Food on the Run: Wendy's New Salad Sensations


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  263 comments   :  40,858 Views

Wendy's was the fast-food salad leader in the 1980's with their expansive salad bar. After nearly two decades, the company removed the salad bars. Pre-portioned Garden Sensation salads were introduced in 2002 and have remained popular. The Mandarin Chicken salad was my personal favorite. Last week four new salads took center stage in the Garden Sensation category. Marketing officials hope the focus on wholesome ingredients will appeal to the nutrition conscious when they eat away from home. So how do these new salads measure up?

  • The new salads have an average price point of $5.99, which is a dollar higher than previous Garden Sensation choices with a similar serving size. However, the price remains in line with other premium fast food salad options from restaurants like Panera Bread or McAlister's Deli.
  • The new options include nutrient rich ingredients like blended greens of iceberg lettuce with spinach, red and green chard and red and green romaine. Salads feature ingredients such as tomatoes and hard-cooked eggs, red and green apples, dried cranberries and guacamole, along with grilled chicken, nuts and cheese. The focus on new ingredients doesn't hide the fact that Wendy's chili, batter coated chicken, French bread croutons and Applewood smoked bacon are also key ingredients that add to the calorie and fat counts.
  • There are new Marzetti dressing flavors that focus on popular ingredients like avocado, pomegranates and jalapenos. With the exception of the Creamy Red Jalapeno dressing (100 calories and 10 grams of fat), they have a two packet serving size. The Pomegranate Vinaigrette will be your healthiest choice if you only use one of the packets, with only 60 calories and 3 grams of fat.
Here is a closer look at these four new salad options.

Baja Salad - Southwest flavor from Wendy's chili, pico de gallo, cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, and guacamole atop mixed greens and served with creamy red jalapeno dressing and seasoned tortilla strips.

Calories – 740

Fat – 47 grams

Sodium – 1,990 mg

Carbohydrates – 49 grams

Fiber – 13 grams

Sugars – 14 grams

Protein – 35 grams

Nutritionally this salad provides a healthy source of fat as well as 100% of estimated vitamin A needs, 50% of vitamin C needs, 50% of daily calcium needs and contributes 30% of daily iron needs. With over 700 calories and 45 grams of fat, the fact that one of the fat sources is healthy and it provides important nutrients is of little consequence when it takes such a bite out of your daily calorie allowance. If you can split the salad with someone else or take part of it home, that would be your best option when selecting this salad as well as only using one of its dressing packets.

BLT Cobb Salad - Mixed greens topped with grilled chicken, chopped eggs, Applewood smoked bacon, blue cheese crumbles and tomatoes, served with two avocado ranch dressing packets.

Calories – 670

Fat – 47 grams

Sodium – 1,920 mg

Carbohydrates – 15 grams

Dietary Fiber – 3 grams

Sugars – 6 grams

Protein – 47 grams

This salad is also rich in vitamins A and C and provides a source of calcium and iron as well. Reducing the serving size of salad dressing to one packet can help lower the calorie contribution by 100 calories but this salad remains a higher calorie and higher fat choice if the entire entrée is enjoyed at one time.

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad - Mixed greens are topped with grilled chicken, blue cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, red and green apple chunks and roasted pecans and served with two packets of pomegranate vinaigrette dressing.

Calories – 580

Fat – 27 grams

Sodium – 1,590 mg

Carbohydrates – 50 grams

Fiber – 6 grams

Sugar – 39 grams

Protein – 38 grams

This is the lowest calorie and fat option of the new salad line. You can lower your calories slightly (about 60 calories) by only using one packet of dressing. You can reduce the fat and calories additionally by taking off the crumbled blue cheese. With those two modifications, this salad becomes a more nutrient rich and calorie wise entrée salad.

Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad - Romaine lettuce covered with a spicy chicken fillet, Asiago cheese, grape tomatoes and croutons served with two packets of lemon garlic Caesar dressing.

