It’s lunchtime and you really want a cheeseburger, but maybe you should have a salad instead – one with chicken, perhaps, a protein we all know is healthier than beef. Yes, you decide, you’ll be virtuous. One salad coming up.
Unfortunately, you may have made the wrong choice, if you’re watching your intake of calories and sodium. Sure, salads involve a good helping of greens and/or various fruits or vegetables, and sure, poultry or seafood is often a better choice than red meat. But many chain-restaurant salads, whether from fast food places or sit-down establishments, are loaded with salt and packed with extra calories in the form of crispy noodles, croutons, fried chicken, cheese, sugary dressings, and other dietary dangers.
According to the nutrition database Nutritionix, the average restaurant cheeseburger has 535 calories and 1,121 mg of sodium. Fast food burgers have even less of both. A standard McDonald’s cheeseburger, for instance, weighs in at 300 calories and 720 mg of sodium. (Some examples are worse, of course. You won’t believe the calories in some of your favorite fast food cheeseburgers.)
Consulting the official nutritional information on the company websites of some 33 prominent fast food and sit-down restaurant operations, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of salads that – while they may sound virtuous, at least comparatively – actually have more calories or salt than some burgers. Four salads we found had more than twice the calories of the average restaurant burger, and one had over 2,000 calories, exceeding the Food and Drug Administration’s recommended basic caloric intake for an entire day.
Regarding sodium, the news is hardly better. The American Heart Association recommends that we consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily. One-third of the salads on this list exceed 2,000 mg, with four of them accounting for more than the AHA maximum.
Of course, salads can be healthy, and lower in both calories and sodium than even a McDonald’s burger. It’s the fried foods, the carb-heavy additions, and the sugary dressings that do the damage, and most of the restaurants on this list offer, in addition to their calorie-and-salt bombs, ample salad choices that turn out to be healthy after all. And if you really want one of the less healthy examples, consider asking if a half-portion is available, or share it with a friend. (Here are some healthy eating habits that will change your life.)
Or, what the heck, just have that cheeseburger.
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