10 Scary Restaurant Salads That Will Destroy Your Diet

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Updated by Melissa Rudy, 9/20/16

Restaurants can be a dietary danger zone. With deep-fried appetizers, cheesy sauces and super-sized entrees lurking in every corner of the menu, the salad section may seem like a safe haven. You can't go wrong with fresh greens, right? The problem is, many eateries use those greens as a deceptively healthy foundation for a bevy of bad-for-you toppings that can send calorie counts skyrocketing into the four-digit zone.

Next time you head out for a bite, don't be fooled by these 10 scary salads.
1. Applebee's Southwestern Steak Salad
1,020 calories, 68 g fat, 3,040 mg sodium, 65 g carbs

Steak is always a high-calorie and high-fat choice, even when it's mixed with greens. When you add in the tortilla strips and dressing, you have a four-digit calorie count--and the sodium equivalent of 202 cans of soda.
2. TGI Friday's Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

1,080 calories, 71 g fat, 1,650 mg sodium, 76 g carbs

Boasting such healthy ingredients as cranberries, oranges, glazed pecans and bleu cheese, this salad might initially seem like a wise choice—but with the crispy pecan-crusted chicken and balsamic vinaigrette dressing, it will add nearly as many calories as two Big Macs from McDonald's.
3. Ruby Tuesday's Carolina Chicken Salad
1,103 calories, 84 g fat, 2,298 mg sodium, 67 g carbs

The slew of veggies and bed of fresh greens don't cancel out the crispy chicken tenders, bacon, cheese and croutons that send it well over the 1,000-calorie mark. This salad packs as much fat as six Hershey bars.
4. iHop's Chicken & Spinach Salad w/ Crispy Chicken
1,340 calories, 85 g fat, 2,690 mg sodium, 76 g carbs

Chicken and spinach is better than a stack of hotcakes, right? Not when it packs 1,340 calories and 85 grams of fat, courtesy of the crispy-fried chicken, cheese, bacon, honey-mustard dressing and a side of garlic bread.
5. Buffalo Wild Wings' Mediterranean Salad

1,380 calories, 104 g fat, 2,400 mg sodium, 62 g carbs

When you look beyond the healthy-sounding "Mediterranean" buzzword and the bevy of fresh veggies, you'll find a whopping 104 grams of fat and almost an entire day's worth of calories. Culprits include the pita chips, cheese and tzatziki-feta dressing.
6. Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad
1,420 calories, 99 g fat, 1,530 mg sodium, 96 g carbs

The presence of Asian greens doesn't offset the mammoth calorie and fat content of this deceptive dish. Generally speaking, when fried chicken is the star of the salad, it's best to keep scanning for a healthier option. You'd have to jog at a 12-minute-per-mile pace for 2-1/2 hours to burn it off.
7. Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad
1,440 calories, 96 g fat, 2,410 mg sodium, 83 g carbs

Don't let the lettuce fool you—this so-called salad is nothing short of a deconstructed quesadilla. You'd need to walk at a moderate pace for more than six hours to burn off the calories consumed in this salad. Plus, it contains more than the recommended daily intake of sodium.
8. Chevy's Fresh Mex Chicken Tostada Salad
1,500 calories, 91 g fat, 1,290 mg sodium, 91 g carbs

Served in a tortilla shell and topped with sour cream, refried beans and cheeses, this dietary disaster has nearly as many calories and fat grams as three Big Macs. You'd have to do the elliptical machine for 2-1/2 hours to offset the calorie count.
9. California Pizza Kitchen's Moroccan Spiced Chicken Salad

1,500 calories, 99 g fat, 1,380 mg sodium, 128 g carbs

With ingredients like butternut squash, avocado, red peppers, toasted almonds, beets and dates, it's hard to believe this salad has 1,500 calories and just under 100 grams of fat.
10. Cheesecake Factory Caesar Salad with Chicken
1,510 calories, 16 g fat, 1,450 mg sodium, 24 g carbs

It's hard to believe a seemingly innocent Caesar salad could pack more calories than two Whoppers from Burger King. The piles of parmesan cheese, high-fat dressing and croutons make this dish a danger for dieters.
What are some of the best and worst salad choices you've seen when dining out?