Calories – 740 calories

Fat – 49 grams

Sodium – 1,860 mg

Carbohydrates – 41 grams

Fiber – 7 grams

Sugars – 5 grams

Protein – 37 grams

This salad along with the Baja salad tip the scale in calories and fat although providing a good source of vitamins A and C as well as calcium. You can reduce the caloric total by 100 and total fat by 9 grams if you substitute grilled chicken for the breaded spicy fillet although it will change the taste slightly. You can reduce the total by another 105 calories and 10.5 grams of fat if you only use one of the dressing packets instead of both. Leave off the croutons to save yourself another 80 calories and 3 grams of fat for a total salad of only 455 calories but 26 grams of fat.

The Bottom Line

It is nice to see a new variety of salads and dressings at Wendy's. It is surprising they are so high in calories and fat while promoting a focus on "real" ingredients. The plastic bowls when dining in are not overly environmentally friendly either but they were around with the other Sensation salads as well. These new salads are pretty similar nutritionally to the previous selections but with new fruits and blends of greens and dressings. Several can fit into our Food on the Run recommendations of meals less than 500 calories with no more than 20 grams of fat with a few minor modifications. A couple are pretty high in both calories and fat and should be split with a friend or half saved for a second meal. If you are trying to keep your sodium intake to a minimum, none of these would be good choices since they all provide more than 1,000 mg of sodium per serving.

Salads seem like a healthy choice but many times all the toppings and dressings make them just as high in calories and fat as many of the other sandwich options on the menu. These new salads are no different. Don't assume that an entrée salad is your best option and overlook other lower calorie and fat alternatives. Either a plain baked potato topped with a small chili (500 calories and 7 grams of fat) or an Ultimate Grilled Chicken (without sauce) and a side salad with fat-free dressing (470 calories and 7 grams of fat) and water provide less calories and fat than the salads if you are looking for the lowest calorie and fat options.

What do you think about the new Garden Sensation salads? Are you excited about the focus on more wholesome ingredients?

