The 7 Unhealthiest Salad Toppings

Might as well just eat a cheeseburger

If you’re looking to drop a dress size, eating a salad every day for lunch is a great start.

But while some salad toppings--like grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs and black beans--are lean and packed with protein, others are just upping your calorie count for no good reason.

Here are the seven you should definitely ditch. (Sorry cheese, we still love you.)


These little guys look innocent, but a handful of seasoned croutons will add an extra 200 calories to your chicken Caesar. Swap them out for a handful of roasted chickpeas when you’re craving that crunch.

Creamy Dressings

We hate to break it to you, but your beloved Ranch is realllly kicking up your salad’s calorie count (and fat-free versions are high in sugar, so forget those, too). If you’re missing that creamy consistency, add a dollop of tahini or hummus to add good fats and lean protein.

Tons Of Cheese

Hey, we’re obsessed with cheese and there’s nothing wrong with eating (and loving) it--but when you’re trying to eat a light lunch, remember that there are 50 calories in every cube you eat. (50!) Swap them out for a few marinated veggies instead, like olives or artichoke hearts, and you’ll barely even miss the mozz.

Tortilla Strips

Aww, these cute little guys make a salad look so pretty…but they’re fried, so just 18 of 'em will tack on almost 300 extra calories. Swap in for a dollop of guac instead, which is full of healthy, monounsaturated fats.

Candied Nuts

Tossing a handful of walnut halves on your spinach doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but when they’re honey roasted, they’ll make your lunch high in sugar and add 200 extra calories onto your meal. Opt for a sprinkle of unsalted, roasted nuts instead.

Dried Fruit

Look, we don’t want to be the Craisin police over here--sprinkling on a few to pep things up is totally cool. But dried cranberries have 200 calories and 28 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup. So basically, you could have eaten the salad and four Oreos for dessert if you didn’t pile on the dried fruit.

Bacon Bits

A little crumbled bacon never hurt anyone, right? Well, when you add it to a salad that’s already topped with eggs, shrimp, cheese and avocado, you’re looking at a lunch that’s just as high in calories and sodium as that bacon cheeseburger you ate on cheat day. Add some salt and crunch to your salad with shredded nori (yep, crispy seaweed) instead. It’s tasty, we promise.

screen shot 2020 05 14 at 6 31 35 pm

Freelance Editor

From 2015-2020 Lindsay Champion held the role of Food and Wellness Director. She continues to write for PureWow as a Freelance Editor.