Calories Homemade Caesar Salad versus Fast Food Types

Caesar salad is one of the most popular salad choices when eating out or preparing a homemade salad as a side dish, quick meal or a snack. Many people choose a chicken Caesar salad as a healthy alternative on the fast-food menu to control their calorie and fat consumption.

However, Caesar salad and many other salads are a real trap for the unwary, because they may contain more calories and fat than a double Quarter Pounder with cheese or two slices of pizza.

Many so-called healthy choices at restaurants contain healthy salad ingredients, but in the wash-up are far from healthy because of the cheese, vinaigrette, drizzles of olive oil, mayonnaise and other high calorie items added to them.

This article examines the calorie content of common salad choices to identify the healthiest ones.

It also breaks down the calories in common ingredients used to make Caesar salad to identify the culprits causing the problem.

Finally there are some low-cal and low-fat Caesar salad recipes for you to try.

Caesar salad is nice, but can have very high calorie counts if you are not aware of the ingredients that contribute most calories to the dish
Caesar salad is nice, but can have very high calorie counts if you are not aware of the ingredients that contribute most calories to the dish | Source
Adding ingredients such as prosciutto can enhance the flavor of a Caesar Salad but can cause the calorie counts to skyrocket
Adding ingredients such as prosciutto can enhance the flavor of a Caesar Salad but can cause the calorie counts to skyrocket | Source
Chicken makes a lovely addition to a Caesar Salad, but the trick is to prepare it so it stays moist and has the lowest possible calories
Chicken makes a lovely addition to a Caesar Salad, but the trick is to prepare it so it stays moist and has the lowest possible calories | Source

Best and Worst 'Healthy' Salad Choices

The chart at the end of the article summaries the the calorie content of common salad choices to identify the healthiest ones and the worst ones.

Many healthy choices on the menu are far from healthy.

The types listed contain beans, chicken, ham and other ingredients apart from the salad greens. These type of salads are the ones that many people choose as healthy alternatives.

It also shows the ingredients used to make the various salads to identify what is the cause of the problem. The salads are listed from lowest calorie count to the highest for a standard serving. The total calories per serve ranged from 240 to a whopping 783 calories, which exceeds the calories in many of the other menu items not regarded as healthy.

Three key ingredients can make or ruin your fast food salad choice of a healthy meal:

  • Chicken and bacon with the cooking method being very important. Grilled is better. Crispy deep dried and coated styles, are far worse
  • Salad dressing and or mayonnaise that contains a lot of oil and sugar.
  • Cheese can quickly pile up the calories and fat.

In many cases the amount of these ingredients is in your control.

Ask for the dressing and cheese to be served separately. Choose grilled or baked chicken, skin-off

The best fast food entrée, and healthy alternative salads have these characteristics:

  • No more than 5 grams of saturated fat
  • Preferably less than 15 grams of total fat, or the extra fat is derived from nuts, which contain healthier types of fats.
  • Good level of fiber
  • Good level of protein. Adding meat ingredients is always going to be a trade-off between boosting the protein level.

Best and Worst Caesar Salad Choices

The second table belows the major nutrients and calories for a range of Caesar salads. This includes side salads, entrée and 'meal-size' salads. The salads are list from lowest calories to highest.

Once again there is a huge range from 40 to 1050 calories per serve.

The message is clear - choose your Caesar salad options wisely!

Calories and Nutrients in Caesar Salad Ingredients

It is informative to examine how much the various ingredients in a typical homemade Caesar salad contribute to the totals. the table below makes this comparison.

The items are ranked in terms of their percentage contribution to total calories.

The key points are:

  • Highest contribution, nearly 30% is from the cheese sprinkled on top.
  • About 25% is from the mayonnaise, even though it is a low fat variety.
  • The cheese and mayonnaise, both optional additions to the salad contribute more than half the calories and 90% of the fat.

A break down of the major nutrients in a homemade Caesar Salad is shown below.

Contribution of Ingredients to Calories in Low-Fat Caesar Salad

Item
Amount
Fat (g)
Carbohydrates (g)
Calories
Percent of total calories
Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated
9
8
92
28.6%
Mayonnaise, reduced fat
1/2 cup
0
8
80
24.8%
Lettuce, Romaine
2 heads
0.2
7.6
60
18.6%
Croutons
1/2 cup
1
10
57
17.7%
Lemon juice
1 lemon
0.2
5.4
17
5.3%
Anchovy fillet
1 each
0.4
0
8.4
2.6%
Garlic cloves
2 each
0
2
8
2.5%
Recipe Totals
 