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  • 263
    I just get my usual junior sized sandwich and a side salad off of the value menu. with dressing on the side. I use about half of one packet of dressing. The fancy salads are too big and too salty for them to be even considered. I like Wendy's because they offer choices other the french fries and fried onion rings - 5/19/2012   11:32:46 PM
    I don't really like the new salads listed here. The older mandarin chicken salad was my favorite without the fried noodles. I do like the new Berry Almond Chicken salad. It is 450 calories for the full size but they also offer a 1/2 size with 270 calories which is a fine size for me. They also offered unsweetened iced tea (although it has 140 calories) since it is made with fruit puree. I wonder if this is just a summer or regional offering; but it is listed on their website so maybe it will stay on the menu. - 9/12/2011   8:25:36 PM
  • 261
    I have found that the safest route is just plain 'ol lettuce & tomoato with a few croutons and "light" dressing. - 1/5/2011   11:05:06 AM
    I, too, liked Wendy's previous salads. The new ones are good, but still so fattening. I would eat them when traveling, but probably not when I'm home. Thanks for the tips on calories and fat, and how to reduce them. Maybe they will bring back the Mandarin Chicken Salad, which was so good! We can ask. - 1/4/2011   5:26:13 PM
  • 259
    I usually get the Baja Salad. I save calories and sodium by saying no to the tortilla chips that come with it and using only about half of the chili and dressing they give you. (I only ever get one packet, but 90% of it is fat calories) I've been trying to think of a good way to not use the dressing at all... Maybe using salsa instead? - 12/30/2010   11:02:21 AM
  • 258
    I enjoyed one of the salads recently; it tasted good, but nutritionally I guess it wasn't as good as I thought! I don't know why restaurants can't offer a simple low calorie salad that isn't just iceburg lettuce. - 12/8/2010   9:39:18 AM
  • 257
    I like the idea that they are using nice lettuces, but some of the other ingredients! Yikes! Too much sodium for one thing,let alone fat. Too bad they can't come up with one that is truly "healthy." - 12/1/2010   11:00:14 AM
    wow, high cals! then again restaurant salads are not typically low cal/fat. i rarely eat salad at fast food restaurants. if i'm at one, i'm there because i chose to have a "cheat meal". - 10/14/2010   2:01:13 PM
    The apple pecan chicken salad is amazing!!! I have it for lunch at least one day a week w/ some ice cold water ~ so refreshing. Worth the cals in my opinion. - 9/17/2010   1:46:56 AM
  • 254
    I am glad I am so cheap or my whole family would have eaten these the other day....we went in as a family of 4 to have "fancy" salads for lunch and we were disgusted at the price $8.99 without a drink?? That is well over 10$ each making it over 50$ lunch for my family at a fast food restaurant. This is encouraging the unhealthy choices. I personally boycotted going to Wendy's when they wouldn't let my girl have a side salad with her kids meal. Fries only the girl said! Imagine that is the only option for a little girl.......sooo sad that they try to come off as "healthy" .
    Happy day all:) - 9/16/2010   4:15:32 PM
    This shows the importance of reading background information. If you were to read only title of the article, you might be inclined to go to Wendy's often for one of the salads. Two reasons would make you do this....1. the article is posted in this website devoted to healthy living, and 2. the word "sensations" implies a good thing.
    However, a quick glance at the nutrition info shows instead that if this article is posted on this type of website, you would think that the title should have a strong warning against buying Wendy's salads. The calories and sodium counts are ridiculously high. This had made me distrust other articles posted on this website. I read carefully now and do not take any misleading wording seriously. Unfortunately, there are many who would take a quick glance at the headline and trusting this site for good information, would eat these salads thinking they were eating healthily when, in fact the sodium is dangerously high and the calories are also unbelievably high per salad.
    - 9/10/2010   9:17:32 AM
  • 252
    I like the pecan cranberry one! The greens are really tasty. At some other fast food places the greens taste like they've been soaked in some anti-bacteria guck and further are mostly iceberg. At those places the chicken is compressed parts. At Wendy's these salads meet my needs for on the go and they taste good enough. I know I can save a few calories here and there with out the nuts or cranberries or only a little dressing. I'm glad these restaurants give options and at Wendy's they actually taste good. - 8/30/2010   4:11:15 PM
  • 251
