Is Your Salad Dressed to Kill?

by Alli

I well remember the days, er, years when I would automatically order a great big salad every time I went out to dinner.  And I was always so proud of myself.  Until . . . the public demanded that restaurants share the nutritional value of their meals.  I have a love/hate relationship with Eat This/Not That. Ignorance is tastefully bliss . . . or is it?

Is Your Salad Dressed to Kill?

The day I realized that I could have been dining on a big, juicy cheeseburger (back in the day) and crispy, ketchup drenched fries for fewer calories than that gigantic salad, I was flabbergasted.  How can that be? Lettuce is practically minus zero calories.  It’s one of those foods that people swear on their grandpa’s grave that you use more calories chewing than the actual calorie count in those tasty, green leaves.

Most dinner sized, dressed salads in restaurants have anywhere from 700 to 2,000 calories, not to mention the high fat and sodium.  What’s a salad loving girl to do?  How can we make healthier choices?

We all know it’s not about the lettuce, right?[Tweet “Is your salad dressed to kill?”]

1.  Skip the fried chicken strips on top of that salad and choose grilled instead.

Hey, I’m southern.  I get it. We grew up on all things fried. Southerners will fry anything from green tomatoes to onions to rabbits (yuck – that’s my husband’s side of the family).  Fried is OK occasionally, but not a good lifestyle choice.

2.  Ditch the overload of croutons, cheese & bacon.  

I know there’s been a trendy bacon craze for years.  Don’t faint, but I  don’t eat pork. I’ve never really cared for it. Actually, I don’t eat meat at all these days (that’s another story for another day that I keep promising to tell).

Helpful Hint:  If you can’t bear to do away with the cheese, bacon and croutons entirely, kindly ask your waiter to put them on the side.

3.  Pile on the veggies.  

I’m really loving hot veggie salads right now.  I’ll make a huge salad with assorted greens and add steamed or roasted veggies.  Most of the time I don’t even need to add extra calories from salad dressing.  It’s delicious as is!

Restaurants have picked up on this theme, too.  My favorite hot veggie salad when dining out is at California Dreaming (354 calories).  I never add salad dressing.  It just doesn’t need it.

If I’m not eating a hot veggie salad, I add fruit and nuts.  I always measure the nuts because I have a tendency to go overboard.

4.  Always, always ask for salad dressing on the side.

The creamier the salad, the better it tastes – oops – I meant to say the more calories it probably has. Some salad dressings have 200 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving.  A serving is usually 2 tablespoons. Many people eat twice (or more) than that.

I’m not a fan of most low-calorie dressings (especially ranch). Light dressings save on calories and fat, but they often make up for it in the sodium and sugar content.

Choose dressings with the shortest list of recognizable ingredients, and preferably an oil-based vinaigrette.

Here’s the salad that I eat almost daily during the spring and summer. I use the one low-calorie dressing that I actually like.

It’s heart health month and I’m doing my part to keep my heart healthy.

What’s your favorite healthy salad?





Reginia Cordell February 16, 2015 - 5:38 am

Hmm, this is tough.

One of my favorite salads is the fried chicken salad from Zaxbys. I always nix the croutons on all salads because they are just meh. I get dressing on the side as well because drenched lettuce is a no-go. The BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad from Cheesecake Factory is another favorite.

I think I’m a high calorie salad lover.

Alli February 16, 2015 - 5:16 pm

I can’t stand a drenched salad, either.

Shirley Wood February 16, 2015 - 7:42 am

Uh oh! I hope the Ceasar salad isn’t quite as bad. Now I will have to check on that! Zaxby’s Zalad is delish with all the goodies they pile on. Now I’m going to have to compare the calories. Great info here Alli, good awareness.

Alli February 16, 2015 - 5:15 pm

A serving of Caesar dressing has about 158 calories, but I think the actual salad has lots less than some of the ones I mentioned.

Amanda Smith February 16, 2015 - 8:29 am

This post is sad but true! Restaurant salads can be very caloric! I love salad bars where I can build my own with lots of veggies. And I am a weirdo who takes my own vinaigrette to the restaurant with me, unless it is a really fancy place, because I like to know what the ingredients in it are.

Raquel C February 16, 2015 - 8:42 am

OMG! This make me sad, but I know that it is necessary for my health. I am guilty of enjoying the BIG salads with the fried chicken, croutons and bacon on top. Currently, I try to make a conscious effort to be mindful of what I put on my salads and in my mouth. I am not perfect at it, but I am getting better. Thank you for sharing.

Logan Can February 16, 2015 - 9:17 am

I’ve always heard the tip to ask for the dressing on the side, but HOLY COW that calorie count? ridiculous. I might as well eat cake.

Alli February 16, 2015 - 5:08 pm

Yes, cake!

Kels @ Blonder Side of LIfe February 16, 2015 - 9:23 am

I had the same reaction when I saw how many calories they can cram onto a salad. A freakin salad for cryin out loud! So yes, I follow all your tips when ordering one at a restaurant nowadays.

Alli February 16, 2015 - 5:08 pm

The first time I saw that a salad I wanted to order had over 1200 calories, it almost made me sick.

Paris (My Big Fat Happy Life) February 16, 2015 - 9:24 am

I knew salad dressing was bad, but wow! I really love apples, craisons, grapes, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. I am happy to skip the cheese and add very little light raspberry vinaigrette.

Alli February 16, 2015 - 5:07 pm

I love fruit, too, Paris. I can cut up an apple, add a few nuts (and lettuce of course) and I’m good to go.

Kalyn Brooke February 16, 2015 - 9:40 am

I love a good grilled chicken salad over spring mix lettuce with balsamic vinaigrette with a tiny bit of parm on top!

