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Monday, August 23, 2010

wendy's, you suck.

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So, I was chatting with some friends and the topic of Wendy’s new salads came up. Being someone who tends toward a hearty delicious salad, I was definitely intrigued – it’s always nice when someone comes up with something outside the Caesar/garden salad box to keep “healthy” eating interesting.

But we were all SHOCKED by what we found out on the Wendy’s nutritional information page. These salads are NOT good for you.

Like, really not good.

Like you’re almost better off with a burger and fries not good for you.

And we all know that burgers and fries epitomize healthy eating, right?

I mean, if you take your average person on a diet, you’re looking at about 1500 calories a day. If you divvy up these calories in a way that you don’t end up a ravenous starving maniac, you’re looking at a meal plan something like this:

300 calorie breakfast

150 calorie snack

400 calories lunch

150 calorie snack

500 calorie dinner

This level of energy should keep you feeling like a reasonable human being most of the time. And nutritionally, it really doesn’t make a whoooole lotta sense to have the largest meal be dinner, but frankly, I’d much rather eat a big plate of dinner than a pile of egg whites any day. ;)

So how exactly do these Wendy’s salads stack up? You can check for yourself on the Wendy’s nutritional calculator, but I’ll be nice and break it down for you.



Total Fat (sat fat, trans fat) (g)

Sodium (mg)

Sugar (g)

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad


30 (10, 0.4)



Baja Salad


48 (17, 1.5)



BLT Cobb Salad


49 (17, 1.0)



Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad


48 (15, 1.0)



This is a nutritional minefield. Actually, correct that….it’s a nutritional IED…as in, it’s coming, you totally don't expect it to be bad, and if you eat these salads, you’re bombarding your system with a whole pile of poop! I’ll excuse the chicken Caesar (does anyone actually still think Caesar dressing and bacon are healthy?), the BLT cobb salad (blue cheese, bacon, etc.), but I take issue with the Baja Salad and the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad.

Aside from the chili on top of the baja salad, it doesn’t initially look that bad for you….I can totally make a healthy (but delicious) taco salad at home and feel great about eating it. But on top of the baja salad, you have the oft-vaunted pico de gallo (OMG THEY CHOPPED SOME TOMATOES), but you also have two different types of cheese, seasoned tortilla chips, guacamole, and sketchy fatty dressing. It all adds up to be super salty (a day’s worth of sodium), and really high in saturated fat (almost two day’s worth of saturated fat). Not cool from a single fast-food salad. And let's not forget the 1.5 g of trans fat. Which is pretty much the worst thing you can eat.

But what really gets my goat is the apple pecan chicken salad. Perhaps it is because this salad reminds me of the delicious strawberry, chicken, pepitas and feta salad I made yesterday. Here’s the issue I have with the apple pecan salad. The chicken breast is adding almost 700 mg of sodium to the salad. That is terrible…one little bit of chicken. Also, they’ve thrown blue cheese into the mix (blech aside, the blue cheese is adding 430 mg of sodium). AND, they’ve roasted the pecans in SUGAR. Pecans are naturally pretty sweet….no need to candy them. Just a simple oven roast and you have a wonderfully rich crunchy bite for your salad. And the dressing (pomegranate vinaigrette) contains 15 g of sugar. This is awful.

Let’s compare ingredient lists between MY chicken salad and the Wendy’s salad:

Leslie’s salad: 2 cups organic baby spinach, 2 T sliced red onion, 2 large strawberries, thinly sliced, 1 T pepitas, 1 T crumbled light feta, 3 oz oven roasted chicken breast [roasted it myself], 1 T dressing [comprised of vinegar, canola oil and a bit of Dijon mustard]

Total calories for a delicious plate of salad, according to 321 calories, 16 g fat (4 saturated, 0 trans), 239 mg sodium, 6 g sugar.

And that’s no slouch of a salad – you have fat and flavor from the pepitas and the feta, as well as the canola oil in the dressing, antioxidants from strawberries, and lean protein from the chicken. The dressing is delicious (I used strawberry-infused vinegar) and you can pronounce every ingredient you’re eating.