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ERIN_POSCH 10/12/2020
thanks for sharing Report
MNABOY 9/16/2020
eye opener Report
ROCKRS 5/9/2020
thanks Report
These are restaurants that we generally avoid. And anything other than a side salad of mixed greens is going to be high calorie. If possible adk for lemon, or oil and vinegar. What about Cobb salads, or chef salads ? These are always a bad choice. Report
Some of these were obviously not healthy - but that That CPK salad was a surprise! Report
All I can say is wow! Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Thank-you for the info, it will sure make me more cautious on selecting salads when I go out. Report
When you only go out once in a while I enjoy and find some thing other than a salad but . eating one salad once in a while when eating out is not what got me fat. Report
Great info! Thanks! Report
Thanks for sharing Report
I don't visit any of those restaurants. Excellent info! Report
Good info. Report
The big culprit with salad is the dressing--be smart, choose it on the side or ask for oil and vinegar. Report
Some of those I would've guessed but others really surprised me! Report
Always get dressing on the side. Dressing, cheese, and croutons pack most of the "empty calories" in a salad. Dip your fork in it, then spear a big mouthful of greens. You'll end up eating only about half the amount, IF that. Report
My new fave is B.J.'s Brewhouse Kale and Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad (440 calories) with grilled shrimp added. Report
What an eye opener! Report
Thanks for sharing Report
I love the Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad so I go for lunch and get the smaller portion and ask for grilled chicken rather than the fried. I also budget for it. It's a rare treat, not even once a month so I don't feel like it destroys what I'm doing. Report
Montana's Apple Pecan Salad - especially the small lunch size - is low in calories even with added grilled chicken added - as long as you skip the balsamic dressing! The dressing was more than the salad without the chicken. Report
I'm not shocked by any of this, we don't go out much, and it's good to finally have a salad that tastes good for a change, the extra healthy ones are too boring, makes me choke to think of eating another one at home. I like spinach, but regular lettuce is so blah. Doesn't matter how you doctor it up, it's the same old stuff. Report
Man, i'm bummed! When we go to Applebee's, which isn't very often, I have always gotten Oriental chicken salad. I eat half & eat the rest for lunch the next day. I had no idea it was so 'polluted"! Report
Might as well have a nice burger. Report
Amazing! For me some of the best and worst are often found at a salad bar....easy to heap on high fat and high calorie toppings and just as easy to fill it up with the healthier options. My choice. Report
That's incredible! I know the calories are high but the Caesar had the least fat! That has to be a small plus? Can't believe most of these salads have around 100g of fat? Would be beneficial to know what type of fat and the values for each though. Report
Last time I was out with the family at Cheesecake Factory I ordered a Caesar salad and patted myself on the back for making a good choice. Wrong! Oh well, live and learn. Report
I make my own salads at home. Way cheaper and I know what's in them. Report
I have KNOWINGLY eaten the Carolina Chicken Salad and the Southwestern Cobb. I just LOVE them, and so I budget for them and splurge! Report
I get Togo's asian chicken salad (190 calories). The dressing is 370 calories, so I use 1/4 to 1/2 of the amount they provide. Report
I had a Grilled Shrimp and Spinach Salad at Applebee's Saturday night thinking I was doing so well on my diet....HA Not only loaded with calories but carbs also!
I am doing low carb so I figured the Bacon vinegarette would be fine...WRONG! 48 CARBS! Report
These are perfect examples of why I choose to not eat out very often... they use the word salad and people think "healthy" when its not. Report
most restaurant food is over the top with sodium and the calories can be ridiculous. I have gotten in the habit of checking them out on line first since I really do not eat a lot of salt and have not for almost 40 years. I have even been known to e-mail restaurant chains to discuss the menu items. People think they are getting healthy food choices because of marketing techniques but lots of hidden dangers in most restaurant food. Even Chipotle Grill having gone organic... way too high in the sodium and they told me that would not be changing... so I told them I would not be eating at their restaurant. I have even asked some "in good conscience, how can you promote these items and healthier choices when a large portion of America is either diabetic or prediabetic and the sodium is really not good for them?" - the response... NONE!!! Report
Kind of shocked to see that Chevy's fajita salads is over 1,000+ calories especially when the portion size is kinda small (unless the dressing plays a big part of it). Might as well just order their plain fajita dish on its own! Report
How many of those salad calorie counts include the dressing? It would be nice to include counts w/ and w/o the dressing.

Note to save calories: have the dressing on the side. Stick your fork in the dressing, then stab the lettuce onto your fork. It won't be as flavorful at first but when you get used to it, it tastes pretty good.

Ask them to leave off the fried tortilla strips, too. Report
If the name is complicated it is a signal and designed to lure you into believing you are having a healthy meal. Report
Oh my God! Salad is always my go to meal in restaurants. It just goes to show you their is salad and then their is salad. Report
I've never had any of those salads. I typically don't eat salads in restaurants because I usually go for hot food, but it's good to know to stay away from these. Report
NNNNNOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! The quesadilla explosion salad is my favorite!!! BUT! I'm wondering if mine is different (please say yes)!? I order the lunch portion, do not get the dressing it comes with and I opt for their house dressing, and ALWAYS have them put sliced avocado on it. It's just so yummy! Report
I knew that chilis quesadilla explosion salad was going to be on that list. My family loves Chilis and it's one of the hardest places to find heathy option, though I know they have a few now. Report
Why don't they ever post the carbs ? To me, carbs are the most important. they are the hardest to burn, and retain the longest. Seriously, people eat bread and load on cranberries. People need to understand carbs are the # 1 reason for weight gain. Report
I get salads at Salsarita's and Moe's because I can tell them exactly what I want on it and their websites have a nutrition builder where I can type in what I am having and they add it right up for me. Report
I get the Grilled Chicken Salad at Chilis. Yummy. I don't remember the nutritional info but it's a lot healthier than the salads mentioned here. I get it without the corn and bean salsa because I prefer it that way. I get the dressing, which is a lime vinaigrette and a little sweet, but nutrition is still not bad. Report
We rarely eat out now. I used to like the Fajita Salad at On The Border with salsa instead of dressing but it makes me so thirsty afterwards that I cannot eat it anymore. What is the reason the sodium is so high in these salads? What every it is I'd love to know so I can stay away from it! Report
I do eat out and I have no problem finding salads that are 230 cal or less. Wendy's strawberry fields salad-no cheese, seeds, or dressing is delish. Many restaurants have interactive nutrition calculators so you can see the nutrition info and add or remove ingredients and see the results - these are my favorites. Look for salads with dark greens/spinach and skip the cheese, croutons, dressing and other high calorie items that we are all aware of and you can find salads that will keep you satisfied and on plan.. Report
I make my own greek salad with home made salad dressing. And if I'm having it for dinner I add one chicken breast sliced on top. It is very filling and taste great. Report
Glad I rarely eat out!!! Report
i'm surprised at how many people are still choosing 'fat-free' dressing as a 'healthy' choice. that crap is loaded with sugar in addition to the weird stuff they put it to thicken it up. enjoy modest amounts of olive oil and leave the fat free alone. Report