Burger King Salad: What To Know Before Ordering

If you find yourself at a Burger King location, chances are you've been lured there by a craving for one of the chain's well-known classics, like the Whopper. Maybe you've already made the decision to splurge and treat yourself to a delicious burger and fries. Hey, even healthy lifestyles come with a little indulgence here and there.

But there are times when you really do want to pick the healthiest thing on the menu, wherever you are. Burger King could be the closest thing to your job or your kid's school, or it could be the only place for miles on a road trip. When you're hungry and in a hurry, you can't beat the efficiency, satisfaction, and affordability of walking through those doors or driving up to that window. If you've found yourself in this situation, then you may be aware that yes, Burger King does have a salad option. Two, in fact: the Chicken Garden Salad and the Side Garden Salad, according to the chain's website.

The catch is, it's not as easy as picking the salad at Burger King and knowing you made a great compromise between ease and nutrition. Before the next time you order at this particular fast-food restaurant, let's go over a few facts about the salad options.

The Chicken Garden Salad is actually not so healthy

Considering the fact that we usually order a salad with the best intentions of being healthy, it's kind of a bummer to learn that Burger King's Chicken Garden Salad, the only actual meal-sized salad on the menu, is really not so healthy at all. But maybe it will cheer you up to know that you're actually better off with a Whopper?

According to Burger King's website, the Chicken Garden Salad has romaine, green leaf, and radicchio lettuce; tomatoes; buttery garlic croutons; and shredded cheddar cheese, and is topped with breaded chicken. If your "not-so-healthy salad" radar went off at "croutons" and "breaded" chicken, well, good catch.

This salad has a whopping — no pun intended — 870 calories, 70.5 grams of fat and 14 grams of saturated fat, 1,605 milligrams of sodium, and 34.7 grams of carbohydrates. The Whopper, by comparison, has 657 calories, 39.8 grams of fat and 11.7 grams of saturated fat, 982.6 milligrams of sodium, and 49 grams of carbohydrates. That's not to say the Whopper is exactly a healthy option, but the only place it doesn't fare better than the salad is with carbs. It's certainly surprising that the burger is a smarter choice here.

"A salad with 71 grams of fat in is a far cry from a light meal option," dietitian Sue Heikkinen once told Mashed, adding that it's a shame Burger King no longer offers a salad with grilled chicken instead of just fried — that's where a lot of the problem lies.

The Side Garden Salad is one of Burger King's healthiest items

All hope is definitely not lost, however, when it comes to getting a healthy lunch at Burger King.

"You would save more than 300 calories by ordering a hamburger, [which is] 241 calories, and the side salad," Heikkinen told Mashed in regard to a better option than the Chicken Garden Salad. And honestly, doesn't a burger and a side of crisp, fresh veggies sound like a tastier lunch, anyway? Now you know that it's pretty guilt-free, too.

The Side Garden Salad basically has all the elements of the Chicken Garden Salad without the chicken — lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, and cheese. Yet, instead of cheddar, Burger King's website says it's a "three-cheese blend." It's got just 322 calories, 32 grams of fat and 6 grams of saturated fat, 336 milligrams of sodium, and 5 grams of carbohydrates. Of course, the dressing you choose plays a part, but you can always control how much you add to keep this salad on the healthy side.

How much Burger King's salads cost

The major deciding factors when it comes to ordering a meal are arguably taste, nutrition, efficiency, and of course, price. When it comes to a salad at Burger King, you can rely on satisfying flavors and quality. So, now that you know the health stats, you can choose accordingly, and you're nearly guaranteed a quick transaction. So, what about cost?

That's actually not so clear-cut. It depends on where in the U.S. you are. In New York City, the Chicken Garden Salad is $7.59 and the Side Garden Salad is $2.59. In Atlanta, the Chicken Garden Salad is $5.89 and the Side Garden Salad is $1.89. Those prices are the same in Chicago, and in Houston, just the Side Garden Salad price drops to $1.79. For Los Angeles, $5.89 and $1.79 are also the prices, respectively (per Burger King's website).

Basically, if you're in the Northeast, you might be forking over more cash for both of Burger King's salads, while in many other regions, you can expect around $5.89 for the Chicken Garden Salad and $1.79 to $1.89 for the Side Garden Salad. So, in addition to being so low in calories it's an easy addition to your Burger King meal, that side salad is also affordably so.

You can choose from three different dressings for Burger King salads

Once you've taken all of these factors into consideration and decided on ordering a Burger King salad, there aren't too many more decisions you need to make — ordering is pretty straightforward. If you need to make modifications, it looks like ordering when actually at one of the chain's locations is the way to go, as there is no way to edit for something like "no cheese" when using the online menu.

What you can easily modify is basically the only choice left to make: dressing. Just like the salad options, themselves, Burger King keeps the array of dressings pretty simple. You can pick from ranch, Italian, or lite honey balsamic. While, of course, your first method of choosing will be taste — some people are die-hard ranch fanatics, after all, while others like Italian's lightness — it's also helpful to know the calorie counts of each, especially if you are indeed ordering that salad to be healthy in the first place.

Based on Burger King's portions, the ranch option adds 260 calories, Italian adds 160, and the honey balsamic adds 120. Of course, you'll be getting your dressing on the side with your order, so you can always pick your favorite and pour on as much as you see fit.

You can make Burger King's salads at home

In case you haven't figured this out based on how simple the ingredients in a Burger King salad are, it's an absolute snap to make both of these options at home. Think about it: the Side Garden Salad is essentially just lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, and shredded cheese (via Burger King). Add your favorite dressing, and you've got all the deliciousness and nutrition, without leaving your house.

The Chicken Garden Salad is probably the Burger King item you'd be more curious to try replicating, since that crispy, juicy breaded chicken on top makes for a salad that's admittedly crave-worthy. The only further step you're taking beyond assembling the salad is adding chicken, which you can certainly do with store-bought breaded chicken. You can really up the ante, however, by making your own homemade chicken tenders. You can also go even healthier by making your chicken in an air fryer (per Eating Well). The possibilities for how you make your chicken are endless, and you could end up liking your own version of the Chicken Garden Salad even more than Burger King's.