The RD team checks out a regional fast salad restaurant chain.
Winter might not seem like salad season, but it could be the perfect time for salads. Especially salads that someone else prepares for you. The WalkTalkNutrition team recently visited regional chain Mad Greens to see how the post-salad-bar salad restaurant works.
While Mad Greens also offers wraps and paninis, meal-sized salads are the signature feature. You can choose from several combinations, and the salad is composed and tossed with dressing on the spot, much as sandwiches are prepared at a restaurant like Subway.
What we liked
- dark leafy greens. If there was any iceberg lettuce on the premises, we didn’t see it.
- a wide variety of salad vegetables which were really fresh
- quality protein ingredients, from beef to tofu
- easy to put together a vegan or vegetarian salad meal
- choice of how much dressing you get
The dressing portion choice is key to controlling calories, since dressing typically accounts for most of the calories in a salad. We both got the ‘Light’ portion of dressing, although we suspect it was more than the standard 2 TB serving size seen on food labels.
Mad Greens posts calorie and nutrition information on the menu board. There’s also a nutrition calculator, available online or as an app, which allows you to compose a whole meal and add up the calories. Kathy found the app a bit unresponsive at times. And we remained confused about how the salad dressing portions were calculated.
What we didn’t like
Not much. As usual, Mad Greens offers sugary soft drinks and desserts that all seemed to be 300+ calories, which can be a temptation to someone who thinks their healthy salad justifies a sweet treat. We also thought that getting the large-sized salad with ‘Heavy’ dressing would be a giant calorie load.
Both of us agree that salad meals are a great idea that’s under-appreciated. Salads with a variety of vegetables, high protein ingredients and a modest amount of dressing are loaded with nutrients and very filling. The best part about restaurants like Mad Greens is that someone else does all the salad prep work for you, making the healthy salad meal very easy anytime of year.