15 Of The Unhealthiest Restaurant Salads You Can Order

salad and wine on table
salad and wine on table - Image Source/Getty Images

Restaurant salads are a distinctly 20th-century phenomenon. Classic salads like the Cobb and the Caesar started to pop up on the menus of classier restaurants in the United States in the first half of the 1900s and quickly became a viable choice for folks looking for a delicious yet presumably light meal. Things happened a little later in fast food restaurants, with the salad revolution starting when Wendy's introduced a salad bar at its locations in 1979. Other chains soon followed suit, with Burger King and Hardee's setting up salad stalls in their eateries nationwide, and in 1986, McDonald's started placing salads on its menu.

Before long, chain restaurants focusing more specifically on salads started to become more popular, with companies like Sweetgreen, Chopt, and Tender Greens giving customers access to endless combinations, flavors, and toppings. But while it's pretty easy these days to get a salad anywhere you're eating out, getting a healthy one can actually be somewhat complicated. Some restaurants' salad options are bizarrely high in sodium, saturated fat, and sugar, making a mockery of the meal's nutritious intentions. And in certain eateries, the salad can even be one of the most calorific and unhealthy items on the menu. ‌

Read more: 21 Hacks For Making Pasta You Need To Know

California Pizza Kitchen's BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad Has A Lot Of Fat

BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad
BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad - Facebook

California Pizza Kitchen's menu is a fairly indulgent affair, with the chain focusing on pizza and pasta as its main output. And while some of its salads are healthier, its BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad is almost shockingly fatty, with 20 grams of saturated fat per full serving. This is almost the entire amount you should be eating daily if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet -- and it's from a salad.

High saturated fat intake has been long associated with poor cardiovascular health, with one study published in The BMJ finding a clear link between eating more saturated fats and having a higher risk of heart disease. California Pizza Kitchen's BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad is so fatty because of the inclusion of Monterey Jack cheese and fried tortilla strips in its recipe, as well as the herb ranch dressing it's covered in. The chicken, BBQ sauce, and cheese also contribute to its high sodium content, which comes in at 1810 milligrams per serving. The salad is also high in sugar, with 18 grams per plate, and incredibly high in calories, providing 1320 for a full portion.

The Chili's Explosion Crispers Salad Is Cheesy, Meaty, And Fatty

Chili's Explosion Crispers Salad
Chili's Explosion Crispers Salad - Chili's

While we guess this meal is technically a salad, it feels like a stretch. The salad portion of the Chili's Explosion Crispers Salad comes from the fresh-looking combination of leaves and corn salsa that lines each plate. On top of that, though, is a mountain of fried ingredients, with crispy tortilla strips and chicken crispers, as well as a scattering of cheese -- the whole thing is served with cheesy, crispy quesadillas.

This all adds up to a very unhealthy meal. The Chili's Explosion Crispers Salad has 104 grams of fat in total, with 28 grams of those coming from saturated fat. This is way more fat than most people should be consuming daily in a moderate-fat diet. And because it also has 96 grams of carbs, you can't even make the argument that it can fit into a high-fat, low-carb diet like keto. Additionally, the salad has 1,520 calories, covering the majority of your daily caloric needs in one fell swoop. To make matters even worse, it also has a terrifying 2,900 milligrams of sodium, way more than the amount needed daily.

The TGI Fridays Million Dollar Cobb Salad Is Eye-Wateringly Salty

TGI Fridays Cobb salad
TGI Fridays Cobb salad - TGI Fridays

The Cobb salad may be a classic choice, but it's not always the healthiest one. The archetypal chopped salad traditionally features chopped bacon and Roquefort cheese, which can considerably raise fat and sodium levels. Nonetheless, sometimes Cobb salads can be light and refreshing -- unless you're at TGI Fridays. Its Million Dollar Cobb Salad is a pretty heavy meal, and even if you order it without protein, it still provides 820 calories, 23 grams of saturated fat, and 1,860 milligrams of sodium.

