7 Salads You Should Never Eat

It starts with peas. As kids, we nervously push them around our plates, waiting for an opportunity to slip them quietly to the dog. Something that tastes so bad must be out to kill us, we reason. The same goes for all vegetables, we think.

But over time, our skepticism wears off. We learn that vegetables (and fruits) can help us stay slim and healthy. We overcome our fear, and start seeking out green beans, broccoli, spinach, and romaine. This is a good thing. Numerous studies have shown that increased produce intake can decrease our risk for diabetes and heart disease. And in a large 2011 study, eating lots of fruits and vegetables was found to be one of the strongest predictors of successful weight control.

This doesn't completely erase the lesson we learned as toddlers, though. Some produce is still evil—that which today's restaurants use as a delivery system for low-cost fats and sugars. With the number of absurd toppings now routinely tossed into salads, it’s not uncommon to find more than 1,000 calories buried in a plate of lettuce. These dastardly salads can be hard to identify, which is why I’ve picked out the seven worst America has to offer, compliments of the new and completely updated Eat This, Not That! 2013 Edition. Honestly, I wouldn't even feed them to my beloved pooch.

#7: WORST BUFFALO-STYLE SALAD

Friendly’s Kickin’ Buffalo Chicken Salad
1,180 calories
95 g fat (19 g saturated)
2,090 mg sodium

Don’t be fooled by the lettuce—it’s simply a foil for the hunks of deep-fried meat, oily wing sauce, cheese, and cream-based blue cheese dressing. This salad is, in fact, more damaging than the hot wings that inspired it. (It has 66 percent more calories than a full order of Applebee's wings!) Instead, opt for the tuna melt and salad combo, the sole menu option to keep both calories and sodium in check.

Eat This Instead!
Half Tuna Supermelt and side salad with Italian dressing
450 calories
25 g fat (5 g saturated)
1,190 mg sodium

DRESSED TO KILL: Not only are many salad dressings loaded with cheap fats and empty calories, but some may be spiked with the same chemicals found in paint! Get all the facts on The 5 Grossest Things You’re Eating.

#6: WORST TEX-MEX SALAD

 Baja Fresh Steak Tostada Salad
1,230 calories
63 g fat (17 g saturated, 2 g trans)
2,380 mg sodium

Props to Baja Fresh for introducing lower-calorie entrées like Bare Burritos and Baja Ensaladas, but that doesn’t excuse the more nefarious offerings like the 2,000-calorie nachos and this fat-drenched salad that comes served in a deep-fried tortilla receptacle. Don’t let the novelty suck you in. There’s still nothing better than the Original Baja Tacos paired with a side of fiber-rich beans.

Eat This Instead!
Original Baja Steak Tacos (2) with Pinto Beans
632 calories
17 g fat (4 g saturated)
972 mg sodium

#5: WORST CLASSIC SALAD

 Outback Steakhouse Aussie Crispy Chicken Cobb Salad with Honey Mustard
1,288 calories
98 g fat (32 g saturated, 2.2 g trans)
2,096 mg sodium

Cobb might as well stand for “Corrupted by Oil, Bread & Bacon.” These iconic salads’ toppings include croutons, cheese, bacon, and an oft-fried protein, and they tend to be topped with heavier dressings. In the case of Outback, this salad contains more fat than 64 ounces—that’s four pounds—of the chain’s Victoria Filet. The Shrimp Caesar is the lightest salad on the menu, and it comes with 25 grams of lean protein.

Eat This Instead!
Shrimp Caesar Salad
554 calories
39 g fat (11 g saturated)
1,382 mg sodium

#4: WORST CRUSTED SALAD

Applebee’s Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad
1,360 calories
80 g fat (17 g saturated, 1 g trans)
2,640 mg sodium

Nuts can be a great salad topping, but because they’re calorie-dense, they should be applied judiciously. Applebee’s does not adhere to this advice. With this salad, the chain adds both crushed nuts and sugar-coated pecans. In addition, it adds deep-fried chicken and fat-heavy bleu cheese dressing. The total damage is more than a full day’s recommended fat intake and 117 grams of carbohydrates. You’d have to be nuts to eat that.

Eat This Instead!
Seasonal Berry & Spinach Salad (with chicken)
620 calories
31 g fat (9 g saturated, 0.5 g trans)
1,610 mg sodium

RESTAURANT REVOLT: Choosing a salad from a restaurant menu is like nutritional Russian roulette, but you can dodge the bullet every time by making salads at home. Double up on flavor and nutrition with these 8 Fat-Fighting Super Salads.

#3: WORST “HEALTHY” SALAD

California Pizza Kitchen Moroccan Chicken Salad (full)
1,370 calories
12 g saturated fat
1,040 mg sodium

At 116 grams, this salad has more carbohydrates than most of the pasta dishes on the menu. Then there’s the saturated fat. With the exception of the Sicilian or the Meat Cravers, you could eat half of any thin crust pizza on the menu and take in the same amount or less. Try the new Quinoa and Arugula Salad instead. Despite being a seed, quinoa supplies the same amino acids as meat, making it an excellent vegetarian source of protein.

Eat This Instead!
Quinoa and Arugula Salad
607 calories
5 g saturated fat
872 mg sodium

FIX IT WITH FOOD: Check out our list of the 40 Foods with Superpowers—foods that, even in moderation, can strengthen your heart, fortify your bones, and boost your metabolism so you can lose weight more quickly.

#2: WORST SPINACH SALAD

IHOP Chicken & Spinach Salad
1,530 calories
111 g fat (30 g saturated, 2 g trans)
2,400 mg sodium

This is the improved version. IHOP’s previous effort at this same salad had 1,600 calories. Call it progress? We don't either. Despite being 70 calories lighter, this plate still manages to fit in more calories than 5 McDonald’s Cheeseburgers, not to mention a day’s worth of sodium. And athough this salad is by far the worst of IHOP’s greens, the others are far from ideal: With the single exception of the Chicken Caesar Salad—ordered without chicken, that is—none of the chain’s dinner salads fall below 1,000 calories. You’d do better to play it safe and order off the Simple & Fit menu.

Eat This Instead!
Simple & Fit Grilled Balsamic-Glazed Chicken (served with a salad)
440 calories
22 g fat (3.5 g saturated)
940 mg sodium

#1: WORST SALAD IN AMERICA

Cheesecake Factory Santa Fe Chicken Salad
1,720 calories
17 g saturated fat
2,636 mg sodium

Tex-Mex salad iterations are rarely light, what with all the sour cream, guacamole, and creamy dressings. But wait—this salad can’t claim any of those usual culprits! The only two potentially troublesome toppings are cheese and tortilla strips, but how much damage could they possibly do? Well, based on these numbers—and the fact that their inclusion appears to be the main difference between the Santa Fe and the Skinnylicious salad below—a lot. Order accordingly.

Eat This Instead!
Skinnylicious Spicy Chicken Salad
440 calories
1 g saturated fat
771 mg sodium

LOSE BELLY FAT FASTER THAN EVER: Knowledge is your best defense in the battle against flab. To keep up with the best health, fitness, and nutrition secrets, sign up for the FREE Eat This, Not That! newsletter and be sure to follow me right here on Twitter!

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