    I am amazed at the high sodium (and calories and fat) in these salads! Nice breakdown - thanks! - 8/25/2010   3:48:25 PM
    I had the apple pecan chicken which was very good but I thought the price was a little high. - 8/7/2010   6:43:10 AM
  • 249
    I get the small size of the salads (they have two sizes for the salads), and I usually ask them to hold the cheese. I also only use .5 to 1 packet of dressing. For the most part, other than the sodium, I think they are decent options. but then again, I often will order the grilled chicken sandwich and not eat the bun, just wrap it up in the lettuce (no sauce!). I think if you do it right, and only eat this kind of thing once or twice a week (keep the rest of your eating as clean as possible) it really isn't going to be that detrimental to your overall program. There sure are plenty of things that are a lot worse than this. - 7/27/2010   11:32:05 PM
  • 248
    I always check the nutritional levels online before getting anything like that. These are not something I can eat - I am interested in being fit and healthy. AND the sodium is criminal! Wendy's lost me when they said they couldn't take chicken off of a salad for me....right! I don't see how you can really consider them healthy? - 7/27/2010   4:49:13 PM
  • 247
    Could someone explain to me why these salads, or even the chili is SOOOO much better for us than a small burger on a bun with some lettuce, tomato, onion, and a pickle? Is beef evil? Is lettuce a superfood? Is it the bun? It sure isn't the sodium, or the calories, or even the fat, as this analysis points out. Help me understand....please. - 7/27/2010   2:28:24 PM
  • 246
    Wow that is a LOT of sodium, but probably no more than going out anywhere else! Haven't tried them yet, but I hear they are delicious! - 7/27/2010   2:03:47 PM
  • 245
    Always too much sodium!!! Hopefully most of that is in the dressing which I never use all of anyway - 7/27/2010   1:20:28 PM
  • B4GR8MEN12
    Of all salads I chose the BLT Cobb, never again...WAY TOO MUCH SODIUM. - 7/27/2010   11:58:19 AM
  • 243
    We (husband and I) really miss the Mandarin Chicken Salad, but we love the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad. I save even more calories by not even using a full packet of the dressing - I usually only have about 1/3-1/2 package, at most. The fruits are already so tasty that I really don't need any dressing. Haven't tried the Baja yet, and I wish they'd leave the bacon out of the Cobb salad (does anyone know for sure if it is a separately packaged add-in that we can leave off? or is it in the salad dressing itself - which does happen in other restaurants.? - 7/26/2010   3:28:15 PM
  • 242
    I had the apple pecan chicken salad. It was okay. I miss the mandarin chicken salad. - 7/26/2010   1:46:27 PM
    I try to look up restaurants on-line before we go out. My husband and I have decided to share our favorites when we eat out- ordering one meal, for the 2 of us. We get to eat what we like, but we share the calories. So far it has worked great. Since we have 2 boys who now ordering from the adult menu and two still on the kids, no one has seemed to have minded or charged us extra for sharing! - 7/26/2010   10:38:07 AM
    i have tried the apple pecan chicken salad. I really tasted great. Not just a plain old salad. BUT, I was really shocked at the calories. You would think that ordering a salad was lower in calories. But it was more that the spicy chicken fillet sandwich sans mayo. Tasted good but was disappointed in the calorie content. - 7/25/2010   11:23:47 PM
  • 239
    I am always amazed at the sodium content in the salad selections. Too bad that there is not a low sodium choice on their menu for those of us on restricted sodium diets. - 7/25/2010   11:12:28 PM
  • 238
    The sodium amounts are atrocious....even if the calories and fat came down and sodium remained the same it wouldn't be a healthy choice. - 7/25/2010   7:04:40 PM
  • 237
    I miss the old old salads. The ones that came with the diced chicken, not the hot chicken that comes on them now. Those salads were way healthier, and to me even tasted better. I'm actually disappointed by the new salads. And, makes me a smidgen happier that I no longer work for the chain anymore. - 7/25/2010   4:59:44 PM
  • 236
    I love the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad. I only use 1 packet of Dressing and I omit the pecans (I don't care for pecans is why). The total caloric intake for me is 410. I love that I can have this as an option when I am looking for something to eat while out on the run doing errands. I also want to note that these salads are a equal blends of the iceberg, romaine, spinach and spring mixture. - 7/25/2010   4:43:15 PM
    @Founder3: I think the high sodium content is due to the "spiced chicken" (probably a lot of sodium in the spice mix), the bacon (always high in sodium) and the chile & pico de gallo.

