The Healthiest Fast Food Salads You Can Buy, According To Our Expert

Sometimes you don't have the time in the morning to fix a healthy lunch. Fast food gets a bad rap with all the fried and processed menus that could give you three day's worth of sodium and fat. Getting takeout from your favorite restaurant could overload you with calories while depleting your wallet. You can also go to a convenience store that might have processed meats and other high-fat or high-sugar quick grabs, or you can drive out of your way to a salad bar at a grocery store for a healthier option.

Yet that fast food chain around the corner probably has some healthy salads, according to Dr. Amy Lee, Head of Nutrition for Nucific. She says that by choosing the right ingredients in your salad, you can avoid excess sugars and fat that can load your salad with too many calories. Lee likes Chick-fil-A's Market Salad with grilled chicken or a salad from Subway with just the right meats and vegetables.

Choosing the right ingredients in a fast food salad

Rather than grab a packaged salad with unhealthy ingredients, Lee suggests looking for certain foods for your salad while avoiding others. "In general, fresh vegetables and the addition of grilled proteins is always a good rule when it comes to picking or creating salads," Lee said. "Proteins in a salad are also important as it is the macronutrient that will keep you full. So look for a serving of at least 15-20 grams of protein per serving of the salad to achieve satiety."

You can customize a Subway turkey breast salad by adding cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and extra turkey for a 120-calorie salad with less than 2 grams of fat, almost 3 grams of fiber, and 21 grams of protein. However, you'll still get a ton of sodium — 1,600 milligrams of it.

Chick-fil-A's Market Salad with grilled chicken comes with mixed greens and fruits and some granola and almonds. The salad has 550 calories, 31 grams of fat, and 6 grams of saturated fat. It's relatively high in sodium, coming in at 1,010 milligrams, and you'll take in 26 grams of sugar. However, the 5 grams of fiber and 28 grams of protein will keep you full until dinner.

"Avoid candied nuts and crispy/crunchy carbs that are offered or added as those are usually packed with calories," Lee said.

What about dressing?

Dressings can make your healthy salad into an unhealthy one with ingredients you don't want to see like mayonnaise or heavy cream. "[W]hen it comes to dressing, it typically has added sugars and flavoring so use only a tiny amount (teaspoons) vs pouring it on," Lee said. "I also prefer olive oil and a squeeze of a lemon to bring out the sweetness of vegetables." That same Subway salad with the X-Spicy Chipotle Southwest Sauce adds 120 calories and 12 grams of fat. The Mango Habanero Sauce adds just 22 calories and a little fat.

As for Chick-fil-A, the Avocado Lime Ranch dressing might sound healthy, but it comes in at 310 calories for a single packet. The dressing also has a whopping 32 grams of fat with 5 grams of saturated fat. It's actually the highest-calorie dressing on Chick-fil-A's menu. The fat-free honey mustard might taste good with just 90 calories, but it also has 18 grams of added sugar. You'd be better off with the light Italian dressing that has 25 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 2 grams of added sugar.