I tried 4 salads from fast food chains, and Chick-fil-A's finally convinced me not all its food is trash

Salad line McDonald's Wendy's Chick fil A Burger KingIrene Jiang / Business Insider

"Eat a salad once in a while," is advice I often hear as a fast-food reporter and taste tester.

Well, for me, it's been more than a while.

Sometimes you realize that all you've eaten in the last week is burgers, and wings, and pizza, and fries, and combinations thereof, and maybe you need to make some changes before it catches up with you.

Read more: I tried the signature burgers from 5 major fast-food chains, and the winner was obvious

I owed my body quite a few salads.

So when it came time to compare salads from fast-food restaurants, I salivated at the opportunity to stuff myself with veggies for a change. I went to Manhattan locations of McDonald's, Wendy's, Chick-fil-A, and Burger King and ordered the best-looking salad on the menu.

Here are the details on the leafy greens:

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I ordered the Chicken Club Salad from Burger King, the Grilled Market Salad from Chick-fil-A, the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad from McDonald's, and the Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad from Wendy's,

I ordered the Chicken Club Salad from Burger King, the Grilled Market Salad from Chick-fil-A, the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad from McDonald's, and the Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad from Wendy's,

BURGER KING'S CHICKEN CLUB SALAD — This is a chicken club sandwich, but in salad form. It has lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and chicken — crispy or grilled — and comes with ranch dressing. It cost $7.49 plus tax at the Manhattan location I went to.

BURGER KING'S CHICKEN CLUB SALAD — This is a chicken club sandwich, but in salad form. It has lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, cheese, and chicken — crispy or grilled — and comes with ranch dressing. It cost $7.49 plus tax at the Manhattan location I went to.

I later realized that this salad was supposed to come with croutons, but I wasn't about to go back to Burger King after already having waited 15 minutes for this salad at a mostly empty restaurant.

I later realized that this salad was supposed to come with croutons, but I wasn't about to go back to Burger King after already having waited 15 minutes for this salad at a mostly empty restaurant.

I doused it with ranch and dove right in.

I doused it with ranch and dove right in.

A difficulty I encountered immediately was that nothing was cut into bite-sized chunks. I mean, I guess I could cut my salad myself, but in the 15 minutes it took to prepare the salad they couldn't be bothered to cut the chicken? The tomatoes were basically tomato slices intended for burgers cut in half.

A difficulty I encountered immediately was that nothing was cut into bite-sized chunks. I mean, I guess I could cut my salad myself, but in the 15 minutes it took to prepare the salad they couldn't be bothered to cut the chicken? The tomatoes were basically tomato slices intended for burgers cut in half.

Maybe I was a little bitter.

Maybe I was a little bitter.

I forked a little bit of everything and took a bite. A salty, salty bite. Both the bacon and the chicken tasted like they'd been for a dip in the Dead Sea. And they both tasted like they'd been cooked yesterday, at the very latest.

I forked a little bit of everything and took a bite. A salty, salty bite. Both the bacon and the chicken tasted like they'd been for a dip in the Dead Sea. And they both tasted like they'd been cooked yesterday, at the very latest.

And let's talk about that cheese. That's taco cheese. The only place it belongs is on a taco. It's not cheddar, it's just processed dairy. And it adds no flavor.

And let's talk about that cheese. That's taco cheese. The only place it belongs is on a taco. It's not cheddar, it's just processed dairy. And it adds no flavor.

This salad fails as a salad. It relies on salt and fat for all its flavor, and the quality of its components is lacking.

This salad fails as a salad. It relies on salt and fat for all its flavor, and the quality of its components is lacking.

CHICK-FIL-A'S GRILLED MARKET SALAD — This salad is composed of mixed greens, blue cheese, apple and strawberry chunks, blueberries, nuts, granola, and a Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette. It cost $9.49 plus tax at the Manhattan location I went to.

CHICK-FIL-A'S GRILLED MARKET SALAD — This salad is composed of mixed greens, blue cheese, apple and strawberry chunks, blueberries, nuts, granola, and a Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette. It cost $9.49 plus tax at the Manhattan location I went to.

I've never been too impressed by a Chick-fil-A's food before aside from their mac and cheese, which, let's be honest, is just mac and cheese. But this salad looked pretty good. The fruit was fresh and the pulled chicken looked appetizing.

I've never been too impressed by a Chick-fil-A's food before aside from their mac and cheese, which, let's be honest, is just mac and cheese. But this salad looked pretty good. The fruit was fresh and the pulled chicken looked appetizing.

Read more: I tried mac and cheese from 6 chains, and the winner blew away the competition

I scattered the granola and nuts over the salad and drizzled the vinaigrette on top.

I scattered the granola and nuts over the salad and drizzled the vinaigrette on top.

Everything in this salad tasted as fresh as it looked. The chicken was soft and flavorful. The nuts added depth while the dressing was light and tart. The blue cheese added a heavy fermented note that isn't for everybody, but I liked it.

Everything in this salad tasted as fresh as it looked. The chicken was soft and flavorful. The nuts added depth while the dressing was light and tart. The blue cheese added a heavy fermented note that isn't for everybody, but I liked it.

