As more and more consumers turn to a healthier lifestyle, fast food chains have upgraded their salad menus to offer lighter and greener options while eating out. ‘Eat Healthy’ is the mantra in vogue.

Fast food chains and salads

Fast food has always been the go-to option for people who are hungry but don't want to wait too long for their food. Eating greasy and fried fast food all the time is not a healthy option. Though many chains have simplified their menu options and cut back on providing fresh, green options as it takes too much time during rush hour, there are others who are stepping up their game to provide greener, healthier options at a reasonable price.

It is not entirely wrong if you have wondered about the nutritional value or variety of greener options that can be found in fast food chains. But more chains are joining the bandwagon to offer a flavorful variety for those who are bored of the same old fast food menu items. If you are bored of eating the same burger or fried chicken at your favorite fast food chain, then try out these options to eat healthy the next time you visit or order.

1. Chipotle’s Build-Your-Own Salads

Chipotle is known for its assembly line concept of making food, which allows the customer to customize their order as per their preference. The fast food chain may be more famous for its burritos and bowls, but its salads are not to be scoffed at. Be warned, if Mexican flavors are not your style, then you may not like their salads. But if you are game to try something new, then their salads are some of the best for eating healthy you can get from a fast food chain.

As per a report by a website, health-wise, the best options are the Chipotle burrito bowls and salads, and the best part is you can customize your salad the way you want it as they offer a variety of meat and veggie options.

Don't care for lean meats like chicken? There are meatier options such as steak, carnitas, and more. Or opt for a veggie bowl with a tri-blend of baby kale, romaine, and baby spinach and add rice, cheese, and different toppings and salsa.

Another good option for a satisfying meal is a salad bowl with chicken, lots of lettuce, cauliflower rice, fajita vegetables, beans, and salsa. The meal is a balance of fiber-rich vegetables and proteins provided by chicken and beans. But be careful not to load up on calories by adding on extras like guacamole and sour cream.

2. Chick-fil-A

When you hear of Chick-Fil-A, you start thinking about the Original Chicken Sandwich, but the fast food chain also has a salad-oriented menu that has been curated by experts like Angela Waddlington. So, if you want greener options, there is a choice between the Cobb Salad, Spicy Southwest Salad, Market Salad, Kale Crunch Side, and more. But if you are not sure about your options, try these fan favorites.

  • Cobb Salad

The salad has a spicy grilled chicken breast filet served on a bed of greens and topped with roasted corn, Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheese, sliced eggs, crumbled bacon, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and Avocado Lime Ranch dressing. But beware, along with protein, it also serves calories. Every salad has 710 calories, 51 g fat, 1,770 mg of sodium, 25 g carbs, and 36 g protein.

  • Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad

If you want a healthier option, go for the chargrilled chicken garden salad. Along with the bespoke chargrilled chicken, the salad has lettuce, broccoli, grape tomatoes, lettuce, cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese, honey-roasted sunflower seeds, and garlic butter croutons. The healthier option is to opt-out of any salad dressing. Each salad has 390 calories and 15 g of total fat.

  • Grilled Market Salad

The nutrient-rich salad has grilled chicken breast served on a bed of fresh mixed greens, topped with crumbled blue cheese and a mix of strawberries, red and green apples, and blueberries. This salad has 330 calories, 13 g of fat, and 29 g of protein and is full of antioxidants from the low-sugar fruits.

3. Zaxby’s Zensible Zalads

The up-and-coming fast food restaurant chain known in the United States for its fried chicken also has a healthy serving of salad options. Many customers have said that they prefer to have the greens from Zaxby's over any other fast food chain. If you have never had Zaxby's Zensible Zalads, you can expand your taste buds with these options.

  • House Zalads

If you want to opt for Zaxby's House Zalads, you have the option of grilled or fried chicken. The chicken is placed on a salad base and topped with cucumbers, Roma tomatoes, Cheddar or Jack cheese, and fried onions. The grilled salad is healthier at 580 calories, 35 g of carbohydrates, 52 g of protein, 27 g of fat, 1,720 mg of sodium, and 6 g of fiber, while the fried option has 700 calories, 38 g of fat, 46 g of carbohydrates and protein, 1,920 mg of sodium, and 6 g of fiber.

