True Life: Your Salad Has Double the Calories of a Big Mac

Ordering a salad is like buying a car, and I don’t mean it’s more expensive than it's worth [...]


Ordering a salad is like buying a car, and I don't mean it's more expensive than it's worth and you always feel like maybe you could've done better. Cars have 3 basic stages of cost: base model, extras, and after-market items. Salads have 3 stages of caloric cost as well. You have your standard salad staples, additional items, and dressing.

When ordering a salad in a restaurant you need to consider the amount of items on the salad and what dressing to choose. Even though salads on a menu come "fully-loaded", you can ask for certain items to be eliminated, therefore reducing your total caloric cost. Kind of like how the car dealership has you test drive the fully-loaded model so you fall in love with it and then you have to sit in those luxurious leather seats and decide what options you can live without so you can actually afford to buy it.


Salads can be tricky to order because all of the items seem innocent enough when you consider them individually. However, that would be a fallacy of composition, meaning that although a salad may contain 10 ingredients that are all under 100 calories this doesn't mean the salad is low-calorie because 10 ingredients that are 100 calories each equals 1,000 calories. PLus, that it's before you add dressing!

Let's take a look at what calories a restaurant salad entree might cost you.

Base Model Ingredients: (Calories aren't exact and amounts may vary by salad. Calories calculated using

  • 2 cups of Spring Mix Lettuce - 15 calories
  • 1 cucumber - 50 calories
  • tomatoes - 27 calories

Total Calories in Base Model Salad: 92 calories

Extra Items:

  • 4 oz grilled chicken breas t- 211 calories
  • 1/2 of an avocado - 140 calories
  • 1/2 cup of beets - 30 calories
  • 1/2 cup of shredded carrots - 23 calories
  • 1/2 cup of chopped bell peppers - 19 calories
  • 1/4 garbanzo beans - 74 calories
  • 1 hardboiled egg - 78 calories
  • 1/4 cup of crumbled blue cheese - 114 calories (shredded mozzarella - 85 calories, feta - 99 calories, shredded cheddar - 114 calories, shredded Parmesean - 108 calories)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled bacon - 215 calories
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives - 72 calories
  • 1/4 cup of slivered almonds - 170 calories (200 in candied walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries - 85 calories
  • 1/2 pear, sliced - 60 calories
  • 1 cup of croutons - 186 calories

Total for Extras: 1,477 calories

After-Market Items (Dressing):

  • 2 Tbsp low-fat ranch - 66 calories
  • 2 Tbsp ranch - 145 calories
  • 2 Tbsp caesar - 96 calories
  • 2 Tbsp french -146 calories
  • 2 Tbsp oil & vinegar - 144 calories

Total for After-Market Items (Dressing): 66 calories

Your Restaurant Salad: 92 calories in base model, 1,477 calories in extras, 66 calories in after-market items equals 1,635 total calories.


Think we are being extreme? Check out the worst restaurant salads here. Some of the ingredients will surprise you. Some of the restaurants will surprise you. Also shocking, is that it appears the nicer the restaurant the more "expensive" the salad, probably because a more expensive salad has more ingredients! Remember, you are in the driver's seat. Pick and choose your salad items carefully, remembering that everything worth eating has calories but you aren't required to eat them all.