Moreover, everything was cut into bite-sized pieces. Not only was this salad delicious, it was also very easy to eat. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the addition of granola, which makes the salad feel like breakfast food. I would have preferred more nuts over granola.

Moreover, everything was cut into bite-sized pieces. Not only was this salad delicious, it was also very easy to eat. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the addition of granola, which makes the salad feel like breakfast food. I would have preferred more nuts over granola.

But overall, this salad looked and tasted like a salad you'd get from a sit-down restaurant. To be fair, it also costs as much as one.

But overall, this salad looked and tasted like a salad you'd get from a sit-down restaurant. To be fair, it also costs as much as one.

MCDONALD'S SOUTHWEST GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD — Like the others, this salad can be ordered with grilled or crispy chicken. The salad blend is also topped with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and a blend of beans, roast corn, and pepper.

MCDONALD'S SOUTHWEST GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD — Like the others, this salad can be ordered with grilled or crispy chicken. The salad blend is also topped with shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and a blend of beans, roast corn, and pepper.

It was the only salad to come with a dressing packet labeled with an independent brand: Newman's Own Southwest dressing.

It was the only salad to come with a dressing packet labeled with an independent brand: Newman's Own Southwest dressing.

Everything in this salad looked and tasted very McDonald's, whatever that means.

Everything in this salad looked and tasted very McDonald's, whatever that means.

The chicken was bland, the tortilla chips slightly stale, and the salad mix was lackluster. The highlight was the southwest veggie blend, which had a hint of smoky char. The sweet and spicy dressing held up and brought a real kick that built with each bite.

The chicken was bland, the tortilla chips slightly stale, and the salad mix was lackluster. The highlight was the southwest veggie blend, which had a hint of smoky char. The sweet and spicy dressing held up and brought a real kick that built with each bite.

Read more: I compared the legendary McChicken with 4 cheap sandwiches from other fast-food chains, and it proved the original is still the best

While digging around the bottom for any items I might have missed, I came across what I originally thought might be a very strange-looking avocado. I realized it was a lonely lime slice.

While digging around the bottom for any items I might have missed, I came across what I originally thought might be a very strange-looking avocado. I realized it was a lonely lime slice.

So naturally, I squeezed it onto the salad to see what sort of flavor I was missing.

So naturally, I squeezed it onto the salad to see what sort of flavor I was missing.

But the lime was bitter rather than sweet, and while it did add lip-service freshness to the salad, I found myself wishing that the salad would just taste better. Everything just tasted mass-produced — not bad, but also not satisfying.

But the lime was bitter rather than sweet, and while it did add lip-service freshness to the salad, I found myself wishing that the salad would just taste better. Everything just tasted mass-produced — not bad, but also not satisfying.

WENDY'S SOUTHWEST AVOCADO CHICKEN SALAD — Full disclosure: I chose this salad because it had avocado. Call me a millennial. It also has bacon, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, and lettuce blend. It cost $7.99 at the Manhattan location I went to.

WENDY'S SOUTHWEST AVOCADO CHICKEN SALAD — Full disclosure: I chose this salad because it had avocado. Call me a millennial. It also has bacon, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, and lettuce blend. It cost $7.99 at the Manhattan location I went to.

The white cubes of chicken looked rubbery and flavorless. I wasn't particularly excited. The leaves looked to be on par with Chick-fil-A's.

The white cubes of chicken looked rubbery and flavorless. I wasn't particularly excited. The leaves looked to be on par with Chick-fil-A's.

Wendy's was the only salad that came with two packets of the dressing: Southwest Ranch.

Wendy's was the only salad that came with two packets of the dressing: Southwest Ranch.

I didn't love that all the ingredients were in different corners so I had to mix them myself.

I didn't love that all the ingredients were in different corners so I had to mix them myself.

But this was otherwise a solid salad. The chicken was surprisingly tender and flavorful, and the bacon was crispy and fatty. The avocado was velvety and delicious, and the sauce was fairly creamy with a slight kick.

But this was otherwise a solid salad. The chicken was surprisingly tender and flavorful, and the bacon was crispy and fatty. The avocado was velvety and delicious, and the sauce was fairly creamy with a slight kick.

Not so great were the hard and watery tomato chunks and unexciting cheese. Ripe tomato would have been a boon to this salad. Oh well.

Not so great were the hard and watery tomato chunks and unexciting cheese. Ripe tomato would have been a boon to this salad. Oh well.

Even if it wasn't all perfect, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this salad. It was mostly fresh, tasty, and easy to put on a fork.

Even if it wasn't all perfect, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this salad. It was mostly fresh, tasty, and easy to put on a fork.

Still, it was no Chick-fil-A Market Salad. With its winning combination of high-quality bite-sized ingredients, Chick-fil-A's Market Salad stood far above the competition. The chicken was also far better than any other chain's grilled chicken.

Still, it was no Chick-fil-A Market Salad. With its winning combination of high-quality bite-sized ingredients, Chick-fil-A's Market Salad stood far above the competition. The chicken was also far better than any other chain's grilled chicken.
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