Like many other families, meal time is a very busy time of day in our home. The kids need to be picked up from dance or football or soccer or a job. I’m trying to finish up last-minute tasks for my online business and my husband is wandering around wondering where dinner is.  Most days I manage to get a relatively healthy dinner on the table for everyone to enjoy.  Some days, deadlines are moved up, extra work needs to be done, or (more often) I forget to take something out to defrost for dinner in the morning.

When that happens, we generally turn to take-out or fast food restaurants for dinner. Because I’m watching my weight, I generally order a salad from the fast food restaurant. I know that’s a healthier choice than ordering a burger and fries, right? Wrong. It turns out that, depending on which salad you order, you may be better off choosing the burger and fries instead of the salad.  I was really surprised to see how high in fat and sodium many fast food salads actually were.

Are Fast Food Salads Really A Healthy Option?

Here are a few comparisons I found online:

  • Burger King Whopper Sandwich Meal (burger, fries and a small fountain drink): Calories 1160, Fat 50g, Sodium 1460mg
  • Burger King Chicken BLT Garden Fresh Salad: (no beverage) Calories 550, Fat 37g, Sodium 1640mg

While the salad is much lower in calories, it is only a little bit lower in fat and contains much more sodium.

  • McDonalds Big Mac Meal (burger and fries): Calories 930, Fat 48g, Sodium 1240
  • McDonalds Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken: Calories 450, Fat 21g, Sodium 820mg

You may think that it’s a great idea to get a salad in this case but if you add on a packet of Caesar salad dressing, it’s an extra 190 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 500 mg of sodium for a final figure of: Calories 640, Fat 39g, and Sodium 1320. This makes the Big Mac Meal a better choice for those watching their sodium.

At IHOP, the Chicken and Spinach Salad contains 1,560 calories and 112 grams of fat.  If you chose the Boneless Buffalo Chicken Salad at Chili’s, you would find it had 1,030 calories, plus 4,720 milligrams of sodium. Definitely not healthy choices for dinner in these two examples.

So, how can you make healthy choices at fast food restaurants?  Read the nutrition information.  They are required to make it available to you.  Be prepared and look it up online before you leave home.  When choosing salads, pick grilled chicken instead of crispy chicken.  Leave off the dressing, bacon bits and croutons.  If you really want a burger and fries, buy a kid’s meal instead.

What do you buy when you opt for fast food?