Don’t Be DeceivedNot all salads are healthy. And their nutritional value can vary dramatically depending on portion size and the toppings included. But there are ways to identify which salads are likely the best and worst for you without counting calories and ruining your appetite.
ShopSmart, a Consumer Reports publication, recently put together a list of some of the best and worst restaurant chain salads and tricks that make salads, at restaurants and at home, diet-friendly but still delicious.
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Salad Winner: On the Border Citrus Chipotle Chicken SaladOn the Border’s Citrus Chipotle Chicken Salad with Mango Citrus Vinaigrette was one of two winners in ShopSmart’s review, which looked at several chain restaurant salads from 8 different establishments. Sprinkled with vinaigrette and spices, this lean On the Border salad has a kick, plus a healthy 11 grams of fiber.
Fat: 3.5 grams
Calories: 290 calories
Price: About $9.24
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Salad Winner: Panera Bread BBQ Chopped Chicken SaladAccording to ShopSmart, this salad is so good already with its corn, black beans and tortilla strips that you don’t even need the ranch dressing it comes with. Avoiding the extra dressing saves you 12 grams of fat and 150 calories.
Fat: 10 grams
Calories: 350 without the dressing
Price: About $7.59
Photo Credit: panerabread.com
Great Salad: Wendy’s Chicken Caesar Salad With Chicken Fillet (Without the Dressing)The chicken on this Wendy's (Stock Quote:WEN) salad may be served warm, and if you really must add some dressing, ShopSmart says you don’t need the whole packet. Parmesan cheese adds an extra bit of fat and sodium.
Fat: 7 grams without dressing
Calories: 240 calories without dressing
Price: About $5.38
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Good Salad: Olive Garden Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (Without the Dressing)Not surprisingly, if you use all the Caesar dressing that comes with this salad, you’ll be packing in the calories. Plus, you’ll get 1880 milligrams of sodium, more than half the maximum you should get in one day.
Fat: 19 grams without the dressing, 64 grams with it
Calories: 420 calories without the dressing, 850 with it
Price: About $8.25
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Good Salad: McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad With Grilled Chicken (Without the Dressing)This McDonald's (Stock Quote: MCD) salad packs a healthy dose of protein, with 30 grams. But a creamy dressing on this salad also inflates the fat content and calories in this dish.
Fat: 9 grams without the dressing, 15 grams with it
Calories: 320 calories without the dressing, 420 with it
Price: About $4.29
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Good Salad: Burger King Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad (Without the Dressing)This Burger King salad comes topped with three kinds of cheese, according to Burger King’s nutrition facts. Adding ranch dressing to that triples the fat content of this salad.
Fat: 9 grams without the dressing, 29 grams with it
Calories: 270 grams without the dressing, 460 with it
Price: About $6.59
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Good Salad: Sonic Santa Fe Grilled Chicken Salad (Without the Dressing)The fat content of this salad nearly triples with the addition of ranch dressing, making it fairly obvious that full-fat creamy dressings might just make your salad just as bad as a burger.
Fat: 12 grams without the ranch dressing, 32 grams with it
Calories: 312 calories, 505 calories with it
Price: About $7.19
Photo Credit: sonicdrivein.com
Bad-for-You Salad: Chili’s Grilled BBQ Chicken SaladSo, strictly speaking, Chili's isn't fast food, but it needed to be included on this list. Like the healthier Panera barbecue chicken salad, this salad comes with both barbecue sauce and ranch dressing. And 53 extra grams of fat. It does contain a filling 67 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber, however.
Fat: 63 grams
Calories: 1060 calories
Price: About $8.79Photo Credit: Merelymel
Bad-for-You Salad: Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion SaladNot too surprisingly, the Quesadilla Explosion ranked as the worst chain restaurant salad for your health. Too many of these salads and your waistline might just explode as well. Plus it contains nearly a full day’s worth of sodium.
Fat: 88 grams
Calories: 1,400 calories
Price: About $8.99
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At-Home Salad TipsIf you’ve ever made your own salad at home, it can be glaringly obvious that buying individual ingredients, making your own dressing and putting it all together to your liking can often be cheaper and healthier. But to avoid being allured and trapped by fatty additions, here are some ingredients to buy and others to avoid – or even keep out of the fridge entirely if you're aiming to eat healthier.
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Artery-Clogging Cream?Whether ranch, bleu cheese or creamy Italian dressing is your weakness, these dairy-based salad additions can really pack in the fat as well as sodium, sugar and fillers. Homemade dressings with healthy oils, including olive oil, walnut oil and grapeseed oil, plus a good balsamic or apple cider vinegar however, can be a very healthy choice.
If it takes a creamy dressing for you to eat your vegetables, however, a homemade yogurt-based dressing would be a healthier option than the bottled creamy kind, ShopSmart suggests.
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Choosing CheeseShredded, cubed or crumbled cheese can add a sharp kick or a smoother and creamy feel to your everyday salad. But remember that a serving of cheese is only two ounces, or the size of two dominoes, according to PBS Kids. To prevent the damage that chunks of fatty cheese can do to your waistline, try low-fat cheese.
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Picking NutsAlmonds, walnuts, pecans and other nuts are a source of healthy fats and add a crunch to your average salad. But you may want to steer clear of glazed nuts, like candied walnuts found on some Asian-style salads. They’re covered in sugar and can add a lot of unnecessary calories and carbs to your plate.
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Favorite FruitsDehydrated fruits like sweetened, dried cranberries can be a fun and flavorful addition to salads. But since they’re shrunken and fairly sugary, you may not realize how much sugar you’re consuming in that generous handful. On the other hand, fresh grapes and strawberries can also make a good salad topper and may contain less sugar than dried fruits.
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