Salads – your go to menu item for eating healthy when dining out.

It makes sense, right?

Plus, ever notice how much BETTER salads taste when someone else makes them? Everything’s chopped into perfectly bite sized pieces, paired with yummy fixings to add texture, flavor, variety, and of course – the most delicious house made dressings to top it all off!

Oh, man – anyone else craving a big ass restaurant salad right now? The kind where there’s SO MUCH on your plate it starts falling off the moment you try to mix it?

But….just HOW healthy is that restaurant salad?

Like any other vegetable, the more you start straying away from its natural state, the more you decrease its nutritional value.

For example: the base of a cobb salad is lettuce – cool! Greens are packed with nutrients. After that base layer though, here’s where we offset the nutritional value. Cobb salads aren’t irresistible because of their leafy green crunch but because (duh) the crispy bacon, crumbly blue chees, buttery croutons, and avocado overload. Once doctored up, you’ve defeated the purpose of eating healthy, IF that was your intent.

If you are ordering that cobb salad with extra bacon and blue cheese crumbles because you don’t care about its nutritional value, I’m cool with that.

On the other hand, if you’re mindfully ordering salads when dining our because you want a healthier option, keep reading.


First, I don’t want to confuse you because as your nutrition coach, I will always tell you to eat your veggies! They are packed with so many important nutrients necessary for fueling your body, being healthy and overall, just feeling good!

I do, however, want to bring awareness to how easily we get tripped up from salads, even the less obvious ones, and here’s why:

The average restaurant salad contains upwards of 1,000 CALORIES OR MORE!

Taking into consideration the fat content (your cheeses, avocado, bacon, and dressing) as well as sodium and it’s easy to consume over half of your daily calorie needs in a seemingly healthy salad.

Did you know a number of chain restaurants offer salad selections containing just as many calories and saturated fats as a cheeseburger and fries?!?

For sh!t’s & giggle’s, lets take a quick look:

#1. AppleBee’s Crispy Chicken Tender Salad

  • 1,250 calories

  • 80 g fat

  • 2,410 mg sodium

#2. California Pizza Kitchen Waldorf Chicken Salad with Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (full)

  • 1,320 calories

  • 94 g fat

  • 2,020 mg sodium

#3. Buffalo Wild Wings Mediterranean Salad –sounds healthy-ish, right?

  • 1,110 calories

  • 74 g fat

  • 4,230 mg sodium

#4. McDonald’s Big Mac + Medium Fry

  • 860 calories

  • 44 g fat

  • 1,180 mg sodium

WHAAAT?! Mind as well order the burger and fries, right?!

Here’s the deal: The ingredients found in most salads can be healthy on their own. However, piling on multiple ingredients into one salad means you are likely to eat bigger portions and over consume. Take for example the “pretend” healthy salad. This salad comes with your choice of chicken, steak or salmon and gives the illusion it’s super duper healthy because it contains all those healthy fats you’re told to eat:

  • Avocado

  • Almonds / Nuts

  • Olive oil

  • Olives

  • Cheese

On their own and when eaten in recommended portions, these healthy fats are great for you!

It’s the whole plus avocado stacked top of your leafy greens, mountains of cheese, hoards of nuts and heavily poured oils causing an otherwise healthy salad to be overloaded with too much fat.


I am not here to judge or fault you for loving those delicious restaurant salads. As your nutrition coach, I am here to help you make better decisions IF you want and need some help 🙂 Restaurants create and design their menus with intent. It’s ALL about marketing and so this stuff can be tricky to navigate – but that’s why I am here!

Here are 6 tips for making sensible choices at restaurants and when building your own nutrient dense salad at home. These tips will make finding and ordering healthier options, easy and effortless!

  1. GO FOR GREEN: Choose nutrient packed leafy greens such as spinach, kale, romaine or arugula.

    side note: iceberg lettuce has little nutritional value and should not be used as your base. If you enjoy iceberg lettuce, by all means enjoy it but be sure to make the dark leafy greens your main event.

  2. PICK A PROTEIN! Choose a serving of lean protein. Aim for chicken, lean cuts of steak, fish or non-meat options such as chickpeas, quinoa or beans.

  3. ADD THE RAINBOW: Load up on additional veggies. Try choosing a few different colors of veggies and really give your body a punch of additional nutrients.

  4. DRESS IT UP: When choosing a dressing option, avoid creamy dressings and opt for heart healthy options made with olive oil, vinegar or both. For a little extra protein, try your hand at making your own dressings using Greek yogurt or tahini as a base.

  5. PASS ON THE FILLERS: Avoid unnecessary toppings with little to no nutritional value. Items such as croutons, processed cheese and tortilla chips only add additional calories, sodium and saturated fats.

  6. LIMIT THE ADD-ON’s: Limit items such as cheeses, dried fruits, nuts, and seeds. While these are all nutrient dense examples of choices to add, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. These little extras can add an additional 200-300 calories onto a small salad. Pick one or two of your favorites.


Stay Fueled

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