We know McDonald's Canada had introduced kale in its breakfast wraps. But when the kale salad came out, McDonald's Canada came under fire for the nutrition numbers for its kale salad.
There is shock, surprise that a fast food chain would have bad numbers for a fast food salad. Those of us who remember the candied walnuts in a previous U.S. McDonald's salad know that fast food chains instinctively have to balance "good" with "bad."
The numbers are "scary": the kale salad in question has more calories, fat, sodium, and protein than a Double Big Mac. (yes, Americans, Canada has a Double Big Mac — a Big Mac with 4 patties. Really.)
|Food||Calories||Fat (g)||Sodium (mg)||Protein (g)|
|Double Big Mac||680||38||1340||40|
|Salad includes dressing. Burger includes all ingredients.|
Comparing a salad to a fast food burger is a bit like apples to candied walnuts. You are getting nutrition from a salad from vitamins not found in a Double Big Mac.
Let's break down that high-calorie kale salad: This is the Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken. If you want grilled chicken, you can subtract 160 calories, going from 520 calories to 360 calories (minus dressing). Ordering the grilled chicken version drops the fat grams from 31 to 17, and somehow increases the protein in grams from 27 to 31.
Those high numbers from the chart include the Asiago Caesar creamy dressing, so reduce the dressing to save more calories.
You also get roasted garlic focaccia croutons on your salad. While they add "fun" to your salad, they do add calories.
McDonald's Canada has Greek salads that also have kale. Those nutrition numbers are significantly better.
Even the Greek Salad with Crispy Chicken only has 440 calories. If you want grilled chicken, you can subtract 160 calories. Ordering the grilled chicken version drops the fat grams from 26 to 12, and somehow increases the protein in grams from 23 to 27.
The Greek salads substitute herb and garlic pita chips for the croutons, feta for the shaved parmesan, take out the bacon, but add a couscous blend with red pepper strips and cucumber.
All the salads mentioned have a lettuce blend, baby kale, and premium lettuce mix.
This also assumes you eat the food as is. The best way to save calories in the Double Big Mac, while keeping the 4 patties, is to ask for "no sauce."
Picking the feta cheese off the Greek salads will replace protein, but also sodium and fat.
A salad, especially one with good fat, can keep a person fuller longer than a fast food sandwich. That might be worth a few extra calories.
The burger has lettuce, pickles, and onion plus the cheese, if you don't remember the jingle. Even though it's a Double Big Mac, you don't get double the extra ingredients. The lettuce is usually iceberg with little nutrition.
There are definitely issues with the sodium in these salads. The chicken is definitely salted, and feta is high in salt. But you are eating in a fast food restaurant: making good choices in that environment is what we are addressing.
Related story: The Daily Show on the decline of American fast food
Let's break down the dressing numbers:
|Dressing||Calories||Fat (g)||Sodium (mg)|
|Asiago Caesar (calorie-wise)||150||14||340|
|Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette||120||8||250|
|Unknown quantity. Total based on using all the dressing in the packet.|
The fat from the regular Asiago Caesar dressing comes from canola oil, extra virgin olive oil (4th on ingredients list behind water and garlic), and 3 different kinds of cheese.
You can reduce calories and fat by asking for an alternative dressing. The low-fat version of the Asiago Caesar has a higher sodium count; low-fat dressings have to make up flavor for the lack of fat, and sodium is often a source.
You need fat with a dressing in a salad, but you have choices even at McDonald's Canada. If you bring the salad home, you can do oil and vinegar. The best way to save calories, especially on site, is not to use all of the dressing.
The breakfast wrap we mentioned earlier has the baby kale with the feta cheese along with a tomato slice, a scrambled egg, and a whole wheat tortilla. The wrap has 400 calories with 19 grams of fat, 840 milligrams of sodium, and 21 grams of protein.
If you were making breakfast at home, you could do better. But you could definitely pick worse options when dining out, especially for breakfast.
Given the amount of lettuce vs. kale, and the huge number of toppings in these salads, you have nothing to fear with dealing with the taste of kale. Also, baby kale is likely to be easier on the palate.
You are getting a fast food salad with a good amount of calories and lots of fat and sodium. You are getting just enough kale so you can brag that you ate a kale salad.
photo credit: McDonald's Canada