Ashley ~ 3 Little Greenwoods February 16, 2015 - 9:41 am

I got a little distracted at the mention of California Dreaming… their salads are to die for not to mention the croissants!

But you are spot on with all the tips you give for ordering and eating salads! Pinning and sharing!

Alli February 16, 2015 - 12:00 pm

Ahh, the croissants AND their spinach nachos – oh, wait, I’m talking about healthier options. 🙂 Their salmon is the best I’ve ever had.

Tiffany February 16, 2015 - 10:09 am

Really great tips! I am guilty of thinking because I order a salad I am automatically being ‘healthy’…I have heard of the dressing on the side tip but I am definitely going to stop choosing fried and go for grilled… 🙂

Toni @ Debt Free Divas February 16, 2015 - 10:20 am

I love the title of this post. Great advice. I found a new brand – refrigerated that’s made with yogurt so the calories are at most 45 per serving. Think it’s bottlehouse or boat house something or other.

Alli February 16, 2015 - 11:50 am

Thanks for sharing. I”m always on the lookout for new, healthier dressing options.

Sonya February 16, 2015 - 11:12 am

I love roasted veggies on my salads too. I stopped buying salad dressing from the store a few years ago after I learned canola oil isn’t really an oil that’s good for you. I had been avoiding soybean and vegetable oil for a long time, but I thought canola oil was healthy. So now I mostly just add olive oil and Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar for my dressing. It is a shame how many calories are in restaurant salads.

Alli February 16, 2015 - 11:49 am

I use olive oil, too. Homemade dressings are much better and so much better for us.

Jess February 16, 2015 - 11:39 am

Nice post! Yes, salads can be nutritious, but I guess the way they have them in restaurants, they are almost like sandwiches.. protein, fair amount of fat with dressing and cheese, croutons carbs.. etc. I used to think salads were healthy, but as you pointed out, all the things on top, especially a heavy dressing and fried chicken are not healthy. Enjoyed the post

Alli February 16, 2015 - 11:48 am

I’m constantly amazed when I check out a restaurant’s nutrition facts online. Salads usually have more calories than most of the other entrees.

Alex February 16, 2015 - 7:44 pm

Great tips! I’ve taken to ordering way more things on the side lately! I feel like sometimes the servers get angry, but its the meal I’m paying for, so I want it the way I want it!

Kristen from The Road to Domestication February 16, 2015 - 8:15 pm

Great tips! I always do #4 – in fact, I dip my fork in the dressing on the side and then fill my fork with salad. Just enough to taste perfect, but not too much at all!

Anna @ NorthernHomestead February 16, 2015 - 11:35 pm

Good info Alli, thank you! Personally I worry more about all the additives in salad dressings then calories. At home I skip the dressing for a bottle all together, just add some natural herbal salt and real olive oil – it is so good.

Kita February 17, 2015 - 12:10 am

But…..I must have my fried chicken salad from Zaxby’s *cries* I do pour on the dressing a bit too much sometimes. I will even ask for extra dressing knowing good and well I don’t need it.

Jennifer @ Organized Home Organized School February 17, 2015 - 5:46 pm

Oh, my wonderful wonderful salad, full of bacon bits and croutons and boiled eggs and cheese, etc., today is the day we part ways. sigh. Lol. I guess ignorance really is bliss because I use to high five myself too for eating “healthy salads.” I’ll have to try the hot veggie salad you mentioned. It sounds like it could be a good replacement.

Kristy as Giftie Etcetera February 20, 2015 - 10:35 am

I do a really aged (20 years) balsamic, with a splash of olive oil and honey, plus a sprinkle of garlic powder or fresh garlic, if I have it.

The balsamic is sweet and packed with flavor, so I don’t need a ton, and it is so yummy. (Careful with the honey. Just a drizzle or the calories really add up.)

Alli February 22, 2015 - 6:35 am

I’ll definitely try your dressing. Sounds heavenly.

GiGi Eats February 20, 2015 - 10:47 pm

I have to say my favorite salad, HANDS DOWN = Salad Nicoise – tuna, hard boiled eggs, butter lettuce, capers, anchovies, tomatoes, green beans…. Mmmmmmmm!!! The best 🙂

Jennifer Landsberger February 20, 2015 - 11:36 pm

Exact same reaction when I saw the calorie count of some salads. I was like “I could have eaten the burger!?”

Fried chicken salad with honey mustard. Yep, not really a salad. More an excuse to eat chicken strips. Ha-ha.

p.s. I found your post via the “Pretty Pinterest Party” On “Recipes for Our Daily Bread”
p.p.s. (Obviously) going to check out your Pinterest right now!

Alli February 22, 2015 - 6:29 am

So glad you stopped by, Jennifer. I’m making a healthier salad today for lunch. 🙂

Erlene February 21, 2015 - 4:23 am

Aww…you popped my bubble a bit with the calorie info…lol. I never really thought about the enormous amount of calories that some salads have 🙁

Alli February 22, 2015 - 6:28 am

It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? 🙁

Savvy February 21, 2015 - 12:19 pm

More calories than a cheeseburger. This is truly discouraging. I eat salads everyday for lunch and this week I went with one loaded with low-fat cheese. Based on my weekly weigh-in that was not a good choice. I read once to just sprinkle a really good olive oil over your salads. May do that when summer garden veggies are available. Seems like a waste to sprinkle good olive oil over store bought tomatoes.

Alli February 22, 2015 - 6:27 am

I agree on the store-bought tomatoes. I can hardly stand them and am looking forward to home-grown tomatoes this summer.

Brittany February 21, 2015 - 5:11 pm

I always do #4, but it’s so hard to say no to the croutons & cheese! Thanks for the reminder to be mindful of what we’re eating.
Thanks for joining the #HomeMattersParty – we hope to see you again next week 🙂


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.