  • Cobb Zalads

Even the Cobb salads come with the option of grilled or fried chicken, which is placed on a salad base and topped with Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, Cheddar/Jack cheese, bacon, fried onions, a hard-boiled egg, and served with Texas toast.

The grilled version has 700 calories, 35 g of carbohydrates and fat, 61 g of protein, 1,910 mg of sodium, and 6 g of fiber, while the fried version has 820 calories, 47 g of carbohydrates, 56 g of protein, 47 g of fat, 2100 mg of sodium, and 6 g of fiber. There is also a garden version that doesn't have the chicken, but still has bacon.

4. Panera

While Panera Bread is well known for its bread and meal options, many swear by the exciting and super-tasty salad menu they offer. The flavorful salads are made with colorful ingredients, and you can't go wrong if you order one. If you must try one, then opt for one of these fan favorites.

  • Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken

The salad has a base packed with arugula, baby kale, romaine, and red lettuce topped with chicken, grape tomatoes, avocado, pickled onions, Applewood-smoked bacon, and a boiled egg. The extra zing is provided by the creamy texture and lemon and herb flavors of the Green Goddess dressing. Each salad has 500 calories, 29 g fat, 27 g carbs, 1030 mg sodium, and 37 g protein.

  • Strawberry Poppyseed Salad

Try something different with the Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad, which has a nice variety of fresh seasonal fruits. The salad has chicken raised without antibiotics, romaine lettuce, strawberries, mandarin oranges, blueberries, and pineapples, which are tossed in poppyseed dressing and topped with toasted pecan pieces. The salad is quite healthy at 340 calories with 27 g of protein and 8 g of fiber.

5. Wendy’s

The fast food chain has only four salad options as of April 2022- Parmesan Caesar Salad, Southwest Avocado Salad, Taco Salad, and Apple Pecan Salad. The chain keeps adding or removing salads from their menu, and the best option would be to check with your location to see which salad options they have.

  • Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad

The salad is a blend of romaine and spinach lettuces, pepper jack cheese, avocado, diced tomatoes, Applewood smoked bacon, and grilled chicken breast drizzled with Southwest Ranch Dressing. A half portion of the salad has 300 calories, 21 g of fat, and 22 g of protein.

  • Apple-Pecan Chicken Salad

The salad is a perennial favorite and has grilled chicken breast served with an apple-pecan salad base blend, blue cheese crumbles, and roasted pecans. The salad is served with a Marzetti's Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing packet. The salad, along with the dressing packet, has 550 calories, 39 g of protein, 26 g of fat, 42 g of carbs, and 5 g of fiber.

6. Honorable mentions

Apart from the salad we have mentioned above, you can also try

  • Taco Bell's Chicken Ranch Taco Salad

Try the Fresco-style Low Carbs salad, which has re-fried beans, rice, fiesta salsa, chicken, tomatoes, and lettuce served in a fried tortilla shell. The salad has 240 calories, 6 g of total fat, and just 1 gram ofsaturated fat.

  • Arby's Roast Chicken Entree Salad
The customizable salad has roasted chicken, lettuce, chopped red onion, tomato, cheddar cheese, and bacon bits served with either honey sesame or balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Each serving has 250 calories, 25 g of protein, and 14 g of fat.

  • Quiznos Apple Harvest Salad
The salad is made with diced chicken, romaine lettuce, sweetened cranberries, pumpkin seeds, apples, tomatoes, cucumbers, and drizzled with apple cider vinaigrette. The salad comes in two sizes, and the smaller serving has 350 calories, 22 g of fat, and 9 g of protein.

Eating healthy

As more and more consumers turn to a healthier lifestyle, the fast food Restaurant Industry has upgraded the salad menus to offer lighter and greener options while eating out. But you, as a consumer, have to understand that salads are not inherently better or healthier than other menu items. Though salad sounds healthy, some options have more calories, saturated fat, and sodium than a cheeseburger. If you want to eat healthily, remember to avoid crispy ingredients and use the whole packet of salad dressing, as they are loaded with sugar and sodium. Most fast food chains list the Food Nutrition value of the salads on the menu, so be sure to check the information before placing your order.