Soups and Salads: What You Don’t Know Is Costing and Killing You

Photo (cc) by hirotomo

As a waiter at corporate restaurants for the better part of a decade, I’ve been trained that the customer is always right.

But not, apparently, when it comes to ordering soup and salad.

Earlier this month, a new study declared that more Americans than ever are ordering soups and salads when they go out to eat. Technomic, a food industry consulting group, found that “nearly half of consumers now order salad all or most of the time compared to 34 percent” a year ago.

Why? “Consumers seek light, healthy and affordable fare.” But I know for a fact that soups and salads at many restaurants are neither cheap nor healthy.

As a waiter, I know that salad dressings are filled with lots of sugar – because I’ve seen them being made. I know what’s in the soup too. Here are three big lessons I’ve learned over the years.

1. Salad isn’t always healthy

In fact, salad is almost never healthy. Check out these numbers from T.G.I. Friday’s own nutritional fact sheet…

  • Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad: 1,100 calories (71 grams total fat)
  • Chipotle Yucatan Chicken Salad: 850 calories (60 grams total fat)
  • Caribbean Passion Tossed Salad: 840 calories (46 grams total fat)

If you’re trying to save calories and fat grams, you might as well chow down on T.G.I. Friday’s Half-Rack of Baby Back Ribs – because it has 860 calories (48 grams of fat).

Of course, what makes salad so calorie-costly is the dressing. And that’s where customers are contradictory.

“A strong majority (64 percent) of consumers believe that dressings are a key component, if not the key component of a tasty salad,” Technomic says. But the company adds, “76 percent of consumers who are purchasing salads more often say they’re seeking a healthier option and 49 percent want something lighter.”

Sticking with the T.G.I. Friday’s example, here’s what a mere 3 ounces of extra dressing will do to your waistline…

  • Bleu Cheese: 490 calories
  • Honey Mustard: 470 calories
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette: 450 calories

So what can you do? First, before you order, ask if there’s a low-fat or low-sugar dressing available. Second, do what I’ve seen other skinny patrons do: Get the dressing on the side – but don’t toss it into the salad. Instead, dip your fork into it and then stab the vegetables.

2. Soups aren’t always light

Some soups can’t be treated like appetizers if you’re trying to eat healthy. Check out these numbers from Applebee’s

Bad bowls (cream-based)

  • Baked Potato Soup: 470 calories
  • Chili: 420 calories
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup: 380 calories

Better bowls (broth-based)

  • Chicken Noodle Soup: 150 calories
  • Tomato Basil Soup: 260 calories

The advice here is obvious: Choose broth-based soups over cream-based. (They also tend to be lower in saturated fats.) And ask your waiter for advice. Where I worked, the only food we were allowed to eat for free was the soup – which meant we knew those soups inside and out, both in terms of taste and health.

3. Soups and salads are not cheap

It’s a simple restaurant trick…

The appetizers – soups and salads included – are listed at the beginning of the menu and cost much less than the entrees. Which means they’re a great value, right?

Think again. Since the salads are mostly composed of cheap vegetables and even cheaper dressing, the mark-up on them is huge. In fact, a kitchen manager explained to me that the restaurant’s biggest profit is on soups and salads.

I thought the steaks would make the most money. They sold for upwards of $30 where I worked. But I didn’t realize that, at least the places where I’ve worked, those steaks cost the restaurant only a few dollars less than what they sell them for. Trying to wring more profit form a costly steak could mean pricing it out of your customers’ range.

Why do corporate restaurants carry steaks, then, if the profits are so low? In my experience, it’s because for every one person in a party of five who buys a steak, the other four are buying soups and salads. And that more than makes up for it.

For more, check out what Karla Bowsher from Money Talks News’ Deals page already wrote about what’s important to know when you’re going out to eat.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car
26 Things Everyone Should Keep in Their Car

These tools and conveniences help protect drivers from hassles and calamities on the road.

11 Small Money Moves That Will Make a Big Difference
11 Small Money Moves That Will Make a Big Difference

These small money moves will pay off big in the long run.

Beware These 3 Tax Penalties on Retirement Accounts
Beware These 3 Tax Penalties on Retirement Accounts

Protecting a nest egg is tough — but you can make the situation far worse with some boneheaded mistakes.

16 Products You Absolutely Do Not Need
16 Products You Absolutely Do Not Need

There are plenty of great ways to spend your money, but you can safely leave these products on the store shelf.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020
These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?
Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021
3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021
15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.