Last Updated on May 5, 2020

While at lunch with a friend last week we both ordered salads.

She got a pre-made salad off the menu.  I unapologetically customized my salad.  “No tortilla strips, no bacon, no cheese, no dressing, I’d like oil and vinegar on the side with a side of lemons please.”

“Whoa, you’re high maintenance!” My friend said after our server disappeared.

“Right?  But you would be too if you knew how many calories you’re about to eat.” I replied.  She looked confused.  I told her to google her salads calorie count.

To her horror, she discovered her ‘healthy’ salad actually had 1600 calories WITHOUT the salad dressing.  The dressing added another 400-ish.

Her salad had approximately 2000 calories and mine only had about 600 with the dressing.

So many people attempt to lose weight by eating salads, not knowing they’re consuming hundreds of extra hidden calories.

I used to be one of them. Before becoming a nutritionist and trainer I’d ALWAYS order a salad thinking I was being healthy.  Boy, was I wrong.


A Cobb salad flat lay on a gray table


Little did I know the Cobb & Asian Chicken Salads I’d always order had over 1500 calories each… I thought they had 400.

Plus, the Chinese Chicken salad was loaded with sugar.  Approximately 65 grams.

Daily sugar intake of sugar is supposed to be approximately 20 grams.

I had a big WTF moment when I found out my ‘healthy salad’ was actually making it harder for me to lose fat.

Now that I’m a nutritionist I know a lot of people unknowingly make the same mistake I used to… like my friend did, which inspired today’s blog post.


Are Salads Good For Weight Loss?


My initial answer, no.  But you will be able to customize your salad order so that it will help you lose weight with the tips in this post.

Between the calorie-dense toppings, most restaurant salads average about 1500 calories. Check out this snap of Cheesecake Factory’s Salad options with calorie count straight from their menu.


Salad Menu with Menu salad descriptions and calorie counts


Dinner salads found in restaurants typically have over a thousand calories.  Between the added bacon, avocado, cheese, nuts, candied fruits, and massive serving sizes, calories add up fast… and that’s before the dressing is added.

Restaurants load their salads with high sugar, carb, and fat-containing ingredients.  Why?  Because they taste good and they want you to come back and order it again.


How to Customize a Skinny Salad


But salads can be a great option for fat loss when you build a smart salad.  Here are 5 easy tips to make sure your salads aren’t sabotaging your weight loss goals at restaurants and at home.


Think Green and Lean


Veggies make your salad truly healthy.  They’re low in calories but high in fiber and nutrients.

Start with handfuls of whatever leafy greens you like most, and pile them into a bowl.

Next, add whatever other salad veggies you like.

Ideas include bell peppers, cucumber, carrot, tomatoes, onion, beets, celery, olives, peas, mushrooms, broccoli, kimchee, cilantro, etc.

Add a serving of a clean, lean protein.  Protein gives your body the nitrogen needed to nourish your muscles.

Protein also helps make you feel fuller longer, making it great for weight loss.

The best sources will be clean and lean.  Meaning, no visible fat and no processed meats.

Plant or animal proteins work.  Choose 4 oz. or 1/2 cup and add it over your greens.




If your salad has candied nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit or a sweet dressing, skip it.  These types of toppings taste great but often add dozens of grams of sugar… even the fresh fruit.

Those little mandarin oranges you love were plucked from can where they were marinating in syrup.

The only exception is fresh berries, like blueberries and strawberries.

These sugary toppings will spike your blood sugar and have you feeling hungry again prematurely.  So skip the sugar.


Cancel added carbs


If your salad comes with croutons, tortilla strips, noodles, beans, and bread, ask for them to be removed. The only exception would be the beans… if you’re vegan or if your salad doesn’t come with a protein.

You don’t need multiple servings of proteins on a salad.  And you definitely don’t need high carb toppers that are loaded with sodium, GMO’s, and don’t have any fiber.


Pick one high fat, tasty topper


If your salad comes with bacon, avocado, cheese, and salad dressing, pick one.  I always recommend choosing something low sugar and plant-based.  In this case, I’d recommend choosing the avocado.

I never ever recommend eating restaurant salad dressings… unless they’re freshly made in house.  (Think fancy 4-star kinda restaurants)

Here’s a salad that triggers fat storage…



Here’s are 2 salads that are good for fat loss.




See the difference?


Salad dressing typically adds an average of 600 calories alone.


Yes, you read that right. 600 extra calories

Most restaurants don’t measure out the serving sizes adding far more calories than the amount listed on the menu/nutritional info.


  • Even if you’re the type to ask for your dressing on the side, oftentimes the ramekin that dressing comes served in are 3+ ounces.
  • The serving size of salad dressing is 2 tbsp and have approx. 180 calories.
  • That means every time you order your dressing on the side you’re getting 3 servings… that’s 6+ tbsp. which is 1080 calories.


And don’t even get my party started on the ingredients used in salad dressings.

They’re loaded with commercialized dairy, Omega 6 fatty acids, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors/colors, sugar/artificial sugar, preservatives, and GMOs.

These ingredients are inflammatory, acidic, toxic, and can cause multiple health issues.


Make your Own Salad Dressing


I always recommend making salad dressings at home.  Salad dressing recipes are so quick and easy.

At restaurants, ask for olive oil, vinegar, and a side of lemon wedges.  Mix olive oil with the vinegar and lemon juice and voila you’ll have created your very own low-sugar delicious salad dressing.

Restaurants typically use creamy dressings that cling to the salad and stick.  Ever take a big bite of ranch or blue cheese?  Using olive oil and vinegar coats the salad but runs off, leaving behind the flavor, not fat or calories.  I recommend avoiding all dressings from chain restaurants. 

That’s why I always make my own dressings and encourage you to, too.

You can easily make more tasty amazing salad dressings at home.


  • They’re easy to make.
  • Delicious.
  • Clean.
  • Cheaper than pre-made, toxic dressings.
  • And much cheaper than pre-made organic dressings.


Check out this post about why you should always make your own salad dressing and get 5 clean tasty recipes.


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Are Salads Good for Weight Loss infographic