It is all too easy to assume that opting for a salad at your favorite chain restaurant is a healthy and responsible choice. Sadly, this is not always the case. In fact, oftentimes the salads served up at these venues are as egregiously unhealthy — sometimes more so — than their meaty, bready counterparts. Although they do offer the benefits of a few leafy greens, restaurant salads are frequently loaded with fried meats, fatty cheeses, and creamy, calorie-packed dressings, so exercise caution when ordering! Take a look at these 5 unhealthy restaurant salads that offer little to no nutritional benefit, and learn what you’d be better off ordering instead.
1. Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad
The salad portion of the menu would seem like a safe bet at Chili’s, a restaurant that is a veritable hotbed of greasy, fatty offerings. But the Quesadilla Explosion Salad is a monster in and of itself: grilled chicken breast, shredded cheese, tomatoes, corn, and black bean salsa doesn’t sound too offensive, but add the 3-cheese quesadillas that are served along with it, and you’ve got a problem. According to Chili’s official nutrition information, this salad has 1,440 calories and a whopping 96 grams of fat. Additionally, the Quesadilla Explosion contains 175 milligrams of cholesterol and an unheard-of 2,410 milligrams of sodium.
2. California Pizza Kitchen Moroccan Spiced Chicken Salad
A full-sized Moroccan Spiced Chicken Salad at California Pizza Kitchen consists of butternut squash, dates, avocado, red peppers, chopped egg, and spiced chicken. Doesn’t sound like it’ll be too bad, does it? In reality, however, this salad has 1,500 calories, 99 grams of fat, 295 milligrams cholesterol, and 1,380 milligrams sodium, according to the restaurant’s official nutrition information. You’re still better off with this than the 1,290-calorie Thai Chicken Pizza — but you’re still a long way from making the best nutritional choices.
Sodium-wise, it’s hard to make a positive choice here, even when sticking to the salad menu. Still, you would be much better off with a half-sized Caesar salad with grilled shrimp. This hearty meal has 320 calories, 20 grams of fat, 105 milligrams cholesterol, and 800 milligrams sodium.
3. Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad
Fried chicken on a bed of lettuce is still fried chicken. This 1,240-calorie behemoth is a tornado of nutritional devastation. If the fried chicken didn’t tip you off, then maybe the crispy noodles will. This salad also consists of toasted almonds and an Oriental vinaigrette, weighing in with 77 grams of fat, and 1,340 milligrams sodium, according to Livestrong. At this point, you may as well abandon all pretense and dig into a Fried Chicken Salad, which consists of fried chicken sitting atop some leaves.
4. T.G.I.Friday’s Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad
This salad consists of crispy pecan-crusted chicken, cranberries, oranges, glazed pecans, and bleu cheese tossed with a bed of lettuce in balsamic vinaigrette. Aside from the chicken, this salad could even make a solid nutritional case for itself. Including the chicken, however, it packs in 1,080 calories, 71 grams of fat, and 1,650 milligrams of sodium, according to the restaurant’s official nutrition information.
To avoid these nutritional pitfalls, opt for a lunch-sized Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad. In total, this option is 300 calories, 42 grams of fat, and 530 milligrams sodium.
5. Cheesecake Factory Chicken Caesar Salad
This option follows the traditional formula for a Caesar Salad, and while it may be delicious, it won’t do your waistline any favors. Even without dressing, this salad has 980 calories with 10 grams of saturated fat and 920 milligrams sodium, according to Cheesecake Factory Nutrition.
Conversely, the Herb-Crusted Salmon Salad at Cheesecake Factory has only 560 calories and 660 milligrams of sodium, making it a much more healthful choice on the nutritional minefield that is the Cheesecake Factory menu.