Salad doesn’t automatically mean healthy, especially in the fast food world. Some concoctions are loaded with leafy greens and veggies, while others are layered with meat, creamy dressing, and croutons. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to ordering a one – you just have to know what you want – a nutritious, fresh salad or a calorie-dense, ranch-covered one. We’ve got options all over the spectrum so you can find just what you’re looking for in a grab-and-go salad. Enjoy!
Chick-Fil-A Cobb Salad
Chick-Fil-A’s dressings make it easy to choose nutrition, if that’s something that’s important to you. They’ve got healthy options like the balsamic or low-fat honey mustard, which are both delicious options. But you can also take the comfort-food route and opt for buttermilk ranch. It packs on the calories, but it tastes like absolute perfection combined with the crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and crunchy tortilla strips. You can further customize the salad by adding either grilled or crispy chicken. If you’re not worried about calories, we recommend the crispy chicken – that extra layer of flavor goes a long way. And of course, if you’re a vegetarian, you can order the salad without meat and it’ll still taste better than most fast food salads you’ve eaten.
McDonald’s Southwest Salad
We’ll be honest – McDonald’s Southwest Salad is by no means the healthiest salad on our list, but it sure is tasty. This classic menu options features a spring mix (romaine, baby spinach, baby kale, red leaf lettuce, and ribbon cut carrots) with sliced artisan grilled chicken fillet, southwest vegetable blend (black beans, roasted corn and tomatoes, and poblano peppers), cilantro lime glaze, shredded cheddar jack cheese, and chili lime tortilla strips. Top it off with Newman’s Own® Southwest Dressing, and you’ll understand why this salad has been on the menu for so many years.
Once Chipotle realized people were ordering bowls without chips or tortillas, they capitalized on the idea of calling it a “salad” and started adding a bed of leafy greens to the bottom of it. Now, salads are an official part of the Chipotle menu, and you can build them just like you order any other dish. Choose if you’d like protein, rice, beans, toppings, and sides. Chipotle only offers one dressing for their salads, though. The Chipotle Honey Vinaigrette has a nice sweet taste that complements nearly everything on the menu so you don’t have to worry about flavors clashing.
CoreLife Kale Caesar Chicken Salad
CoreLife is a newer franchise in the US, but they’ve already got salad and health food down to a science. With all fresh, organic ingredients, you can order a custom salad or a recipe from the menu. They call their salads “green bowls” (trendy right?), which consist of dark leafy greens, veggies, and your choice of dressing that are all made from scratch. You’ll find most CoreLife Eateries in bigger cities, but they’re starting to branch out into smaller metropolitan areas, as well.
The Kale Caesar Chicken Salad is an absolute must-try if you have a CoreLife location near you. While most Caesar salads are full of fat and calories, this one is loaded with nutritious ingredients like shredded kale, chopped romaine, antibiotic-free chicken, tomatoes, and fresh parmesan cheese. You can get it with any dressing, but the Caesar is to-die-for.
Noodles and Company Med Salad with Chicken
Noodles and Company specializes in more than carbs and heavy sauces. You can get some of the most delicious fast food salads, too! There are three kinds listed on the menu, the Med Salad with Chicken, the Chicken Veracruz Salad, and the Grilled Chicken Caesar. We love a good Mediterranean dish, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It features a base of romaine and mixed greens, tossed with grilled chicken, tomato, cucumber, red onion, Kalamata olives, cavatappi pasta, spicy yogurt dressing, and feta. If you’re gluten-free or don’t want the added carbs, just ask for the Med salad without the cavatappi noodles. Bonus: You can order this in a size regular or small if you want to pair it with something else or keep your meal light.
Panera Strawberry Poppyseed Salad
If you’re a salad novice, strawberries and tangerines may sound like off-the-wall topping choices, but once you try this Panera salad, you’ll understand why fruit is the best way to brighten up any bowl of greens. The Strawberry Poppyseed Salad is an obvious choice for summertime, from its fruit-forward ingredients to its refreshing poppyseed dressing to its toasted pecan toppings. If your flavor profile leans more towards ranch and Caesar, this kind of salad will be a leap for you – but one that we think you won’t regret if you give it an honest try. You can add grilled chicken to the poppyseed salad for an added cost, or leave it meatless and pair it with another Panera menu item.
Wendy’s Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad
Honestly, it’s hard to pick the “best” salad from Wendy’s. The fast food franchise has seriously upped their game when it comes to fresh salads, so while we love the Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad, the Summer Strawberry, Parmasean Caesar, Apple Pecan Chicken, and Taco Salads are all killer options, as well. The southwest option is the best of both worlds. It’s healthy and filling, which are usually mutually exclusive when it comes to salads. It features cold, crisp lettuce topped with pepper jack cheese, diced tomatoes, avocado, Applewood smoked bacon, and grilled chicken breast. The Marzetti® Simply Dressed® Southwest Ranch Dressing comes on the side so you can control how much zest (and calories!) you add to your salad. You can order a full or half size, as well as swap the ranch dressing with another option if you’d like.
McAlister’s Chef Salad
Salads come and go on the McAlister’s Deli menu depending on the season, but there’s one timeless option that’s never a disappointment – the Chef Salad. This protein-heavy salad features applewood smoked bacon, black forest ham, smoked turkey, cheddar jack cheese, and croutons, cucumbers, and diced tomatoes on a spring mix blend. You can choose whichever dressing you’d like served on the side. Options include Fat-free Chipotle Peach, Buttermilk Ranch, Thousand Island, Caesar, Sherry Shallot, Fat-Free Raspberry Pecan Vinaigrette, McAlister’s Honey Mustard™, Olive Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette, Chipotle Ranch, and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette. Talk about options. All McAlister’s salads are completely customizable, too, so feel free to substitute, remove, or add ingredients to suit your diet and taste buds.
Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad
Okay, so it’s not a bed full of leaves and and veggies, but who doesn’t love a good taco salad? It may be one of the more expensive items on the Taco Bell menu (usually runs around $5.59), but it’s packed with flavorful, filling ingredients, so it’s definitely worth upgrading from your go-to tacos. The Fiesta Taco Salad features seasoned beef, rice, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, reduced fat sour cream, cheese, and red strips, but you can pile it high with other additional toppings like guac, pico de gallo, creamy jalepeno sauce, jalapeno peppers, and nacho cheese sauce. It may not be your idea of a healthy lunch, but it’s certainly delicious.
Arby’s Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad
Arby’s may not be the first place you think of to grab a fresh salad, but the Roast Turkey Farmhouse checks all the boxes, from taste to quality to nutrition. The salad features roast turkey, pepper bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes, mixed lettuce, and shredded iceburg lettuce. You can top it with any of Arby’s salad dressings like light Italian, Dijon Honey Mustard, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Buttermilk Ranch.
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