Things really go downhill, though, when you order it with meat or plant-based protein. The Million Dollar Cobb Salad with Beyond Meat is by far the worst choice, and in addition to its 1,240 calories and 31 grams of saturated fat, it has 3,210 milligrams of sodium. This is an absurdly high amount and way over the daily limit of 2,000 milligrams a day recommended by the World Health Organization. Consuming this much sodium regularly can cause a strain on your heart and blood vessels and reduce the ability for blood to get around your body effectively, states the Mayo Clinic. In the worst-case scenario, high sodium consumption can contribute to the risk of stroke. ‌

Panera Bread's Southwest Caesar Salad With Chicken Has More Calories Than Its Sandwiches

Panera Bread Southwest Caesar salad
Panera Bread Southwest Caesar salad - Panera Bread

As chain restaurants go, Panera Bread is relatively healthy. While its bowls can get slightly higher in calories and fat, its bagels and sandwiches tend to be low-calorie, low-sodium. This is why it's all the more surprising that a few of its salads fall on the unhealthier side of things. Its Southwest Caesar Salad with Chicken is the least nutritious, which has 630 calories total, 430 of those coming from fat. Within that is 10 grams of saturated fat and, somewhat worryingly, 1 gram of trans fats.

In addition, the Southwest Caesar Salad with Chicken has almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium. The sodium and saturated fat levels seem to be largely from the cheese and dressing on the salad, some of the fat coming from the avocado in it, with the blue corn tortilla strips arguably not adding much nutrition. Having said this, the Southwest Caesar Salad with Chicken is far from the unhealthiest restaurant salad out there, and its 8 grams of fiber and 32 grams of protein score it some points. But you might be better off ordering one of its lighter salads, like its Greek Salad or Asian Sesame.

Ruby Tuesday's Crispy Chicken Caesar Salad Is Anything But Healthy

Ruby Tuesday Caesar salad
Ruby Tuesday Caesar salad - X, formerly known as Twitter

Ruby Tuesday is the place to go for classic choices like steak with a baked potato, chicken wings, or a good old-fashioned burger. And so it makes sense that it also has its own version of the timeless Caesar salad. Ruby Tuesday's take on it isn't exactly nutritious, offering up a Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken with an enormous 2,780 milligrams of sodium, 121% of your recommended daily value.

Ruby Tuesday's Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken also has 66 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, and perhaps most surprising, 69 grams of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates appear to come from a combination of the croutons and the crispy chicken coating in the salad, but that's more than you'd get in 1.5 cups of cooked white pasta. Ruby Tuesday's salad is a classic example of how fast food restaurants can turn something apparently nutritious into something unhealthy by adding on high-fat, high-calorie, high-carb items like indulgent dressings, fried chicken pieces, and cheese.

However, if you want a healthier option, Ruby Tuesday's offers a grilled chicken version of its Ceaser Salad. This has slightly fewer calories at 857 per serving and is slightly less salty -- although with 2,399 milligrams of sodium on every plate, it's still not great.

Subway's Meatball Marinara Salad Has Trans Fats

Subway Meatball Marinara Salad
Subway Meatball Marinara Salad - Facebook

Subway has dominated the market for fast food prepared before your eyes for decades, and this has long given its sandwiches and salads the appearance of freshness and, therefore, health. But some of its salads leave a lot to be desired. Upon first glance, its Meatball Marinara Salad doesn't look too bad, with 426 calories and 780 milligrams of sodium, which, while not great, is far better than some other salads in fast food joints. But peer a little closer, and the truth is revealed. It has 16 grams of saturated fat, roughly 80% of the amount you should be eating daily, in small portions, and 1 gram of trans fats.

This trans fat content is especially troubling, considering their impact on your health. "When consumed in large quantities, trans fats can build up in your bloodstream," says registered dietitian Anthony DiMarino to the Cleveland Clinic. "They increase your LDL cholesterol, which is the cholesterol that brings about heart disease." DiMarino also points out that trans fats can cause you to have less healthy cholesterol in your body, making the impact of LDL cholesterol worse. Trans fats are so worrying that the FDA has banned food companies from adding them to their foods, but they can still show up naturally in some animal-based products.

The Wendy's Taco Salad Is Full Of Salt And Fat

Wendy's Taco Salad in tray
Wendy's Taco Salad in tray - X, formerly known as Twitter

Taco salads are hardly the picture of health. These salads frequently combine large, fried pieces of tortilla with heavily seasoned meat, cheese, and sour cream to make a meal that's delicious but not exactly nutritious. And nowhere is that clearer than at Wendy's. Its Taco Salad may be billed as providing "veggies and flavor all at once," as stated by Wendy's, but it also provides a huge amount of sodium, with 1,870 milligrams per serving.

