If you think a salad is your best option at the drive-thru window, think again.Many of the salads that appear on the menus at fast food chains actually have more calories and saturated fats than the “dreaded” Big Mac.
We spoke with dietitian Nicolette M. Pace of NutriSource Inc. about which salads are the worst offenders.
For a baseline, the typical Big Mac has 550 calories, 30 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, and 1000 mg of sodium.
This salad is basically fried chicken, served up salad style.
If you add a standard Caesar dressing, these salads can be up to 1,200 calories, which is equivalent to two Big Macs.
Where you can find it: McDonald's (350 calories, 18 g of fat), KFC (340, 18 grams of fat), Olive Garden (610 calories, 40 g of fat), Ruby Tuesdays (786 calories, 28 g of fat), IHOP (1440 calories, 78 g of fat), Cheesecake Factory (1,513 calories, 16 g of fat).
'This salad is basically a deconstructed taco,' Pace said. 'But now there is no limits of the constricting taco shell, it's a whole bowl.'
Typically, these salads have 14 grams of saturated fat, and on average 14 mg of sodium.
One of the worst offenders has 3,500 mg of sodium and 1,400 calories, at a particular chain, Pace said.
Where you can find it: McDonald's (450 calories, 21 g of fat), Taco Bell (463, 7 g of fat), chilli's (1,360 calories, 88 g of fat), Applebee's (850 calories, 42 g of fat).
'People think the Asian salads are lighter,' Pace said. 'But it sounds deceptively healthier.'
The Asian salad has sodium-packed vinaigrette and fried noodles.
With any extra add ons, the salad can have 2,000 milligrams of sodium and 12 grams of saturated fat.
Where you can find it: Applebee's is by far the worst offender at 1,290 calories, 81 g of fat.
Here's the fried or crispy chicken again, masking itself as healthy.
Buffalo sauce, with elements of sugar and/or more fat laced with hot sauce and blue cheese, is a 'calorie and sodium festival,' Pace said.
Where you'll find it: chilli's (920 calories, 63 g of fat), Subway (430 calories, 30 g of fat).
The popular cousin to the southwest salad, the taco salad is a huge bowl of meat, cheese, and sour cream.
Pace says this salad spikes in fat and sodium, even without the taco shell.
Where you'll find it: Wendy's (730 calories, 47 g of fat), On The Border (1,280 calories, 85 g of fat), Cheesecake Factory (1,130 calories, 15 g of saturated fat).
There are endless possibilities with a Greek salad.
The veggies are fine, but add on Feta cheese, olives, grape leaves, and oily dressing and you'll throw off the portion size, inflating calories.
Pace suggests taking off half the cheese and meat to save for a later meal.
Where you'll find it: Panera (340 calories, 34 g of fat), Cosi (516 calories, 47 g of fat), diners.
The chef's salad is a favourite among low-carb dieters, Pace said.
But with deli meats and cheeses stacked on, a chef's salad can be as unhealthy as a stack of pancakes.
Pace recommends cutting out the creamy dressing and using some oil instead.
Where you'll find it: 900 calories at a diner before the dressing.
Tuna and egg salads are on the diet menu at a lot of places.
But there is a ton of mayonnaise in those.
Egg salad is actually the healthiest of the three, suffering from bad reputation, Pace said.
Where you'll find them: Diners, delis.
Cobb salads don't have many greens, but come with plenty of eggs, bacon, avocado, and blue cheese.
This salad can have 10 to 12 grams of saturated fat, as much as (or more than) a Big Mac.
Where you'll find it: Diners, TGI Friday's (590 calories, 36 g of fat).
Steak salads aren't quite as bad as crispy chicken salads, but with all of the cheese and add ons they can quickly run into the 800-calorie range.
This salad can have 1,200 mg of sodium and 16 g of saturated fat.
Where you'll find it: Cosi (652 calories, 52 g of fat), Panera (790 calories, 54 g of fat).
'Antipasto salads are a pile of meat, cheese, and olives,' Pace said.
Antipasto salads are typically had before the meal, so you are piling on all of the calories from the meat and cheese before you even get to dinner.
Where you'll find it: Salad bars, Italian restaurants.
The add-ons at a DIY salad bar has an endless amount of sodium, fat, and calories.
If you're going to go for the all-you-can-eat salad bar, it's best to stick with raw veggies, grilled chicken, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
Where you'll find them: Malls, Ruby Tuesday's.
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