Compare that with the ingredient list of the Wendy’s salad:

Greens: baby lettuces (red&green romaine, red&green oak, red&green leaf, lolla Rosa, tango), spinach, mizuna arugula, tatsoi, red chard, green chard

Apple chunks: apples, calcium ascorbate

Blue cheese crumbles: pasteurized milk, salt, bacterial culture, calcium chloride, microbial enzyme, penicillium Roquefort

Dried cranberries: cranberries, sugar, sunflower oil

(I should add that I don’t have an issue with any of the above ingredients). But here is where it goes wonky.

Chicken (grilled): chicken breast, water, seasoning {sea salt, maltodextrin*, natural flavours, yeast extract, onion powder, garlic powder, sugar, gum Arabic**, dextrose, modified corn starch, sodium phosphates***)

Roasted Pecans: pecans, sugar, wheat starch, honey, maltodextrin, soya oil, sea salt, lactose, cayenne pepper, soya lecithin, xanthan gum***

Pomegranate Vinaigrette dressing: water, sugar, concentrated pomegranate juice, soya oil, white wine vinegar, concentrated orange juice, balsamic flavoured vinegar (wine vinegar, grape must, sulphites), white vinegar, salt, orange peel, shallots, spices, natural flavor, xanthan gum.****

Gourmet croutons: wheat flour, sunflower and/or canola oil, salt, garlic (dehydrated), water, yeast, malted barley, seasonings (sea salt, black pepper, natural flavor), natural butter flavor (milk), oleoresin rosemary, ascorbic acid, citric acid and/or tocopherols.*****

I bolded all the different types of sugar. I've probably been spending too much time reading Fooducate.

*Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide used as a food additive. It is produced from starch by partial hydrolysis and is usually found as a creamy-white hygroscopic spraydried powder. It is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose and might be either moderately sweet or almost flavourless. (Thanks Wikipedia!). So um….why are we adding this???? WHY??????

**Gum Arabic is a natural gum made of hardened sap taken from two species of the acacia tree. It is a complex mixture of polysaccharides and glycoproteins used primarily in the food industry as a stabilizer. It’s also a key ingredient in glue, printing, cosmetics and ink. (again, thanks Wikipedia). I’m still not sure why chicken breast needs a stabilizer.

***Sodium phosphate is a cleaning agent, food additive, stain remover and degreaser. It’s used as a meat preservative. You ever heard of TSP? Yah, that’s the same sodium phosphate. G ross.

***Damn guys, couldn’t you just have roasted some pecans? Why all the wacky stuff? Lactose, really????? To explain the other wacky stuff, soya lecithin is an emulsifier, because, um….peanuts need to be emulsified? It’s also used in non-stick cooking spray, but I would have thought the soya oil would have had that covered. So gross. Xanthan gum is produced by fermenting glucose or fructose, which is then precipitated from a growth medium with isopropyl alcohol, dried and ground to a find powder. Later, it is added to a liquid medium to form gum. It is used to increase the viscosity of a liquid (like a salad dressing…or….pecans?????).

**** It’s worth mentioning that despite the fact that this dressing is mostly sugar water, it’s got the shortest ingredient list of any of the Wendy’s dressings. AND keep in mind that concentrated fruit juices are basically flavoured sugar.

***** How about a side of awesome with all of that crap! Oleoresin rosemary is made from rosemary oil extract and is used to retard rancidity in natural oils. It’s not as gross as I first thought it might be. But still not really healthy. I don’t love the uses of acid, as they are generally not the nice happy lemon/orange juice that you might think they are, but rather a byproduct of the fermentation of yeast and mold. I’d frankly rather dust a little lemon zest over my croutons. Tocopherols are basically vitamin E (not a bad thing), but you can easily get Vitamin E from so many different natural foods (like vegetable oils) that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to just randomly add it to thing.

Did I mention that this is the least bad-for-you salad from their new menu? And I didn't even begin to examine the 'natural flavours' they've added to everything. Funny me, I thought chicken *had* plenty of natural flavour.

Anyway. That’s my rundown. I’m annoyed. Wendy’s, you suck. Not that any of the other chains are better. A&Ws veggie swiss burger has 1410 mg of sodium, just as an example.

So peeved.

Never eating fast food again.

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