Eating healthy while on the go can be challenging. Luckily we have access to fast-food salads on almost any trip!
Not all of them are created equal, though. How do you know if you’ve successfully ordered the healthy, delicious lunch you wanted?
Today we’ll look at some of the best and the worst salads you can order at a drive-through.
What Makes Fast Food Fast Food?
Fast-food restaurants are establishments that serve food quickly and can be accessed easily. We expect their food to be hot and ready to eat when it comes out, and we don’t want to shell out a lot of cash for our meals. Fast food can be super convenient on the road because we know what to expect.
Whether you order a BigMac in Detroit or San Diego, you will end up with the same sandwich.
Fast food can also be very unhealthy and lead to obesity or heart disease if consumed too often. For these reasons, you may consider setting down the french fries and ordering a salad instead. But some aren’t the nutrient powerhouses you might be looking for.
Can Salad Be Junk Food?
Have you ever watched a kid piling croutons on their plate, then drowning a tiny morsel of lettuce in a sea of ranch dressing? Not all salads are the light meal you might think.
Toppings like avocados and almonds can be a great source of quality fats, but only if served in moderation. If a salad has an entire avocado and heaps of sliced almonds, you’re eating a lot of calories, healthy food or not. Adding protein to your lettuce bed can help maintain a balanced diet.
If the salad comes with deep-fried chicken, however, any health benefits from the added protein have probably been overshadowed by the greasy addition.
Stay mindful of the types and amounts of toppings used, and you can still have a very healthy, nutritious, and, most importantly, delicious meal.
Pro Tip: Find out what is the Least-Hated Fast Food Chain in the USA. The answer may surprise you!
Best Fast Food Salads
The best fast food salads you’ll find include quality fresh ingredients. These restaurants even have options for customizations to ensure you love your food! Let’s look at our favorite options you can find on the road.
If you’ve ever been to Chipotle, you know that an employee builds up your meal as you select your ingredients. We love the option for customizations at this restaurant. Their menu lists the calories of each item, making it easy to choose which protein source might be right for you.
After starting with a bed of lettuce, we like to add black beans and chicken. Then, you can add some extra veggies by adding fajita vegetables. If you want to build a healthy salad, consider skipping the sour cream and queso, but don’t sleep on the fresh salsa! It’s a tasty way to add tomatoes, onions, and the vitamins that come with them.
When you think of Chick-fil-A, you probably immediately think about their fried chicken sandwiches. But did you know that they also offer one of the best fast-food salads on the market?
This restaurant starts with a bed of mixed greens, already an improvement over the iceberg lettuce other fast food joints serve. You can decide to top their salads with fried or grilled chicken.
One of their offerings, the Market Salad, features berries, apples, and a sprinkle of bleu cheese. Their Spicy Southwest Salad comes with corn, black beans, and tomatoes. Whichever one you choose, you can be sure that you’ve ordered something fresh and delicious.
The restaurant Panera specializes in soup, sandwiches, and salads, so you probably won’t be surprised to see them on our favorite fast food list. Panera lists its calories on its menu, making it easy for you to make healthy choices.
Their Asian Sesame Chicken Salad is the best bet for a nourishing option on the go. It gets extra bursts of flavor and texture from crispy wonton strips, almonds, and cilantro. Even the dressing, Asian Sesame Vinaigrette, can be considered a wholesome choice.
Worst Fast Food Salads
Not every restaurant can stand up to the quality test. We’ve looked at the best fast-food salads on the market, and we can tell you which ones you should avoid.
We’d suggest skipping the crispy chicken garden salad at Burger King. It includes some iceberg lettuce topped with bacon and fried chicken. They also toss on some tomatoes and shredded cheese. The unhealthy ingredients and lack of freshness that other restaurants offer give this fast food option a reputation for making terrible salads.
If you must eat at Burger King on your trip, you might as well order a Whopper. The burger has fewer calories than the salad. And that’s before you add the dressing!
A good rule of thumb for ordering a healthy is to avoid the meals that come in a bowl made of chips. The Fiesta Taco Salad from Taco Bell not only comes in a fried chip bowl, but the restaurant also tops it with fried chip strips. It comes on a bed of ground beef and refried beans. The restaurant tops this so-called salad with a sprinkling of lettuce, tomatoes, and a glop of sour cream.
If you’ve been trying to make healthier choices, do yourself a favor and stay far away from this salad-shaped monstrosity.
Pro Tip: Sometimes you just don’t want a salad! If a burger is more your style, you’ll want to try these 5 Best (and 5 Worst) Fast Food Burgers.
Can You Make a Bad Fast Food Salad Healthy?
Sometimes drive-thrus present an easy option during a road trip. Other times it can be your only option. Don’t worry, we have some tips for making even the worst fast food salads into a healthy alternative.
These joints often offer grilled or fried chicken. Always opt for grilled. Skip the unhealthy toppings, and ask the server to leave off the croutons and the fried chips. Try using only half of the dressing the restaurant provides, or ask about their low-fat choices. You might even consider asking if you can substitute beans instead of chicken for a well-rounded meal. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make changes to create the salad of your dreams.
Can an RVer Find a Good Fast Food Salad?
Next time you take a road trip looking for a convenient, healthy meal, look for Chipotle, Panera, or Chick-Fil-A. Their top-notch options will hit the spot! Even if you have limited options, remember the tips and tricks we covered to make any salad wholesome.
The convenience and price of fast food, combined with the healthiness of a quality salad, seems too good to be true. With the right choices, you can have it all.
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers that love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: