Although fast food restaurants aren’t typically known for healthy food choices, McDonald’s restaurants offer salads that may be a good option for those watching what they eat. Like most foods, McDonald’s salads can be more healthy or less healthy depending on the way they are prepared. Plain McDonald's salads have very different nutrition facts than McDonald's salads that include chicken, dressing and croutons.
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Serving sizes range from 3.1 oz. for a side salad to 12.5 oz. for a Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken. The size of your salad may be a little smaller or larger, depending on any additions or substitutions to your order.
The Southwest Salad without chicken is only 140 calories, but the salad contains 320 calories if you add grilled chicken, and 430 calories if you add crispy chicken. The Caesar salad contains 90 calories without chicken, but 220 calories with grilled chicken and 220 calories with crispy chicken. The Bacon Ranch Salad has 140 calories without chicken, 260 calories with grilled chicken and 370 with crispy chicken. The side salad, which consists of mixed greens, grape tomatoes and shaved carrots, only contains 20 calories. Adding additional toppings, including salad dressing, will result in additional calories.
Fat and Protein
As you may expect, McDonald’s salads that include chicken contain more fat and protein than those that do not. The Southwest Salad contains only 4.5g of fat and 6g of protein without chicken, but contains 9g of fat and 30g of protein with the grilled chicken, or 20g of fat and 26 g of protein with the crispy chicken. The Bacon Ranch salad contains 7g of fat and 9g of protein without chicken, but contains 9g of fat and 33g of protein with the grilled chicken, or 20g of fat and 29g of protein with the crispy chicken. The Caesar salad contains 4g of fat and 7g of protein without chicken, but contains 6g of fat and 30g of protein with the grilled chicken, or 17g of fat and 26g of protein with the crispy chicken. The side salad contains no fat, and 1g of protein.
Vitamins and Minerals
The vitamins and minerals in McDonald’s premium salads vary little. Each serving delivers approximately 130 percent the recommended daily value of vitamin A, 45 percent to 50 percent of vitamin C, 15 percent to 20 percent of calcium and 8 percent to 10 percent of iron, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. A side salad contains 45 percent the recommended daily value of vitamin A, 25 percent of vitamin C, 2 percent of calcium and 8 percent of iron.
People who want to cut calories may find it useful to order the salad without chicken. Those who want the protein the chicken provides may benefit from ordering the grilled chicken instead of the crispy chicken to minimize the amount of fat. Adding additional ingredients, including salad dressing, will alter the nutrition facts. McDonald’s butter garlic croutons contain 60 calories, 1.5g of fat, 140 mg of sodium, 10g of total carbohydrates, 1g of fiber and 2g of protein per serving. These croutons do not provide significant amounts of vitamin A or vitamin C, but do offer 2 percent of the daily value of calcium and 4 percent of the daily value of iron. Several salad dressings are available. The Creamy Southwest salad dressing, for example, contains 100 calories, 6g of total fat, 20 mg of cholesterol, 340 mg of sodium, 11g of total carbohydrates, 3g of sugars and 1g of protein per serving. It is not a significant source of vitamin A or vitamin C, but does provide 2 percent the daily value of iron and calcium. The Creamy Caesar salad dressing contains 190 calories, 18g of fat, 20 mg of cholesterol, 500 mg of sodium, 4g of total carbohydrates, 2g of sugars and 2g of protein per serving. It is not a significant source of iron, vitamin A or vitamin C, but does provide 6 percent of the daily value of calcium. The low-fat salad dressings contain significantly fewer calories and fat grams than the regular dressings, but still contain high amounts of sodium without providing many other nutritional benefits. The Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette contains 40 calories, 3g of fat, 730 mg of sodium, 4g of total carbohydrate and 3g of sugar per serving. It does not contain fat, cholesterol, protein, vitamin A, calcium or iron, but does contain 4 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.