    My favorite Wendy's go-to is the small chili. Yum--and low calories. A friend told me it is only 4 WW points. - 7/25/2010   2:29:46 PM
  • 234
    But every one of these has more than a days sodium (1500mg/day) for a person with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease. Additionally each on has almost a full days sodium for a healthy person (2300mg/day max). - 7/25/2010   12:03:30 PM
  • 233
    I appreciate SP giving us fast food choices, only because there are times when we find it necessary to eat on the run, and it is good to know where is best to go. Thanks for the info. - 7/25/2010   11:28:14 AM
  • 232
    I have question. I ate at Ihop the other day what was supposed to be one of their Healthy options. 510 calories, etc, but 1770 grams of sodium.

    Does someone understand why these salads, and the vegetable and chicken dish I had at IHOP are so high in sodium.

    There should not be much sodium in veggies, and I don't think too much in chicken, so why is it necessary for the sauces, and prep to add so much sodium?

    I don't really have a huge problem with sodium, but would like to be able to cut down.

    I am not a person who cooks a lot, so why is everything prepared so high?

    Anyone know, I am really curious as to what they are putting into the foods that has so much. - 7/25/2010   11:12:42 AM
  • 231
    Baja salad - leave off the dressing entirely and the tortilla strips and you are down to 550 calories, 33g fat, 1650mg sodium. Still high on the sodium and total fat, but much better and according to my husband who has eaten it - doesn't need the dressing. - 7/25/2010   8:48:27 AM
    As a vegetarian, I get a litle miffed at how difficult it is to even find vegetarian salads out there. More than one kind of meat on a salad is ridiculous anyway, what is the point. I am happy to see a shift in fast food options though. - 7/25/2010   8:32:17 AM
  • 229
    Not a fan of blue cheese! - 7/25/2010   5:55:01 AM
  • 228
    I think Wendy's is going to find that dumping their mandarin chicken salad was a BIG mistake. I really liked it, I guess I should have ordered one more often so they would have kept it. - 7/25/2010   3:23:44 AM
  • 227
    This pretty much sums up why I don't eat at Wendy's anymore.... - 7/25/2010   1:21:47 AM
  • BIRDY1967
    I find that most of these salads are high in sodium - 7/24/2010   9:59:29 PM
  • 225
    "The Bottom Line" seems like a great pun to me! - 7/24/2010   8:33:37 PM
  • 224
    How can they call anything with that many calories good for you? Maybe if you split it with someone. I know the ingredients are healthier than burgers, but 700 calories? ? ? ? - 7/24/2010   4:59:32 PM
    I tried the BLT Cobb salad and was really disappointed. It's not something I will order again. I didn't like the blue cheese or the new dressing. The old salads were much better. - 7/24/2010   4:36:16 PM
  • 222
    I have gotten the apple pecan salad the last 2 times but may not anymore. The last time when he brought it home there wasn't any pecans, croutons or crackers with it. A lot of money to not even get what is advertised. - 7/24/2010   3:52:37 PM
  • 221
    My husband and I ate the Baja Salad before checking the nutritional facts.
    One will be more than enough.
    Too much of everything for anyone that knows anything about nutrition to eat, once they see the facts. - 7/24/2010   3:31:26 PM
  • 220
    I agree with the observation that "Salads seem like a healthy choice but many times all the toppings and dressings make them just as high in calories and fat as many of the other sandwich options on the menu."

    A lot of times people don't realize that and it can sabatoge your caloric and fat intake for the day. - 7/24/2010   3:28:42 PM
  • 219
    Most of these salads have my whole day's allotment of sodium. Sorry, Wendy's, but I can't eat these although they sound very tasty. - 7/24/2010   1:11:39 PM
    I'm not too thrilled about the new selections and will be upset if they did indeed drop the Mandarin Chicken Salad, which was my "go to" meal at Wendy's. I can't use that many calories in one meal, and my sodium intake is very important too me, and these just have too much. - 7/24/2010   11:37:29 AM
  • LPEET441
    This is exactly why I won't eat at any of these places. Even if it looks good for you, it usually isn't. - 7/24/2010   11:07:01 AM
    Like the salad idea, but all these salads contain cheese and I'm not a cheese eater and I find the high sodium content another strike against them. - 7/24/2010   10:38:05 AM
  • LJ1225
    I was so looking forward to going to Wendy's after church tomorrow ... just to try the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad! Now I'm not so sure I will. I hate that they're disguising the calories, sugar, sodium, and fat behind the "fresh" ingredients. And, I hadn't realized they'd dropped the Mandarin Chicken Salad ... that was yummy though the price kept me from getting it too often. I actually love Wendy's plain (no butter or sour cream) baked potatoes and would get one of those plus a side salad or a junior hamburger with only lettuce and tomato ... cheaper and not too bad for you. Of course, their Frosty is fabulous ... as a very occasional treat. :-) - 7/24/2010   9:24:38 AM
    I'm just not feeling the new salads. I hate they took away the mandarin chicken. It was simply the best. - 7/24/2010   9:12:34 AM

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