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Can a Burger Be Healthier Than a Salad?

Which do you think is healthier?


A burger or a salad?


If we asked ten people this question, at least nine would say, "Of course, the salad is healthier!"

What if the choices were a pizza or a salad?  Obviously, a salad is healthier than a couple pieces of pizza, right?

Well, the answer may not be so obvious.

Whether it's a burger, pizza or salad, they can all be either really good for you...OR NOT.  So, there's good news and bad news.


The good news?

If you're trying to eat healthy, you don't have to give up your burger and pizza.  For most of us, this isn't just good news...IT'S GREAT NEWS!


The bad news?

Just because you are eating a salad doesn't always mean it's healthy.  Yes, salads can provide the ultimate punch of nutrition and taste.  In fact, we have a big flavor loaded salad (we call them "salads with personality") with every single meal.  However, salads can also be loaded with sugar, fat, calories, and sodium...even more than some burgers or pizzas!

As we mentioned in our coaching tip a couple of weeks ago, we love to find restaurant gems that use their passion and creativity to transform local quality ingredients into outrageously delicious and nutritious meals.  But this wasn't always the case.  Before we started our REAL FOOD journey, we used to frequent typical chain restaurants like Applebee's and Chili's.  At one point, as we were trying to eat healthier, we would order a salad instead of a Big Mouth Burger or Riblet Platter.  After all, if it's a salad, it must be healthy, right?!


So, with pride, we would place our order for the Quesadilla Explosion Salad.  Even though we thought we were eating "healthier," nothing was changing.  No weight loss, no increased energy, nothing.

Only later did we realize that our "healthy" salad had over 1,400 calories, 99 grams of fat, 28 grams of saturated fat, over 2,800 mg of sodium and 86 grams of carbs (and these were not the whole grain kind of carbs!).  You may be thinking, "You should have gone for the Oriental Chicken Salad or Caribbean Salad with Grilled Chicken instead."

Would you believe Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad has 47 grams of sugar?  That's almost 12 tsp of sugar...or the equivalent of almost 5 Krispy Kreme glazed donuts!  With hindsight, we might as well have sunk our teeth into the burgers and ribs.

Since our REAL FOOD enlightenment, we have realized burgers, pizzas and salads - CAN be healthy and nutritious.  And the best part?  They can be even more delicious than the ones you are bombarded with in TV, social media and billboard ads.


Here are some tips to enjoy these foods in truly healthy ways:


  • Create your own!  When you make your own, YOU control the ingredients.  Think of your burger, pizza or salad as a blank canvas.  Use REAL ingredients (whole grains, lean proteins, in-season veggies and fruits and more) to create a masterpiece.
  • Healthify your burger!  For burgers, start with a whole grain bun or lettuce wrap, and then choose a lean protein like grass-fed beef, chicken or turkey.  Using beans or veggies for the patty is another delicious plant-predominant option!  Then find just the right combination of toppings.
  • Endless pizza possibilities!  For pizza, check out this coaching tip for inspiration.  Of course, we have you covered with all kinds of delicious pizza ideas, and we encourage you to use these as inspiration to create your own masterpiece!
  • Halve it and you can have it!  When we go out to eat, my husband and I typically share a big salad and an entree.  Half of a big salad and half of a burger or pizza absolutely fill us up.  And half of a burger or pizza is more than enough to satisfy a craving!
  • Enjoy quality foods you will look forward to eating again!  For example, don't eat a salad just for the sake of eating a salad.  Whether at home or away from home, if you eat a boring and bland salad (you know the one...with iceberg lettuce, pale crunchy tomatoes, some shredded cheese, and a Ranch or low-fat dressing), this will only leave you hungry in a couple of hours.  Even worse, it will reinforce your perception why you THINK you don't like salads!  When you eat a salad, make sure it tastes amazing.  Remember, you want to enjoy salads with personality - loaded with delicious flavors and textures!  And, if you are stuck at a restaurant with only boring salad options, don't be afraid to opt for something else, maybe even a burger.  Just remember the ingredients (aka REAL ingredients) are key!


Beware of salads that are dressed to kill!

Obviously, we LOVE salads and encourage everyone to enjoy flavor loaded salads using REAL, in-season ingredients as often as possible.  However, it's important to recognize there are salads lurking out there - like the Quesadilla Explosion Salad - that are actually detrimental to your health.

  • It's all about the toppings.  It is best to stay away from salads that are loaded with bacon or other processed meats, fried foods (think fried chicken, noodles or onions), outrageous amounts of cheese, and dressings that are loaded with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.  For the dressing, simple vinaigrettes are usually a great choice.  And, with the right salad, a little goes a long way!
  • Best of both worlds!  Why not combine a burger and a salad?  Or a pizza and a salad?  We have a whole coaching tip on creating Burgers in a Bowl!


Some great options include:

Banh Mi Burger Bowl

Need a Napkin Burger Bowl

Mediterranean Veggie Burger Bowl

Asian Turkey Burger Salad

Classic Hamburger Salad

Kale Caesar Salad Pizza


We never want anyone to feel deprived and say, "I really want a burger (or a slice of pizza), but I can't because I'm on a diet."  The beauty of keeping it simple and focusing on REAL food is there is NO DIET OR's simply a matter of making good use of the abundant REAL FOOD that is all around us!


Is there something you are avoiding because you think it's unhealthy?


Let us help you transform it into a nutritious meal using REAL ingredients!



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