For those keeping summer fit via leafy greens, be warned: From Applebee's pecan chicken salad (1,340 calories) to a Jason's Deli monster (2,000 calories), VIEW OUR GALLERY of 40 dangerous salads.
It’s the default summer pick on any menu for those trying to keep swimsuit fit: a nice, healthy salad. The very word—“salad”—connotes wellness. But while the lettuce-and-fresh-vegetable fundamentals of a traditional American salad remain ideal parts of a sensible diet, America’s restaurants often bury them beneath loads of diet-sabotaging sustenance.
In many national eateries, fatty meats, cheeses, and sauces overpower the veggies. With the sour cream and fried taco shell that accompanies a Mexican salad or the fried chicken and cheese atop the chicken-tender salad, many choices from the salad side of the menu contain more calories, unhealthy carbs, and artery-clogging saturated fat as the hamburger offerings.
View Our Gallery of America's Most Unhealthy Salads
To bring some clarity to the salad dilemma—and as a service to your waistline—The Daily Beast analyzed more than 200 salads at nearly 50 national chain restaurants to determine America’s most fattening salads.
We considered the salads according to calories, saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. We only considered the highest-calorie version of a salad if several varieties were available on a menu (for example, if there was a beef and chicken taco salad, we only included whichever was higher in calories). Each salad was given a rank in each category, which were averaged to tabulate the final ranks. Ties were broken by saturated fat content.
One consideration: For a salad in which dressing was not included in the nutritional information provided by the restaurant, we averaged the nutritional data of the restaurant’s dressing choices and included one serving to the salad’s total.
Not all fat found in salads is unhealthy, of course. Salad staples like avocados, nuts, and olive oil are laden with heart-helping fats and hunger-satiating calories. But in large part, the salads on this list derive calories from fatty cheeses, fried chicken and beef, and saturated fat-laden sauces. Another problem: Those additions are also overloaded with sodium.
The average adult requires between 18 to 30 grams of saturated fat, between 1,800 to 2,500 calories, and no more than about 1,500 milligrams of salt daily. The average salad on our list contains 1,300 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat, and 2,600 mg of salt. And most people ordering one probably naively assume they’ve done their heart a favor.