The Vegetable Lover's Fast Food Survival Guide

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No one heads to the fast food drive-through thinking, "Yum, I can't wait to sink my teeth into a juicy cucumber or inhale some crispy broccoli florets." Nope, fast food is usually all about the meat, starch, and fat.

But you may be surprised to learn that many fast food places offer a decent selection of salads and vegetable sides. You heard right: fast food and vegetables both in the same sentence.

These dishes won't satisfy those carnivorous cravings nor will they live up to your uppity farmer's market criteria, but it's always good know some healthy options do exist when you're on the go and need to eat.

A breakdown of the number of salads and/or vegetable sides at eight popular fast food joints follows. It's listed by increasing number of options, so the further down you go, the more options you'll find.

Chipotle: 1 salad

If burritos are your favorite, you may have missed the single salad on Chipotle's menu. Unfortunately, however, it's a bit tricky to figure out calorie info because they make you add up individual listings for each ingredient.

Burger King: 3 salads

Yes, that's right -- the King offers his clientele three vegetable options. One of them, the Tendergrill Chicken Salad, has 490 calories and 30 grams of fat.

Taco Bell: 3 salads

Believe it or not, Taco Bell has three salads on its menu. They're a little heavy on the meat-side, but you could certainly do worse there. If you order the Fiesta Taco Salad, you'll be getting 770 calories and 41 grams of fat.

Taco Bell also has Mexican Rice on its menu with just 130 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.

Wendy's: 4 salads

Dave Thomas' chain has a bit more variety salad-wise, although you may want to consider a burger or chicken sandwich when you consider this: the Spicy Chicken Caesar salad has 740 calories and 49 grams of fat.

To be fair, Wendy's also has three baked potatoes -- its Sour Cream and Chives Potato has 320 calories and 4 grams of fat -- and a side of Mandarin Oranges that have just 90 calories and absolutely no fat.

Carl's Jr.: 4 salads

If you live near a Carl's Jr., you're in luck -- it has four vibrant salads to choose from. And here's the best part -- its Hawaiian Grilled Chicken Salad has only 260 calories and 8 grams of fat. (If you want to splurge a little, you could also order a side of fried zucchini, which has 330 calories and 18 grams of fat.)

Famous Dave's: 5 salads

Unfortunately, Dave doesn't provide nutrition info on his website. And there may be good reason. Dave's Sassy BBQ Salad probably won't do you any favors in the calorie department -- it's essentially meat on a bed of greens, with bacon, cheese and shoestring potatoes.

KFC: 6 salads

The Colonel has quite a few options, including a Grilled Chicken BLT Salad which, without dressing, has 230 calories and 8 grams of fat.

KFC also has a whole lotta sides to choose from: cole slaw has 180 calories and 11 grams of fat; corn on the cob has 70 calories and .5 grams of fat; and a side of green beans has 20 calories and 0 grams of fat.

McDonald's: 11 salads

If it's variety you're after, the original fast food behemoth wins again with a total of eleven salads on its menu. And they seem genuinely good for you -- its Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken, for example, has 320 calories and 9 grams of fat.


Image via Saucy Salad/Flickr

dinner, eating out, family meals, food, healthy choices, lunch, vegetarian

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RanaA... RanaAurora

WHYYYYY is it all salads?  So irritating!

Claire McCulloch

This is an awesome list of fast food salads, but vegetarian shouldn't be in the title. I've been a vegetarian for over a decade and I've eaten a salad for a meal probably once. Also, some of your salads have chicken in them - not vegetarian.

There are tons of things to eat at fast food restaurants that are vegetarian and not salads. Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex places have burritos, tacos and lots of salsa. Any sandwich shop worth it's potato chips is going to have a veggie sandwich. Most medium-sized cities will have Mediterranean places with falafel and dolmas. Also, just about any Thai place will make nearly everything on the menu with tofu. Maybe they're not chains, but they're fast food.

Typically on a road trip we hit up Taco Bell, Chipotle, Taco Cabana, Quiznos, Subway and the aforementioned Mediterranean and Thai restaurants. But no one orders salad.

Amber Emery

thanks Claire. I was going to comment that as a vegetarian I can not eat another salad in this life time!

Erica Taylor

Chipotle doesn't have just 1 salad - just as they don't have 1 burrito.

There are 5 types of 'meals' on the Chipotle menu. Burritos, Bowls, Soft Tacos, Crispy Tacos and Salads.

You then add what you want in your meal. That means there isn't just one salad. There are 4 meats to choose from. Or you could go vegetarian and have the black beans and guacamole. Or all beans, both the black beans and the smoked bacon pinto beans. Endless variety.

1 salad. Whatever.

(no - this was not posted by someone who is being payed by them to say this.)

Arantxa Mosqueda

I know you had good intentions, but believe me salads arent common in a vegetarians diet. Ive been a vegetarian for seven years now and i probably have a salade every 8 months at most. And I feel like im eating grass when i do. TACO BELL is actually a really good fast food place for vegetarian, you can order anything on the menu and substitute it with beans. As the Ladies prior to my comment said Chipotle and Qudoba both have beans as options instead of meat. Unfortunantly though some/ most of these salads form Wendys and the other burger joints have meat in them and ontop of that they are pre-made so the meats either tossed in or sitting on top and they dont take the meat out for you. Some of the Buger joints like McDonaldes and Wendys have a fish sandwich for the piscatarian-vegetarians, and Burger King even has a veggie burger(Morning star veggie patty) on their menu(it dosent come with pickles though which i find sad but you can always ask for them.) Salads are a healthy option but not always vegetarian. Love your blog by the way.

Carey... Carey2006

Mmmmm, Chipotle!!!!

sstepph sstepph

I wish there were more than just salads!

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