The 9 Best Fast Food Salads

Remember how our parents always tried to get us to eat our vegetables? Perhaps this explains why growing up, many of us were averse to salads with leafy greens. But thanks to ingenuity in the culinary world, salads can be much more than just healthy meals these days. They are even appealing. While most fast-food chains have gone over the top with plenty of options to choose from, you still need to keep an eye out for what is actually good for you and what is just plain terrible for your body. Apart from eating healthy, the taste and appearance of the salad also play a huge role in whether it's worth ordering.

Speaking of health, every salad should have a source of healthy fats, carbs, sodium, essential nutrients, and as much protein as is right for your lifestyle and body weight. The Cleveland Clinic says salads are a great way to get your daily serving of vegetables. They also took it a step further by listing what a healthy salad should contain, some of which are greens, crunchy veggies, fruits, proteins, and more.

But for you to want to eat a salad, it has to appeal to the eyes and taste great. And since many people get their salads on the go now, we've made this list of the nine best fast food salads.

1. Jack in the Box's grilled chicken salad

Just the sight of this salad alone makes it absolutely inviting. The salad is claimed to be a tasty and healthy choice. It contains grilled chicken, a romaine and iceberg mix, well-seasoned croutons, cheddar cheese, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and carrots (via Jack in the Box). It comes with balsamic dressing to bring it all together.

The salad is particularly great because the grilled chicken's rough exterior and tender interior add more character to it. The cheese pairs well with the croutons and tomatoes for a most wonderful flavor. Besides, grape tomatoes contain vitamins A & C as well as fiber. Vitamin A is great for the eyes. Even better, tomatoes contain lycopene which is heart friendly and just good for the body in general. Then the cheddar cheese provides sodium, fats, and calcium.

The Jack in the Box grilled chicken salad has 220 calories, 23 grams of protein, 9 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 14 grams of carbs, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 23 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 520 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of total sugar. It's an excellent option for anyone who wants to make a quick stop and still eat a healthy and tasty salad.

2. Chopt's Palm Beach with grilled chicken

Another salad with grilled chicken just goes to prove that chicken doesn't have to be boring. Chopt makes this Palm Beach salad with romaine, English cucumbers, grape tomatoes, hearts of palm, and avocado. Grilled chicken is just a super savory addition. The fast-food restaurant also adds balsamic vinaigrette. You can order this with confidence knowing that it's both delicious and great for your health.

While avocado adds a good amount of potassium, it also lends a creamy and slightly nutty undertone to the salad mix. The avocado is rich enough that you could consider having the salad without dressing. Aside from potassium, avocado promotes eye and skin health. It also helps lower cholesterol levels. Without the dressing, a serving of this salad contains about 285 calories, 27 grams of protein, 19.5 grams of carbohydrates, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 10.5 grams of fiber, 12 grams of total fat, 272.5 milligrams of sodium, and 6.5 grams of total sugars (via Chopt).

A plus for this plate of goodness is its low sodium content. It's unusual for a fast food salad and it gives room for you to snack on other things with higher sodium content and still stay within the recommended daily limit.

3. Wendy's Parmesan Caesar salad without dressing

A Caesar salad is always a good choice when you want to have a salad but are a bit confused about what to pick. It's a safe option. Be sure to thank Wendy's when you try its Parmesan Caesar salad. For a healthier version, try it without the dressing. It is nothing short of a burst of flavor. There's the romaine lettuce as the base, the three-cheese blend, grilled chicken breast, and some Parmesan crisps to add that extra crunch.

Eat This, Not That rates romaine lettuce higher than kale in terms of nutritional value. The leafy green originates in Rome and is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and many other nutrients.

In addition to the amazing taste, the salad scores high as a healthy option and will have you ordering again and again. Its nutrition content is as follows: 300 calories, 5 grams of carbohydrates, a whopping 4 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat with 7 grams saturated fat, 3 grams fiber, 125 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams total sugars, and 790 milligrams sodium. Delicious, easy to grab, and health-friendly? Yes, please, Wendy's.

4. Panera's Asian sesame salad with chicken

You'd definitely be making a great choice picking the Asian sesame salad, whether you're making a quick dash to Panera for takeout or you're ordering a sit-in lunch. The meal consists of romaine lettuce, fresh cilantro, sesame seeds, toasted almonds, and wonton strips tossed in an Asian vinaigrette. Sesame seeds are rich in phytosterols and lignans, which help to lower cholesterol levels. So, you can relish this salad knowing that it won't break your heart (pun intended).

The combination of cilantro, almonds, sesame seeds, and chicken produces a well-rounded meal full of just the right amount of protein for one meal, as well as healthy fats, vitamins and sodium. The salad is quite satisfying and is a super diet-control meal.

The calorie count for this Panera specialty is 410. It also has 800 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of protein, 29 grams of carbohydrates, and 22 grams of total fat with 3 grams of saturated fat. Cholesterol is 70 milligrams and fiber is 6 grams. Total sugars are about 7 grams. With a nutritional profile like this, you could have this once every day, all week. The only catch is that anyone allergic to nuts has to ask for the almonds to be excluded. Apart from this, wolf down happily, please.

