Although most people don’t go to McDonald’s or Burger King to satisfy a salad craving, almost every single fast-food restaurant serves some sort of lettuce-based dish — and they don’t look half bad, at least in advertisements:
But anyone who’s ever ordered a fast-food burger knows it’s all too easy to be deceived.
While a bad-looking burger can still taste pretty good, a bad-looking salad made with soggy lettuce, lackluster tomatoes, and rubbery-looking cheese can seriously turn you off from healthy eating.
To stop your next fast-food salad order from becoming your last, wrap your head around what these fast-food salads actually look like IRL:
1. Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad
Few fast-food salads come pre-tossed. But there’s still no denying that the salad served (above right) looks very little like the one that’s advertised (above left). That said, the ingredients do look remarkably fresh and very edible.
The biggest issue: With dressing and croutons, which aren’t pictured above, this salad somehow clocks in at 720 calories, which is 330 more than you’d get in a Wendy’s double-stack cheeseburger. While there is more to life than calories, this salad is no burger, no matter how fresh it looks. That said, I’d happily get all up in this salad if no one mentioned its high number of calories.
2. Burger King Bacon Cheddar Ranch Chicken Salad
Clocking in at 720 calories with 50 grams of fat, this beast of a salad looks mountainous on the menu (above left). However, the actual serving (above right), which comes in more of a raised plate than a deep-dish bowl, isn’t stacked quite as high IRL as you might expect from looking at the pictures. Besides lettuce and tomatoes, it’s filled with chicken (which is breaded in the ad, but can also be grilled, as pictured above on the right, to save 130 calories). The item also comes with a legit serving of smoked bacon, plus cheddar cheese and croutons (FTW).
Besides the bacon, this salad’s actual serving size seemed skimpier than advertised. And it seems that something violent and unsavory appears to have happened to that partially chopped chicken, so there’s that.
3. McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad With Grilled Chicken
For a reasonable 350 calories with 37 grams of protein and 12 grams of fat, you get grilled chicken breast chunks plus black beans, roasted corn, tomatoes, roasted peppers, two kinds of cheese, and chili-lime seasoned tortilla strips served on a bed of mixed lettuce with carrot ribbons, cilantro, plus an actual lime, at least according to the menu. However, IRL (above right), the tomatoes were nowhere to be seen (or perhaps, looked too much like peppers to be discerned) in the actual salad:
While this salad gets bonus points for including an actual lime, the tomato situation, wilted greens, and roasted peppers, which have clearly seen better days, make it look even less appetizing than the mediocre-looking salad promised on the menu.
4. Panera Bread: Chinese Citrus Cashew Salad With Chicken
Panera Bread has always been known for its salad and sandwich game, so it’s no wonder this Chinese citrus chicken salad looks divine online (above left) and in person (above right), with fresh, colorful ingredients like mandarin oranges, roasted cashews, pineapple, cucumbers, cilantro, and grilled chicken strips atop a bed of romaine lettuce and cabbage. With the soy-miso dressing and hoisin sauce served with this salad, the whole dish comes out to 570 calories, with a solid 25 grams of protein despite its generous amount of fat (27 grams).
All in all, the salad advertised and the one served could be identical twins, at least after a little shake-up.
5. Starbucks: Zesty Chicken Black Bean Salad Bowl
This salad includes grilled chicken, black beans, roasted corn, tomatoes, feta, spring greens, jicama, and quinoa. It contains a reasonable 360 calories, although it has less protein (14 grams) than other salads listed here. As served (above right), the heaviest ingredients in the salad sit below the lighter-weight greens, but they’re all present and accounted for:
To Starbucks’ credit, the ingredients do look fresh, even if the actual salad serving looks teenier than the one in the photo provided online (above left).
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