5 Secret Pitfalls of This “Healthy” Fast-Food Order — Eat This Not That

fast food salads they often feel like chain restaurants’ attempt to appear healthy. And, unfortunately, they usually fall into one of two categories: the late-night salad, with lifeless vegetables and soggy croutons, or the unhealthy salad, which is rarely more than a different presentation of the same food ingredients. faster than you would normally get. on a burger or a sandwich.

At least when you opt for a Burger or a chicken sandwich, you are being honest about what you are eating. But a fast-food salad has a way of lulling you into a false sense of healthy eating when it really isn’t.

Registered Dietitian and Certified Sports Dietitian Amy Goodson took us through the fast food salad landscape and identified the most common pitfalls, so you can recognize and avoid them in the future.

For more fast food news, check out 8 Worst Fast Food Burgers To Stay Away From Right Now.

pouring creamy salad dressing on salad with ham

When it comes to fast food salads, the devil is in the bandage. You’ll want to lather it up, as it masks the other blemishes in the salad, like vegetables and low-quality protein. And while some dressing is obviously necessary, the type you choose and the amount you choose to consume are crucial.

“Creamy ones can add up to calories really quickly,” says Goodson, “especially if you add more than one serving.”

Take Chick-fil-A’s Avocado Lime Dressing, for example. Just one serving will add 310 calories and 530 milligrams of sodium to your salad. Put it on the Chicken Cobb Salad with Grilled Nuggets and now you have a salad that has 1,040 calories and 1,980 milligrams of sodium (close to the recommended daily limit of 2,300 milligrams). For comparison, the chain’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich has 320 calories and 680 milligrams of sodium.

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Another problem? Most people assume that the salad dressing that comes with the salad represents one serving, but that’s not always the case, says Goodson.

Chili Citrus Balsamic Vinaigrette, for example, has 330 calories for a 2-ounce drizzle. “Most restaurants will easily give you double that amount or more,” she says. “And adding this salad dressing, thinking it’s healthier because it’s a vinaigrette, can quickly take your salad to the dark side.”

chili saladchili salad
Chili’s Grill & Bar / Facebook

Just because the base of your salad is made of lettuce and greens doesn’t mean you can add whatever you want on top and call it a healthy meal.

“To amp up the palatability of the salad, restaurants are upping the high-calorie toppings,” says Goodson. “Take a look at Chili’s Quesadilla Explosion Salad, which has a whopping 1,400 calories, 27 grams of saturated fat, and 2,590 milligrams of sodium. The extra calories will likely come from the cheese quesadillas, tortilla strips, and dressing.” citrus and balsamic”.

chipotle saladchipotle salad
Courtesy of Chipotle

It’s true that things like nuts, dried fruit, and avocado are good-for-you ingredients and nutrient-dense additions to a salad. But Goodson points out that there is an excess of healthy things.

“In many cases, restaurants go overboard and end up putting TOO MANY of these ingredients in the salad, sending the calorie calculator skyrocketing,” he says. “Chipotle, for example, is a great example of where you can go overboard quickly.”

We’re not denying that Chipotle has fresh and healthy ingredients, but let’s take a look at the ingredients and make a simple addition. Start with a serving of lettuce (15 calories) and chicken (180 calories). Then add black beans (130 calories), Monterey Jack cheese (110 calories), guacamole (230 calories), vegetable fajita (20 calories), roasted chili corn salsa (80 calories), sour cream (110 calories) and a portion of the honey chipotle vinaigrette (220 calories) and voila, now you have 1,095 calories.

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“It’s a lot for one meal, even though it contains healthy ingredients,” warns Goodson.

Bread broccoli and cheddar cheese soupBread broccoli and cheddar cheese soup
Courtesy of Panera

A combination of soup and salad sounds pretty healthy, right? It could be anything but.

“Many people think that since they’re buying a salad for their meal, there should be room for a garnish, but making the wrong addition can cause the food’s nutritional profile to overflow,” warns Goodson.

For example, if you order a combination of soup and salad at breadbasketChoosing broccoli cheddar soup will add 230 calories and 840 milligrams of sodium to your meal. And if you put that cup of soup in your bread bowl to go with your salad, you’ve just added 900 calories and 2,000 milligrams of sodium to your average salad.

“Adding bread is another way to increase the calories in your salad,” says Goodson. “A small piece of baguette at Panera will add 150 calories and if you stop by Cracker Barrel and enjoy two crackers with your salad (after all, they bring them to the table), you just added 320 calories for those two little things.”

Chick fil a waffle fries on the tableChick fil a waffle fries on the table

Likewise, opting for a salad as your main course can kick-start our treat mentality. Whether it’s because the salad didn’t fill us up or we think we’ve saved room on our calorie count for the day, often consider adding fries or a dessert to reward yourself, says Goodson.

While indulging our cravings from time to time is a part of self-care, adding a treat to our salad often brings us right back to where we started nutritionally.

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“Chick-fil-A’s Little Fried Waffles will add 320 calories and 19 grams of fat to your salad. Or add a Wendy’s Little Chocolate Glaze (350 calories and 47 grams of sugar) to your Apple Pecan Salad (550 calories) and it all added up really quickly,” says Goodson.

Grilled Chicken Salad Whole30Grilled Chicken Salad Whole30

We asked Goodson for tips on how to make sure our order of fast-food salads stays nutritious and light. Here are the tips he gave us:

  • Do not pour the dressing over the salad. Instead, set it aside and lightly dip your fork into it. It may sound silly, but dressing usually adds the most calories and lacks nutritional value.
  • Choose grilled meat. Some assume that fried chicken is somehow better for you served in a salad instead of a sandwich, but it will add a lot of fat and calories to your meal.
  • Make sure your salad has a balance of vegetables, protein, healthy fats (avocado or an olive oil-based vinaigrette), and even fresh fruit. Ordering a salad that contains fiber, protein, and healthy fats is likely to help you feel more satisfied and less tempted to reach for dessert.
  • Use light ingredients or choose the ones you like best. Dried fruit, cheese and fried dressings can quickly increase the caloric content of the salad.
  • Choose a light item, like a fruit cup.
  • go get one of these The 6 Best Fast Food Salads in America.

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