonal ingredients that are unique to each region. It also sponsors a popular outdoor music festival in Maryland every year called Sweetlife.

What's on the menu: Salads include the Spicy Sabzi with quinoa, tofu and carrot chilli vinaigrette and the Santorini with citrus shrimp and cucumber basil yogurt dressing.

How much: Salads cost between $US9 and $US12.

Where: Sweetgreen has 22 locations in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes

Why it's great: Fans of the restaurant rave about the freshness of the ingredients in the massive buffet, which is at least 45 feet long in most locations -- though many patrons have complained on Yelp that its popularity leads to long lines at the register.

What's on the menu: The restaurant features a massive buffet where customers can pick and mix their own ingredients. The salad bar also features soups, pastas muffins and breads.

How much: Cost is based on the physical weight of a customer's plate.

Where: Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes has more than 120 restaurants in 15 states.

Tender Greens

Why it's great: Tender Greens, which advertises itself as 'slow food done fast,' was recently named as one of America's most promising companies by Forbes. Most of the restaurant's produce comes from Scarborough Farms in Oxnard, Calif. For produce that Scarborough doesn't offer, 'we work with a handful of small local farms that use sustainable farming practices,' the company writes on its website.

What's on the menu: Tender Greens' salads include Southern Fried Chicken with radish dill dressing and Salami & Kale with roasted garlic vinaigrette. 'From the grill' meat options -- including Chipotle Barbecue Chicken and Herb Brushed Albacore Tuna -- can be served on a hot plate with sides, on a sand which, or on a salad.

How much: Most salads cost $US11.

Where: The restaurant has 13 open locations and five more on the way, all located in California.

Just Salad

Why it's great: Just Salad has 15 specialty salads that all cost under $US10, even with protein included. And every time customers use the chain's reusable bowls, they get two free toppings on any salad. Fans of the chain on Yelp say it's efficient, fresh, and offers giant portions.

What's on the menu: Salads include Thai Chicken Crunch with spicy Thai peanut dressing, Smokehouse Steak with jalapenos and smoky poblano ranch dressing, and Tandoori Fire with spicy chicken and low-fat yogurt cucumber dressing.

How much: Salads cost between $US7.49 and $US9.99. The chain also sells soups for $US5.49.

Where: Just Salad has 11 locations in New York, one in New Jersey and three in Hong Kong.

Chop Stop

Why it's great: Chop Stop was recently named as one of the five best salad chains in the country by the Daily Meal. The restaurant offers five lettuce options and 42 salad add-ons, as well as 'Chopurrito Bowls' with a base of cilantro lime rice and black or white beans.

What's on the menu: Salads include the Kale Chop with chicken, eggs, feta cheese and Italian dressing and a heartier Chop-Zilla with chicken, salami, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, tortilla strips and ranch dressing.

How much: Salads range from $US8.49 to $US10.74.

Where: The chain has locations in Burbank, West Hollywood and Encino, Calif.

Saladworks

Why it's great: Saladworks is an 'institution in the salad-for-lunch world,' according to The Daily Meal. It started in mall food courts in 1986 and has since expanded to more than 100 locations with another 150 restaurants in development. In addition to salads, the menu offers wraps, paninis, soups and sandwiches.

What's on the menu: Salads include the Tivoli with pepperoni, tomatoes and oven-browned turkey and the Mandarin Chicken with cucumbers and chow mein noodles.

How much: Make-your-own salads start at $US8.69.

Where: Saladworks has 100 locations in 12 states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida, and it's now planning to expand into Canada.

Chop't

Why it's great: Chop't is arguably the most popular chopped salad chain in D.C. and New York, with lines extending out the door at most locations during lunch hour. The chain offers a dozen original salads and salad wraps. You can also build your own salad from five kinds of lettuce, more than 50 add-ons, and 28 dressings.

What's on the menu: Chop't's Kebob Cobb includes grilled chicken, feta cheese, red onion, peppers and pita chips with romaine lettuce. The Vegetarian Powerhouse has broccoli, edamame, carrots, sunflower seeds, walnuts, craisins and apples on spinach and romaine.

How much: Salads cost between $US6.99 for a caeser salad and $US10.99 for a Palm Beach salad with shrimp, avocado, tomato and cucumber.

Where: There are 15 locations in New York and 10 in D.C.

Now that you know where to grab a healthy lunch...

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