For most people, there is one rule that seems pretty simple and valid when it comes to eating a nutritious dinner.
Salad = healthy
If you have a salad, you are eating healthy. You are making the right choice and you should feel happy for yourself.
I hate to be the spoiler but that's wrong. Now, salads can be healthy. If you prepare them yourself, you control everything there about your salad and you can toss in whatever you like. But of course when you go out to eat and leave the preparation up to somebody else, then you throw that all out the window and you are the mercy of the restaurant you are at.
The always-trusty Men's Health has compiled a list of 20 terrible salads and while I'm not going to list all 20 here, I will post a few to give you a quick idea of the dangers of the salad.
How bad are these salads? MH actually says you'd be better off eating a Whopper at Burger King than you would eating any of these salads.
Some places you'd do well just to avoid. Chipotle and PF Chang's each consistently get poor grades and/or poor reviews when it comes to healthy eating, and this is no different. Each has a salad on here. Chipotle's Chicken Salad has a not-that-healthy-at-all 720 calories. The vinaigrette alone has 260 calories and 25 g fat, and they don't have any alternatives to the dressing.
PF Chang's Chicken Chopped Salad w/Ginger Dressing has 730 calories and about 1,200 mg sodium. PF Chang's also has the saltiest food in the land, so it's no surprise they also weigh in here on this list.
Fast food salads can be tempting especially if you are stuck going to a fast-food place. However, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Wendy's and El Pollo Loco all have a salad on here. Still, one thing I learned was that if you omit the croutons and use light dressing (some of these places do offer light dressing, you just gotta ask) then it cuts down the calories. I used to get a salad at McDonald's (I think they did away with it) and I'd just leave out the croutons and use about half the dressing it came with and that would cut down like 75 calories. That doesn't sound like a ton but that's an AM or PM snack.
One thing too is portion size. MH dings Quiznos for not providing accurate portion-size descriptions. Their Chicken Caesar Flatbread Salad (with bread) comes in at 920 calories, 66.5 g fat (20.5 g saturated, 0 g trans) and a whopping 2,090 mg sodium. This is the "regular" size, and they recommend a "small" salad, the Raspberry Chipotle Chicken Salad, that comes in at a much more reasonable 350 calories.
California Pizza Kitchen has four salads in the top 10. That's just not a great endorsement for that place. I don't necessarily think of it as an unhealthy place to eat but the salad choices there are obviously pretty bad. MH says that their "salad menu is filled with gigantic gut-bombs" and by the looks of things, that seems like a fair description.
No. 4 is the Waldorf Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing at California Pizza Kitchen. This salad has 1,570 calories, 30 g saturated fat and 2,082 mg sodium. The calories are bad enough but throw in that much sodium and this salad is just a poor choice all-around.
You'll have to see the full list for the top three, but if you like TGI Friday's you might want to check out the top spot.