ShopSmart's Best Salad Choices at Chain Restaurants

Healthy Salad ChoicesCourtesy ShopSmart magazine
The Fuji Apple Chicken Salad at Panera?s is a great, healthy choice, according to the Food Experts at ShopSmart.

If you're trying to eat healthy at a chain restaurant, you might think that a salad is always the best choice. But some salads actually pack more calories than a burger.

The food experts at ShopSmart magazine tested the nutritional value of 20 different salads at eight major chain restaurants. ShopSmart's editor Lisa Lee Freeman shared the winners with "Good Morning America" along with advice on how to make a healthy salad at home.

Panera Bread: BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad

VIDEO: ShopSmarts Lisa Lee Freeman reveals her top picks for fast-food salads.Play
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(With mild BBQ sauce and no dressing)

Calories: 350
Total Fat: 10 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Sodium: 610 milligrams
Dietary Fiber: 6 grams
Price: $7.59

The ShopSmart taster said this salad was "moist and tasty," and you don't need the ranch dressing in addition to the BBQ sauce. The dressing packs an additional 140 calories and 11 grams of fat, so stick with just the BBQ sauce.

On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina: Citrus Chipotle Chicken Salad
(With Mango Citrus Vinaigrette)

Calories: 290
Total Fat: 3.5 grams
Saturated Fat: 2 grams
Sodium: 840 milligrams
Dietary Fiber: 11 grams
Price: $9.24

This salad has corn, peppers, onions, tomatoes, jicama and orange pieces in addition to chicken and greens.

Wendy's Chicken Caesar Salad With Grilled Chicken Fillet
(With home style garlic croutons and no dressing or limited dressing)

Calories: 240
Total Fat: 7 grams
Saturated Fat: 2 grams
Sodium: 810 milligrams
Dietary Fiber: 3 grams
Price: $5.38

The chicken in this salad was "warm and delicious," according to the ShopSmart taster, with "crunchy croutons." The magazine says you can use up to 2 tablespoons of dressing, but not the whole packet because of the heavy calorie and fat count.

Web Extra:
Panera Bread: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

(With pecans, no dressing or limited dressing)

Calories: 370
Total Fat: 19 grams
Saturated Fat: 5 grams
Sodium: 570 milligrams
Dietary Fiber: 5 grams
Price: $7.19

This salad offers dried apple slices, pecans and Gorgonzola cheese, in addition to other ingredients.

How to Make Healthful, Hearty Salads

More Smart Picks from Other Chains:

Olive Garden: Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad (without Caesar dressing)

Calories: 430
Total Fat: 19 grams

McDonald's: Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken (without creamy southwest dressing)

Calories: 320
Total Fat: 9 grams

Burger King: Tendergrill Chicken Garden Salad (without ranch dressing)

Calories: 270
Total Fat: 9 grams

Build Your Own Healthful Salad:

Make it hearty by adding elements from your favorite sandwich. It makes the salad more substantial and delicious:

Roast Turkey
Cheddar Cheese
Bacon (A little goes a long way for flavor)
Avocado (This tasty addition boasts "good" fat)

Make it fast by purchasing no-cook proteins:

Lean Goat Cheese
Feta Cheese
Canned Beans like Chickpeas or Cannellini (they're nutrient-rich and satisfying without all the fat)
Assorted Nuts (Nuts add crunch. Store them in the freezer for longer life)
Rotisserie Chicken (Purchase at the supermarket and kept in the fridge)
Tofu (A great add for vegetarians)

Make it healthy by making your own dressing. Dressings add flavor, but they also add tons of calories and fat. Skip the store-bought dressing and make your own with less oil:

Use good quality oil which has more flavor so a little will go a long way, cutting calories.

Look for extra virgin grade which indicates higher quality. Add fruit juice or a sweeter vinegar like balsamic or champagne vinegar.

Swap out mayo and cream. Turn pureed avocadoes, thinned with a little stock or water, into dressings. Low-fat yogurt or buttermilk are other good substitutes for mayo and cream.

For even more healthy salad choices and advice on making your own salads, pick up the latest issue of SmartShop magazine and visit