This may not be as high as other fast food salads, but it's a little concerning considering that this salad only has 690 calories. This means that the chain can't even use quantity as a justification for its sodium content, and we can only assume that it's because it's simply adding way too much salt. Wendy's Taco Salad is also fairly high in saturated fat, delivering 13 grams per serving, and it has 34 grams of fat in total and 68 grams of carbohydrates. The addition of sour cream and cheese likely boosts this salad's saturated fat, and while you might expect this kind of nutritional info in a burger, it's not exactly what you want from a salad. ‌

The Applebee's Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad Has The Majority Of Your Daily Calories

Applebee's Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad
Applebee's Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad - Facebook

If there's one thing we've learned, it's that when the words crispy and salad are combined, you usually get something unhealthy. The Applebee's Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad is another example of this. This salad is topped with a generous pile of fried chicken pieces and adorned with fried chow mein noodles, too. These two ingredients and its sweet dressing help send its calories through the roof, providing 1,440 per serving.

If ordered for one, this could cover most of your caloric needs in a single meal. Furthermore, this salad's fat content is baffling, containing nearly 100 grams per plate, well over the amount you should have every day. It also has a massive 110 grams of carbohydrates -- about the same amount as 400 grams of cooked long-grain white rice. If you want something lower-calorie in your local Applebee's, opt for the Tuscan Chicken Salad instead. This salad only has 590 calories in every serving, less than half of the Oriental Crispy Chicken Salad, although it does have a worryingly high 2,010 milligrams of sodium.

Quiznos' Classic Italian Salad Has Some Questionable Ingredients

quiznos classic italian salad
quiznos classic italian salad - Quiznos

Quiznos doesn't just do sandwiches; it also has several salad options on its menu. But while they mostly look pretty fresh and healthy-looking, its Classic Italian Salad has more going on under the surface. "Unfortunately, this Italian salad is loaded with fat and has four more grams of saturated fat than what the AHA recommends most adults get in one full day," says "Finally Full, Finally Slim" author and registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa Young on Eat This, Not That. Each salad has 17 grams of saturated fat and 57 grams of fat in total.

This Classic Italian Salad has your entire daily sodium allowance in just one portion, with 2,280 milligrams of sodium. "This salad is overloaded with 'ultra-processed' meats. The pepperoni and salami are high in fat and sodium," states Young. These meats have salt added to them to preserve them and add flavor, but all of this contributes to the meal's nutritional load and to some worrying health implications. Eating too much processed meat, like the kinds you'll find in this salad, has been linked to a higher risk of bowel cancer, according to the NHS.

The Chopt Classic Cobb Is Not As Healthy As It Seems

Chopt Creative Salad Co. Cobb
Chopt Creative Salad Co. Cobb - Chopt Creative Salad Co.

Chopt Creative Salad Co. has only been around since 2001, but in just two decades, it's become one of the most recognizable salad chains in the country. Specializing in bringing the chopped salad to the masses, its image is one of health, freshness, and nutritious food by the bucketload.

But not all of its salads are that good for you, and its Classic Cobb misses the mark. The Classic Cobb is supremely salty, with 1,683 milligrams in every serving. It also has a pretty high level of saturated fat and fat overall, with 12 grams of the former and 36 grams of the latter. In terms of energy, it's the most calorific salad you can choose from the menu, coming in at 590 per bowl -- not an enormous amount in the grand scheme of things, but enough to constitute a pretty big lunch.

The Classic Cobb also has 55 grams of protein per serving, which may not be good. The average person weighing 165 pounds only needs 60 grams of protein daily, and eating too much consistently can impact your heart and kidneys, according to Mayo Clinic Health System.

IHOP's Chicken And Veggie Salad With Crispy Chicken Contains One Problem Ingredient

IHOP Crispy Chicken Salad
IHOP Crispy Chicken Salad - IHOP

IHOP's menu is pretty extensive, and alongside its namesake pancakes, it also has some salad options for health-conscious customers. But its Chicken and Veggie Salad with Crispy Chicken should be avoided. This is largely due to the type of chicken used. "The crispy chicken used in the salad is deep-fried and adds a significant amount of calories to the dish," says registered dietitian Trista Best to Eat This, Not That.

The coating that fried chicken pieces receive before cooking is usually made of absorbent ingredients like flour and breadcrumbs, which act like a sponge when they hit the hot fat and soak up as much as possible. This use of a high-fat ingredient in IHOP's salad means that it delivers almost 1,000 calories in each serving. As well as this, the IHOP Chicken and Veggie Salad with Crispy Chicken has 67 grams of fat, again supplied largely by the deep-fried chicken pieces. Its sugar content is also surprising. Thanks to its honey mustard dressing, the salad has 27 grams of sugar, which works against the other healthy aspects of the dish.

