‘Healthy’ Menu Items That Are a Total Scam at Restaurant Chains

In our whole grain, superfood, green-obsessed society it can be difficult to know what food is actually still good for us. Many restaurant chains have made attempts to join the health revolution with low calorie options that still pack plenty of carbohydrates, sugars, and high sodium. Avoid further food scams and be aware of these “healthy” options that are anything but.

Panera’s Green Passion Power smoothie

A woman stands in a green running jacket holding a green smoothie.

Just because it’s green, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. | Dirima/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In recent years Panera Bread has revamped its menu items to be healthier. This included the addition of their Green Passion Power smoothie. While the smoothie does contain spinach, it also has a significant preservative content.

The smoothie is only 200 calories per serving, however it also packs 51 grams of carbs, 47 of which come from sugar. It only contains 4 grams of fiber which is one of the key nutrients you should be receiving from fruits and vegetables. Try a lower sugar homemade smoothie with all natural ingredients instead.

Dunkin Donuts’ oatmeal

A white bowl full of traditional oatmeal.

Bowl of oats porridge with milk | Magone/iStock/Getty Images

Dunkin Donuts serves a 310-calorie cup of Quaker Oats oatmeal with dried fruit and brown sugar as a healthier option to their sugary donuts and baked goods. However, true to form, their oatmeal has 40 grams of sugar — more than the recommended daily intake for both men and women. The oatmeal also has additives like calcium carbonate, thiamin mononitrate, and sulphur dioxide which create a brown sugar “flavored” oatmeal.

Instead, try some of these healthy oatmeal recipes which are suitable for every meal of the day.

PF Changs’ chicken lettuce wraps

Chicken wraps on a white plate.

Your favorite appetizer might have more sodium than you think. | Bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images Plus

PF Changs’ menu features plenty of delicious Chinese Bistro comfort foods and their chicken lettuce wraps are no different. Despite the lettuce wraps’ short ingredient list, one serving holds 2,590 milligrams of sodium — 107% of the recommended daily intake.

Try creating your own version of the lettuce wraps following these healthy lettuce wrap recipes.

Zoe’s Kitchen’s Gruben

A grilled Reuben sandwich on a plate.

Split that hefty sandwich with a friend. | CLFortin/iStock/Getty Images Plus

It seems that some of Zoe’s Kitchen’s sandwiches contradict their slogan of “Simple. Tasty. Fresh.” Most of their sandwiches pack over 40 grams of carbs and 1,000 milligrams of sodium. The Gruben beats the rest out with 1,700 mg of sodium and is one of the higher-carb sandwich options.

Try Zoe’s Kitchen’s salads for lower carb and sodium options. Despite their healthy reputation, check out their nutrition facts to make the best choice when ordering.

Starbucks’ egg salad sandwich

Egg salad sandwich and bread.

This isn’t your grandma’s homemade egg salad. | Coast-to-Coast/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Starbucks’ egg salad sandwich at first glance is simple. Their custom egg salad recipe on whole grain bread with arugula seems like a quick and nutritious fix for lunch.

The sandwich holds more than 20% of the average recommended daily saturated fat intake. It’s also highly processed and the whole wheat bread contains caramel color, an additive made by treating sugar with ammonia. It was listed as one of Starbucks’ unhealthiest foods by The Daily Meal.

Saladworks’ Buffalo Bleu salad

A plate full of chicken salad and ranch dressing.

Sodium-laden chicken and ranch dressing? You might want to steer clear. | Tycoon751/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Saladworks is a popular salad chain with locations in over a dozen states. While the chain that is dedicated to creative, custom salads may seem like a smart choice, a few of their salads are far less nutritious than anticipated.

The Buffalo Bleu salad includes all natural chicken, vegetables, and bleu cheese. However, the original buffalo spicy sauce and recommended chunky bleu cheese dressing are the downfalls of this particular menu item. The salad has 12 grams of fat and over half the average recommended daily intake of sodium.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s Lean Machine smoothie

Assorted fruit smoothies in neat rows.

Some smoothies are just sugar in a cup. | Breaking The Walls/ iStock/Getty Images Plus

While most smoothies are high in sugar content due to fruit, be wary of those made with additive ingredients. Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s Lean Machine smoothie is packaged as one of their “superfood smoothies” supposedly having fat burning and energizing properties.

However, upon closer inspection, the lean machine is anything but healthy. It has one of the highest sugar counts at 107 grams and is also high in calories and carbs. You can substitute Splenda to lower the sugar and calorie count, but be sure to first educate yourself on the risks associated with artificial sweeteners.