Special Report

32 Salads That Are Worse Than a Cheeseburger

Courtesy of Millers Ale House

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.

Click here to see 32 salads that are worse than a cheeseburger

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.

Source: ablokhin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Blue Cheese Pecan Chopped Salad
> Restaurant: Outback Steakhouse
> Calories: 590
> Sodium: 1,260 mg


Source: Courtesy of Dave and Busters

Fire-Grilled Steak Salad
> Restaurant: Dave & Buster’s
> Calories: 595
> Sodium: 1,301 mg

Source: Courtesy of Au Bon Pain

Chicken Cobb Salad with Avocado and Caesar Dressing
> Restaurant: Au Bon Pain
> Calories: 650
> Sodium: 1,430 mg

Source: mizoula / Getty Images

Waldorf Chicken Salad
> Restaurant: California Pizza Kitchen
> Calories: 660
> Sodium: 1,010 mg


Source: Courtesy of Sweetgreen

Garden Cobb
> Restaurant: Sweetgreen
> Calories: 675
> Sodium: 815 mg

Source: Courtesy of Eugene P. via Yelp

Capital Grille “Cobb” Salad with Tenderloin
> Restaurant: The Capital Grille
> Calories: 680
> Sodium: 1,200 mg


Source: Courtesy of P.F. Chang's

Mandarin Crunch Salad
> Restaurant: P.F. Chang’s
> Calories: 750
> Sodium: 1,510 mg

Source: Josh Hallett / Flickr

Florida Cobb Salad with Wood-Grilled Chicken and Citrus Herb Dressing
> Restaurant: Bonefish Grill
> Calories: 760
> Sodium: 760 mg

Source: Courtesy of Pret

Pesto Chicken & Burrata Salad with Pret’s Simple Vinaigrette
> Restaurant: Pret à Manger
> Calories: 760
> Sodium: 1,370 mg


Source: Tim Boyle / Getty Images News via Getty Images

Caesar Salad with Chicken
> Restaurant: Maggiano’s Little Italy
> Calories: 810
> Sodium: 1,650 mg


Source: jetcityimage / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Chicken & Veggie Salad with Crispy Chicken
> Restaurant: IHOP
> Calories: 820
> Sodium: 1,510 mg

Source: Laslovarga / Wikimedia Commons

Classic Caesar Salad with Atlantic Salmon
> Restaurant: Red Lobster
> Calories: 830
> Sodium: 1,540 mg

Source: RLWPhotos / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Kale and Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad with Blackened Salmon
> Restaurant: BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
> Calories: 850
> Sodium: 1,580


Chicken Garden Salad
> Restaurant: Burger King
> Calories: 870
> Sodium: 1,605 mg

Source: Courtesy of Zaxby's

Cobb Salad with Fried Chicken
> Restaurant: Zaxby’s
> Calories: 875
> Sodium: 1,905 mg


Source: ablokhin / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Crispy Chicken Tender Salad
> Restaurant: Red Robin
> Calories: 880
> Sodium: 1,470 mg

Source: Courtesy of Carls Jr.

Taco Salad with Beef
> Restaurant: Carl’s Jr.
> Calories: 890
> Sodium: 1,890 mg

Crispy Buffalo Chicken Salad with Bleu Cheese Dressing
> Restaurant: Buffalo WIld Wings
> Calories: 910
> Sodium: 3,180 mg


Source: Courtesy of Bob Evans / BobEvans.com

Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad
> Restaurant: Bob Evans
> Calories: 920
> Sodium: 1,780 mg

Source: J. Michael Jones / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Chicken Taco Salad
> Restaurant: Hardee’s
> Calories: 940
> Sodium: 2,060 mg


Source: Courtesy of Friendlys Restaurants

Crispy Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
> Restaurant: Friendly’s
> Calories: 977
> Sodium: 2,189 mg

Honey Mustard Chicken Crunch Salad
> Restaurant: Perkins Restaurant & Bakery
> Calories: 980
> Sodium: 2,050 mg

Source: Wolterk / Getty Images

Million Dollar Cobb Salad with Grilled Chicken and Ranch Dressing
> Restaurant: TGI Friday’s
> Calories: 1,000
> Sodium: 2,520 mg


Source: Wolterk / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Double Tostada Salad with Shrimp
> Restaurant: El Pollo Loco
> Calories: 1,010
> Sodium: 1,770 mg

Source: ElsvanderGun / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Sunday Homestyle Chicken Breast Salad with Buttermilk Ranch
> Restaurant: Cheesecake Factory
> Calories: 1,040
> Sodium: 2,290 mg


Mediterranean Chicken Salad with Traditional Greens
> Restaurant: Ruby Tuesday
> Calories: 1,060
> Sodium: 3,499 mg

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Così Cobb with Così Vinaigrette
> Restaurant: Così
> Calories: 1,087
> Sodium: 1,979 mg

Source: Courtesy of Millers Ale House

Chicken & Pear Salad
> Restaurant: Miller’s Ale House
> Calories: 1,140
> Sodium: 2,170 mg


Source: J. Michael Jones / iStock Editorial via Getty Images

Quesadilla Explosion Salad
> Restaurant: Chili’s
> Calories: 1,290
> Sodium: 1,570 mg

Chicken Florentine Salad
> Restaurant: Romano’s Macaroni Grill
> Calories: 1,340
> Sodium: 2,080 mg


Source: Courtesy of Applebees / Applebees.com

Oriental Chicken Salad
> Restaurant: Applebee’s
> Calories: 1,560
> Sodium: 1,610 mg

Source: ElsvanderGun / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

Barbecue Ranch Chicken Salad
> Restaurant: Cheesecake Factory
> Calories: 2,020
> Sodium: 2,760 mg

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