10.8
41
322
 

Nutrient Chart for Homemade Caesar Salad

Nutrients in Homemade Caesar Salad (100g)
Value
Calories
130
Total Fat (g)
11
Saturated Fat 2(g)
2
Trans Fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated Fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated Fat (g)
0
Calories from Fat
99
Cholesterol (mg)
10
Sodium (mg)
400
Total Carbs (g)
7
Fiber, total dietary (g)
2
Sugars, total (g)
2
Protein (g)
2
Vitamin A (IU)
4000
Vitamin C (mg)
15
Calcium (mg)
40
Iron (mg)
0.72

Low-Fat, Low-Cal, Caesar Salad Recipe

  • 1 Romaine lettuce, hearts only the inner, more tender leaves
  • 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) freshly-grated, or sliced Parmesan Cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano), better to use a small amount of a good quality cheese than a low-fat one that resembles cardboard
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water (to get the thickness you want)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat or light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 2 anchovy fillets, chopped with a fork
  • 2 finely chopped or minced garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup salad croûtons (your choice, they do add calories)
  • Coarsely-ground black pepper

Separate the lettuce leave, discarding the coarse outer leaves. Wash, drain, and shake or pat dry the leaves to remove excess water leaves. If you can wrap the leaves in a towel and refrigerate as chilled leaves are best. Plunge into iced water for the same effect. Add the lettuce leaves to a large bowl. Add the, croûtons and other ingredients. Add the dressing, a little at a time; toss to coat the leaves, and sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and pepper.

Low-Fat Chicken Salad - Note serve in small portions

  • 2 baby cos lettuce, washed, patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons grated or shaved Parmesan cheese(half for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup (125g) low-fat natural yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 anchovies
  • 4 slices prosciutto, trimmed of fat
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts, with any fat removed
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
  • 2 thick slices good-quality wholemeal bread, crusts removed, cut into small cubes
  • Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Put the bread cubes onto a baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden (better than the bought croûtons that have no nutrients). In a medium size bowl, mix half the garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and half the mustard. Position each chicken breast in the center of a 12 inch, square (30cm square) piece of foil, spoon over some of the lemon and mustard mixture. Season the chicken with pepper and salt. Gather the edges of the foil and fold to make a semi-sealed parcel. This process ensures the chicken breasts will be as moist as possible and tender when cooked. Place the parcels on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked, but thoroughly cooked right through. Allow to cool. Next, place the prosciutto on a baking tray and bake until crisp (about 5 minutes). Remove, drain, cool and break into small pieces. Make a dressing by adding the garlic, remaining lemon juice and mustard in a food processor with the anchovies, yogurt, vinegar, mayonnaise and grated Parmesan and pulsing until smooth and creamy. Season with pepper and salt.
Step 6

Assemble the Caesar salad by placing the town lettuce leaves in a bowl. Drizzle with some of the dressing, made as described. Break the chicken into pieces, and add to bowl with the prosciutto and croûtons, then toss to mix well. Serve into small bowls and garnish with extra Parmesan.

Approximate Nutrients: 278 calories; 6 g fat ( 2 g sat , 2 g mono ); 34 g protein; 14 g carbohydrates; 1 g fiber; 74 mg cholesterol.

