Friday, June 17, 2011

Are Fast Food Salads The Best Choice?


Ohhhh salads, the food of the perpetual dieter, the healthy choice, the fall back. You all know a few fast food salad eaters, the girl at your office who eats nothing but salads and yet never seems to lose any weight, the guy who eats a salad because he's on Atkins, but it doesn't seem to be working. Why is that?
What if I told you that a Wendy's Garden Sensations Mandarin Chicken Salad had more calories, more fat, more carbs and more sugar than a Double Stack? Would that surprise you? It shouldn't. The nutritional information is right there on the Internet. Curious as to how fast food salads compared with fast food sandwiches, I took a look at one popular sandwich and one salad at 4 different fast food restaurants: Wendy's, McDonald's, Taco Bell and Burger King. and  I noticed something odd. No I did not pick the worst burger for you, not for this, but I wil post best and worst foods later. I wanted to know if you were really better off eating a salad, or simply getting a burger (or burrito) and skipping the fries and soda. 
The results speak for themselves. The salads didn't seem to be a whole lot healthier than some of the regular sized sandwiches. Who knew that eating a full portion of, say, the BK Tendercrisp salad would result in consuming 210 more calories than if you'd simply ordered a Whopper Jr.? Of course, that could mean that the Whopper Jr. is an excellent diet food. It all depends on how you look at it, but that is not what I am saying!
If calories aren't your biggest concern, the salads also packed quite a hefty helping of sugar and carbs. Since they're often marketed towards carb-conscious eaters, we were surprised to see the amount of sugar in some of these salads. Wendy's Garden Sensations Mandarin Chicken Salad has more sugar, yes sugar, than 8 oz. of Coke. Obviously, portion size was an important factor in the calorie count. These salads are big! We'd recommend eating less than the full portion, but realistically you're going to eat all the chicken and cheese and other goodies off the top of the salad and leave the lettuce which does not count much towards the amount of calories that are in a salad. 
So is a fast food salad a good "diet food"? Will it really be the best choice when you go to a fast food place? I will leave that up to you. I will say that I never really thought of a Double Cheeseburger as something to eat on a diet, and it weighs in with fewer calories than the Asian Chicken Salad w/Crispy Chicken and Newman's Own (Low Fat) Sesame Ginger Dressing at McDonald's. I know a lot of people think of a salad as "less" than a meal. Read the nutrition info. In quite a few cases, you might better off just ordering a sandwich and skipping the extras.





Others include - 
Panera's Bistro Steak Salad® — 630 calories and 58 grams of fat 
Applebee's Grilled Steak Caesar Salad® — 1,190 calories and 75 grams of fat 
Salad dressing adds calories as well so make a good choice and watch how much you use. order your dressing on the side and before spearing a bite of your salad, each time dip your fork into the dressing. You will taste dressing with each bite but you'll only be using a small amount
Better options:

Wendy's Nutrition Information

  • Caesar Side Salad (no dressing or croutons): 70 calories, 4 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams protein, 45% Vitamin A, 30% Vitamin C. Use the Fat Free French dressing (80 calories, 19 grams carbohydrates, 0 fat) or one of the reduced fat dressings. For those on a low carb diet, the caesar dressing is the best option, it adds only 1 gram of carbohydrate, has 16 grams fat, 150 calories.
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich: 300 calories, 8 grams fat, 36 grams carbohydrate, 24 grams protein. Exchanges: 2 starch, 3 very lean meat, 1/2 high fat meat. For those on a low carb diet, ask for the grilled chicken without the bun and add it to the caesar side salad.
  • Small Chili: 227 calories, 7 grams fat, 21 grams carbohydrate, 15 grams protein, 5 grams fiber. Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 high fat meat, 1 very lean meat. This is acceptable for Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet.
  • Sour Cream and Chive Potato: 370 calories, 5 grams fat, 73 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams protein, 60% Vitamin C, 20% iron. Exchanges: 5 starch, 1 fat.

McDonalds Nutrition of McDonalds USA Menu

  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad: 100 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrate, 17 grams protein, 1 vegetable exchange and 2 very lean meat exchanges. Choose one of the fat free or reduced fat dressings. This is also acceptable for low carb diets.

Burger King Nutrition Tables

  • Chicken Whopper Jr.: 344 calories, 14 grams fat, 31 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams protein. Exchanges: 3 starch, 2.75 meat (very lean). Without mayo: deduct 9 grams fat and 80 calories. Low Carb Diet Choice- Order Chicken Whopper or Chicken Whopper Junior without mayo, then toss the bun.
  • Whopper Jr. - ordered without mayo or cheese: 317 calories, 13 grams fat, 32 grams carbohydrate, 16 grams protein. Exchanges: 1.75 starch, 2 meat (high fat).
  • Chicken Caesar Salad with no croutons (Low Carb Diet Choice) 220 calories, 5 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 35 grams protein, no trans fat. With Italian Lite dressing, add 4 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fat, 50 calories. With Creamy Caesar dressing, add 4 grams carbohydrate, 140 calories, 13 grams fat, no trans fat.
  • Side Garden Salad (Low Carb Diet Choice): 25 calories, 5 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 0 fat, 1 gram protein. 

Taco Bell Nutrition Guide

  • To reduce fat and calories for any item, order it "Fresco Style" to replace the cheese and dressings with fresh fiesta salsa. For low Carb Diets: Order any of the chicken items Fresco Style and without sour cream, then don't eat the tortilla or shell.
  • Taco: 170 calories, 10 grams fat, 9 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrate, .5 bread, 1 meat, 1 fat.

Best of the Web

Fast Food Nutrition Facts Calculator Compare food items from six major fast food chains and see how they fit into a diet for an adult or child of various ages.
Calorie Count Plus Fast Food Browser: Choose menus from dozens of fast food chains.
Fast Food Facts Nutrition facts on over 1300 items from 24 fast food chains, with a search function.

Other Fast Foods Compared HERE (pizza, hamburgers, fries, etc)

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