5. Subway's tuna salad

Don't be misled by the name. This marvelous Subway salad mix is more salad than tuna. The veggies are a mix of tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, green peppers, onions and olives. The tuna is the added protein. It's a sweet way to increase the nutritional value of this already nutritious mix of greens (via EatingWell). 

In addition to the strong nutrient profile of the veggies, the tuna provides omega-3 fatty acids, is heart-friendly, and reduces inflammation. Don't forget the olives, which studies show to have similar benefits. So you get a power salad that packs a punch to keep your heart hearty and supply antioxidants.

According to Nutritionix, the nutritional profile of this salad is as follows: 362 calories, 15 grams of protein, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 4 grams of fiber, 24 grams of total fat with 4 grams of saturated fat, 10 grams of carbohydrates, 390 milligrams of sodium, and 5 grams of total sugars. With a nutrient profile like this, you're in safe hands. So don't be shy to make a stop at Subway for this delicious delight.

6. Sweetgreen's guacamole greens

This robust Sweetgreen salad is a mix of chopped romaine, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, lime, tortilla chips, red onions, avocado, and roasted chicken tossed in lime cilantro jalapeño vinaigrette. And what's not to love about it? For starters, it's chock-full of fiber which is super amazing for gut health. It also has different veggies, especially avocado, that bring a rush of potassium (via MedicalNewsToday). Potassium is great at maintaining blood pressure.

What about taste? Even before tasting, the visible ingredients are enough to make you salivate. The lime cilantro vinaigrette and lime squeeze lend an extra tangy sweetness to the mix. The jalapeño balances out the salad with its rich spiciness. Sweetgreen makes you even hungrier with the photo of the salad on its menu page. So double points for presentation, health consciousness, and taste.

As for the nutritional information, this is what it contains: 515 calories, 27 grams of protein, 29 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams total fat with 5 grams of saturated fat, 334 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of fiber, 58 milligrams of cholesterol, and 3 grams total sugars (via Sweetgreen). Quite impressive for one serving. That's one more salad for you to add to your on-the-go options.

7. Panera's green goddess Cobb salad

Panera should have named this salad green goodness or goddess of goodness. The mix is made with a mix of three greens for the base — arugula, baby kale, and romaine. Then the rest of the salad features a red leaf blend, pickled red onions, grape tomatoes, and chicken raised without antibiotics. All of this deliciousness is tossed in green goddess dressing. It's no wonder Panera's offerings keep showing up on our list because their salad bowls are just too good to refuse. The many greens provide an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are both heart and gut-friendly. Panera sweetens the deal with extra protein sources such as applewood-smoked bacon and cage-free hard-boiled egg. The details just go to show how intentional the restaurant is in doling quality meals.

Smokedbbqsource says bacon has decent amounts of protein and B vitamins. Overall, the nourishment profile of the green goddess salad is impressive, with a calorie count of 500, 37 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 29 grams of fat, 13 grams of sugar, 8 grams of fiber, and 1030 milligrams of sodium. The sodium content is quite high for one meal. But this salad promises to fill you and will probably cancel your food cravings until your next proper meal. If you are conscious of your sodium intake, perhaps you could consider another option. But this salad still does it for many.

8. McAlister's deli garden salad without dressing

A salad can only be so appetizing without dressing, but this garden salad from McAlister's Deli takes the cake. The vegetarian mix contains cheddar-jack cheese, croutons, cucumber, tomatoes, and mixed greens. You can enjoy a bowl of crunchy goodness and a burst of earthy flavors whenever you stop at McAlister's Deli.

The calorie count of this dish is 150. It also has 9 grams of protein, 19g grams of carbohydrates, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 1 gram of fiber, 260 milligrams of sodium, 10 grams of total fat, and 3 grams of total sugars. And this is for a full plate. It's a great way to enjoy a tasty meal, stay healthy and, most importantly, be full. Extra points for this salad because of the nutrients like lycopene from the tomatoes and the antioxidants in the cucumber combine to treat your heart and skin right. However, for anyone who follows a keto diet, there might be a need for extra protein or fat to make this a fully-balanced meal.

9. Wendy's apple cranberry chicken salad

Another plate of pure goodness from Wendy's (for customers in the U.K.) is this apple cranberry chicken salad. Wendy's makes this dish with their special lettuce blend, sunflower seeds, Italian cheese, crisp apple chips, dried cranberries, and grilled chicken breast. The dressing is pomegranate vinaigrette. This salad is nutrient-dense! Sunflower seeds are good sources of oils, omega-3s, and antioxidants. Fruits provide fiber and vitamins. Points to the chicken for the protein. In general, all the food classes are well-represented in this mix. You should consider having this salad, particularly for the sunflower seeds, which contain vitamins E, B1 & B3, iron, manganese, and zinc. 

The nutritional profile is as follows: 421 calories, 29 grams of protein, 16 grams of fat, 840 milligrams of sodium, 4.3 grams of fiber, 38 grams of carbohydrates, and 34 grams of sugar. A pain point is the high sodium content. But you can make up for it with other meals. Instead of the same order you have every day, spice up your meal plan with this healthy option — thank us later.