The Cheesecake Factory's Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad Has More Sodium Than You Need Each Day

Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad plate
Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad plate - The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory is notorious for its super-sized portions and unhealthy menu items. But if you thought you'd be safe with a salad, you might be shocked by what's in some of them. Its Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad is by far the most worrying of them all, with enough sodium, 2710 milligrams per portion, to put you over your daily recommended limit. Its caloric content, too, is pretty shocking: In its full size, this salad has 1,980 calories, almost the entirety of the 2,000-calorie average most people should aim for each day.

A fair proportion of these calories likely come from the deep-fried crispy onion strings that adorn the Barbeque Ranch Chicken Salad, which isn't exactly the picture of health. These probably contribute fairly significantly to its saturated fat amount, which sits at 23 grams per serving. Unfortunately, the other salads on The Cheesecake Factory's menu don't look much better. Apart from the Seared Tuna Tataki Salad, all of its full-size salad bowls contain well over 1,000 calories and high levels of fat, saturated fat, and sodium.

Buffalo Wild Wings' Crispy Buffalo Chicken Salad Is A Huge Meal

Buffalo Wild Wings' chicken salad
Buffalo Wild Wings' chicken salad - Buffalo Wild Wings

Let's be honest: You don't exactly go to Buffalo Wild Wings and expect a healthy meal. But you still might be shocked by exactly how unhealthy its salads are. Its Crispy Buffalo Chicken Salad is particularly bad, throwing deep-fried chicken tenders onto greens and topping them with bleu cheese, crumbles, and bacon pieces. And all of this adds up to a meal that clocks in at over 900 calories.

The Crispy Buffalo Chicken Salad also has 19 grams of saturated fat and 70 grams of fat overall, which incidentally is more fat than the restaurant's All-American Bacon Cheeseburger. What worries us most, though, is the sodium level of this salad.

It has 3,180 milligrams of sodium, making it one of the saltiest things on the menu, and gives you way more sodium than you should be having in a day. Unfortunately, Buffalo Wild Wings' other salads aren't very nutritious either. Its lowest-fat option, the Chicken Caesar Salad, still has 59 grams of fat,12 grams of saturated fat, and 2,700 milligrams of sodium. ‌

Uno Pizzeria's Chopped Honey Crisp Chicken Has Dozens Of Ingredients

Uno Pizzeria's chicken salad
Uno Pizzeria's chicken salad - Uno Pizzeria

The Uno Pizzeria's Chopped Honey Crisp Chicken Salad has an ingredient list that's dozens of items long due to its fried chicken tenders, dressing, and bacon pieces being highly processed. One key ingredient is soybean oil, present in several of this salad's components. Although soybean oil contains heart-healthy omega-3 fats, it has a higher proportion of omega-6 fatty acids, which can negate the positive effects of omega-3 and prompt inflammation throughout the body, according to Healthline. This inflammation can be both a root cause of and a factor in the development of chronic diseases.

The ingredients list also shows the presence of high fructose corn syrup, another problematic addition to processed foods, which adds a lot of calories with no nutritional value. As for the calories, there are 1,320 per serving in Uno Pizzeria's Chopped Honey Crisp Chicken, 810 of them coming from fat. There are also 24 grams of saturated fat, 18 grams of sugar, and 2,000 milligrams of sodium.

Bonefish Grill's Caesar Salad Is Super-High In Fat

Bonefish Grill's Caesar Salad
Bonefish Grill's Caesar Salad - Trip Advisor

The healthiness of salads can't merely be assessed by how many calories they have, and Bonefish Grill's Caesar Salad proves this. This salad may only provide 400 calories, which seems a steal compared to some other restaurant options -- but it will also deliver 8 grams of saturated fat. This is pretty troubling when you consider the fact that this salad is sold as an entrée or a side salad and designed to be eaten with a main meal that may also be high in fat.

Bonefish Grill's Caesar Salad is also disappointingly low in fiber, with the side salad version delivering just three grams. The salad also contains 0.5 grams of trans fats, which may not sound like a lot until you remember that's almost ¼ of the maximum recommended amount. If you're looking for something lighter at Bonefish Grill, try going for the House Side Salad with Citrus Herb Vinaigrette instead. A bowl of this has just two grams of saturated fat, no trans fats, and 6 grams of fiber, and still manages to provide seven grams of protein.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.