Indulging in fast food doesn’t have to mean sacrificing health-conscious choices, and the world of the best fast food salads proves just that! Whether you’re craving a zesty Southwest blend or a refreshing Mediterranean mix, these salads are the perfect guilt-free treat for anyone seeking a quick and nutritious bite on the go.
When it comes to fast food, sometimes the most green you see during the meal is money leaving your hands. But salads are still a popular order, especially at lunch. According to a recent poll, the average American eats four salads every week. Sixty-two percent say the dish is part of their regular diet, and nearly a third (31 percent) say salads are the perfect lunchtime meal for them. Of course, we don’t always have the time to throw our favorite spring mix together at home — and so when in a hurry, fast-food salads here we come. You might not think that “fast-food” and “salad” go hand-in-hand, but it turns out there are some great choices — and we wanted to find out which were the best.
We all know salads are a great way to eat more vegetables and fruits, but did you know they can also impact anxiety? That’s the takeaway by researchers from Edith Cowan University who report that eating more fruits and vegetables can help reduce daily stress. Not only could these fiber-rich plants help reduce anxiousness, but plant-based meals like salad (sans meat) are linked to reduced rates of heart disease and stroke.
One study found that people who eat a plant-based dinner with more whole carbs and unsaturated fats reduced their risk of heart disease by 10 percent. And another study had results showing a higher intake of healthy plant-based foods may help reduce long-term stroke risk, but that it is still important to pay attention to the quality of plant-based diets — that is, eating more whole foods, less processed foods.
With all the potential benefits of a salad, it can still be a challenge on busy days to get to the grocery store and shop for produce, then take it home and unpack it, wash it, chop it and toss it. That’s where fast food comes in. They do the hard work for you, much like we at StudyFinds do when it comes to finding the best of the best products. And this article is no different! We’ve brought you the five best fast-food salads, most recommended across 10 expert websites. If you have your own suggestions to share, please do so in the comments below!
The List: Best Fast Food Salads, According to Experts
1. Chipotle Build-Your-Own Salad
The number one salad choice is customizable based on your taste buds. That’s why Eat This, Not That! ranks it as the best in fast food: “What we love about Chipotle’s salad is the fact it’s highly customizable, meaning you can fit it into any meal plan. The protein options include different choices of meat, where you can either go lean with two types of chicken, meatier with carne asada and barbacoa, or even vegetarian with a plant-based choice. The greens aren’t boring either, with a tri-blend of romaine, baby kale, and baby spinach. Additionally, the Tex-Mex chain lets you add rice, beans, and an array of different toppings, including its delicious Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette.”
Make it exactly how you want it! That flexibility paired with the delicious flavors are what earns Chipotle the top spot. “As is the nature with Chipotle, you can add any ingredients you want to the salad, making it exactly how you want it. Seriously, add whatever you want to make your salad just right for you,” adds Mashed.
2. Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Salad
When it comes to salad, you don’t have to think outside of the box! Restaurant Clicks recommends the Grilled Chicken Salad, saying, “This is a very popular choice at Jack in the Box, and it is easy to see why. With flame-grilled chicken and shredded cheese served on a bed of lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes, there is something for everyone in this salad. So, it is definitely one to try.”
— Steph♡ (@stephaannnie_) January 18, 2016
It’s a must-try for Eating Well, too: “This tasty offering features a mix of iceberg and romaine, grilled chicken, cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and seasoned croutons. A low-fat balsamic dressing ties everything together for a healthy choice at any time of day.”
3. Panera Strawberry Poppyseed Salad
This is a “berry” good salad, according to Fast Food Menu Prices: “If you’re a salad novice, strawberries and tangerines may sound like off-the-wall topping choices, but once you try this Panera salad, you’ll understand why fruit is the best way to brighten up any bowl of greens. The Strawberry Poppyseed Salad is an obvious choice for summertime, from its fruit-forward ingredients to its refreshing poppyseed dressing to its toasted pecan toppings.”
Panera and fast food salads go hand in hand for Town & Tourist: “You can’t talk about salads to-go without talking about Panera. This refreshing salad is topped with strawberries, mandarin oranges, blueberries, and pineapple. The fresh fruit is tossed with roasted pecans and romaine lettuce in Panera’s signature poppyseed salad dressing. The Strawberry Poppyseed Salad offers a perfect blend of savory and sweet, and it’s a healthy choice that will leave you satisfied.”
4. Chick-fil-A Grilled Market Salad
Taste of Home offers a tip for making this salad even healthier: “This fast food salad looks straight out of a farmers market stall, with baby greens, red and green apples, strawberries, blueberries and a smattering of crunchy granola. Top with a grilled filet instead of the Chick-fil-A spicy filet to slash sodium by 50% and saturated fat and calories by 25% each.”
And you can count on Chick-fil-A to take pleasure in making your salad. “Chick-fil-A was the only chain that seemed to truly excel at the bunless option. My one complaint is that Chick-fil-A undersells this thing, as it’s not clear from the menu that you’re basically getting a salad and a fruit cup in one,” adds Thrillist.
5. Wendy’s Apple Pecan Salad
Sweet and savory, Wendy’s Apple Pecan Salad claims the last spot on our expert-recommended list of the best fast food salads. “They blend romaine lettuce with both red and green apples, tart cranberries, tangy blue cheese, and savory grilled chicken. The entrée is topped off with a pomegranate dressing, which balances the whole meal perfectly,” according to Narcity.
Seriously, don’t skip the dressing! “This can be seen as one of the least traditional salads that can be found on a fast food menu. It comes packing both red and green apples, sweet dried cranberries, blue cheese crumbles, roasted pecans, a lettuce mix, pomegranate vinaigrette dressing, and just to add something typical to the batch, grilled chicken. As for the dressing, it’s where everything comes together,” says BabbleTop.
You might also be interested in:
- Best Fast Food Keto Options
- Best Gluten-Free Fast Food Options
- Best Fast Food Places to Find Healthy Options
- Healthiest Fast Food Options
- Eat This, Not That!
- Restaurant Clicks
- Eating Well
- Fast Food Menu Prices
- Town & Tourist
- Taste of Home
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.