Nutrients and Ingredients in Common Salad Types

Type of Salad
Ingredients
Calories
Fat (g)
Sat. Fat (g)
Sodium (mg)
Fiber (g)
Protein (g)
Taco Bell Steak Fiesta Taco Salad (Fresco Style)
Beans, fiesta salsa, lettuce, rice, steak, tomato.
220
6
2
810
5
17
Taco Bell Chicken Fiesta Taco Salad (Fresco Style)
Beans, fiesta salsa, lettuce, rice, southwest chicken, tomato.
240
6
1
720
5
23
KFC Grilled Chicken BLT Salad (with Hidden Valley Ranch Fat-Free dressing)
Lettuce, oven-roasted chicken, diced tomatoes, bacon bits.
265
8
2.5
1330
4
36
Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Salad (with Low-fat Balsamic dressing)
Mixed salad greens, grilled chicken tenders, cheddar cheese, grape tomatoes, red onions, cucumbers, carrots.
271
11
4
1018
3
28
Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad (with Fat-Free Honey Mustard)
Lettuce, carrots, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, Jack and cheddar cheeses, grilled chicken, garlic and butter croutons, honey-roasted sunflower kernels.
280
6
4
810
5
23
Carl’s Jr. Original Grilled Chicken Salad (with Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette)
Mixed greens, grilled chicken, red onions, shredded cheese, tomatoes, and cucumber slices.
315
15
4.5
1330
2
17
Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken & Fruit Salad (with Reduced-Fat Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette)
Lettuce, carrots, Jack and cheddar cheeses, grilled chicken, fresh fruit medley, Harvest Nut granola.
330
10
4
700
5
22
McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken with Southwest dressing)
Mixed greens, oven-roasted tomatoes, fire-roasted corn, black beans, poblano peppers, cheddar & jack cheeses, and tortilla strips.
390
14
3.5
990
7
28
Burger King Tender Grill BLT Salad (with Avocado Ranch dressing)
Lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cheese, crispy chicken.
550
37
10
1640
4
36
Chick-fil-A Chick-n-Strips Salad (with Buttermilk Ranch dressing)
Lettuce, carrots, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets, Jack and cheddar cheeses, fried chicken strips, garlic and butter croutons, honey-roasted sunflower kernels.
560
34
8
1160
4
40
Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad (full-size with 2 packets Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing)
Ingredients: Salad greens, blue cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, apple chunks, grilled chicken fillet, toasted pecans.
570
27
8
1340
6
37
McDonald's Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken (with Ranch dressing)
Mixed Greens, grape tomatoes, carrots, jack and cheddar cheeses, bacon, crispy chicken.
570
36
8
1400
3
27
Jack in the Box Southwest Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken Strips and Creamy Southwest Dressing
Iceberg, romaine & spring mix with crispy chicken strips, shredded pepper jack cheese, black beans, red onions, grape tomatoes, roasted corn and served with southwest dressing and spicy corn sticks.
600
36
9
1805
5
35
Arby’s Chopped Farmhouse Chicken Salad, Crispy (with Buttermilk Ranch dressing)
Salad greens, crispy chicken, pepper bacon, cheddar cheese.
640
46
12
1310
4
29
KFC Crispy Chicken Caesar Salad (with Creamy Parmesan Caesar dressing and croutons)
Lettuce, crispy chicken, Parmesan cheese, Parmesan garlic croutons.
670
47
9.5
1630
3
31
Taco Bell Chipotle Steak Taco Salad
Crispy tortilla bowl, steak, beans, cheddar, rice, lettuce, tomatoes, tortilla strips, reduced-fat sour cream, and citrus salsa.
740
37
8
1200
9
32
Jack in the Box Chicken Club Salad with Crispy Chicken Strips (with Bacon Ranch dressing)
Mixed salad greens, crispy chicken, bacon, cheese, seasoned croutons.
783
53
13
1946
3
34

Nutrients in a Range of Commonly Available Caesar Salads

Salad
Fat (g)
Calories
Sodium (mg)
KFC Caesar Side Salad without Dressing & Croutons
2g
40
90mg
Wendy's Caesar Side Salad
3g
60
115mg
McDonald's Premium Caesar Salad (without chicken)
4g
90
180mg
Wendy's Lemon Garlic Caesar Dressing
11g
110
180mg
Wendy's Chicken Caesar Salad
4g
180
690mg
McDonald's Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken
5g
190
580mg
Blimpie Chicken Caesar
7g
190
610mg
KFC Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad without Dressing & Croutons
6g
200
570mg
Togo's Chicken Caesar - Full
6g
210
650mg
KFC Grilled Chicken BLT Salad without Dressing
7g
220
750mg
Habit Burger Side Caesar Salad, 1 Tbsp dressing
15g
220
380mg
El Pollo Loco Chicken Caesar Salad (no dressing)
7g
230
520mg
Wendy's Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad Half-Size
13g
250
620mg
Burger King Side Caesar Salad and dressing
22g
290
710mg
KFC Crispy Chicken Caesar Salad without Dressing & Croutons
18g
340
930mg
McDonald's Premium Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken
18g
350
740mg
Quiznos Peppercorn Caesar with Chicken Salad Small
31g
370
810mg
Culver's Classic Caesar with Grilled Chicken
15g
384
1,274mg
Habit Burger Caesar Salad, with 2 Tbsp dressing
29g
450
720mg
Wendy's Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad
25g
470
1,240mg
El Pollo Loco Chicken Caesar Bowl
22g
490
1,200mg
Jersey Mike's Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
35g
510
1,480mg
Quiznos Chicken Caesar Small Chopped Salad
41g
535
1225mg
Baja Fresh Fire-grilled Chicken Ceasar Salad
39g
600
1,110mg
Habit Burger Chicken Caesar Salad, with dressing
39g
690
890mg
Quiznos Peppercorn Caesar with Chicken Salad Large
62g
740
1,620mg
Taco Bell Chicken Ranch Taco Salad
55g
910
1,740mg
Quiznos Chicken Caesar Regular Chopped Salad
63g
920
2,090mg
Quiznos Peppercorn Caesar with Chicken Salad Wrap
70g
1050
2350mg

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 1 comment

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

you mean there are calories in salads? I thought salads are less in calories and cholesterol. Lots of info you had listed down. Got to rethink before eating. Thanks and voted up

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