How many calories are in a southwest steak salad?

A southwest steak salad is a popular menu item at many restaurants. It typically consists of grilled steak, mixed greens, black beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, tortilla strips, and a southwest dressing. With all of these tasty ingredients, it’s easy to see why this salad is so appetizing. However, with the rich flavors and hearty ingredients, many wonder just how many calories are packed into this seemingly healthy dish.

Quick Answer

The number of calories in a southwest steak salad can vary greatly depending on the specific ingredients and portion sizes. However, on average, a southwest steak salad from a restaurant contains around 500-800 calories.

Detailed Calorie Breakdown

To get a more detailed idea of the calorie content, let’s break down the common ingredients in a southwest steak salad:


A 6 oz grilled steak typically provides around 250-350 calories depending on the cut of meat. Fattier cuts like ribeye will be higher in calories while leaner cuts like sirloin will be lower.

Mixed Greens

The mixed lettuce greens provide very few calories – usually about 20 calories per 2 cups.

Black Beans

A 1/2 cup serving of black beans contains around 110 calories and provides fiber and plant-based protein.


1/2 cup of corn kernels adds about 65 calories to the salad.


Tomatoes are very low in calories. 1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes only has around 10-15 calories.


1/4 of an avocado contributes about 115 calories and healthy fats.

Tortilla Strips

A small handful of baked tortilla strips adds 50-100 calories to the salad.


A southwest salad dressing provides about 150-200 calories for a standard 2-3 tablespoon serving size.

Nutrition Summary

Adding up the average calorie amounts for each of the key ingredients:

  • Steak: 300 calories
  • Lettuce: 20 calories
  • Black Beans: 110 calories
  • Corn: 65 calories
  • Tomatoes: 15 calories
  • Avocado: 115 calories
  • Tortilla Strips: 75 calories
  • Dressing: 175 calories

The total calories come out to around 875. So in summary, a typical restaurant southwest steak salad without any modifications or extras contains approximately 875 calories. The calorie count can be lower or higher depending on the exact ingredients and portion sizes.

Ways to Lower Calories in a Southwest Salad

If you want to lighten up your southwest salad, there are easy ways to cut back on the calories:

  • Choose leaner cuts of steak such as sirloin or tenderloin instead of ribeye.
  • Reduce the amount of steak to 4 oz instead of 6 oz.
  • Limit nuts, seeds, tortilla strips, and other higher calorie toppings.
  • Use just 1 tablespoon of dressing instead of 2-3.
  • Choose low-fat dressing or ask for dressing on the side.
  • Add more non-starchy veggies like peppers, onions, mushrooms.
  • Flavor with salsa instead of creamy dressings.

Making modifications like these can potentially shave off 200 or more calories from your southwest salad. You’ll still get lots of flavor and satisfaction from the flavorful ingredients.

Highest Calorie Salad Ingredients to Limit

When trying to cut back on calories in any salad, there are certain ingredients that tend to be more calorie-dense that are smart to limit:

  • Cheese – Just 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack can add over 110 calories. Save cheese for occasional treats.
  • Croutons – A small handful of croutons can provide around 100 calories. Keep portion sizes small or skip entirely.
  • Dried fruit – Raisins, cranberries, mango, etc. Even small amounts add lots of natural sugar and calories.
  • Nuts and seeds – Great sources of protein and healthy fats but very calorie dense. Stick to a 1-2 tbsp portion.
  • Creamy dressings – Ranch, caesar, avocado ranch, blue cheese, etc. Can easily add 150+ calories for 2-3 tbsp.
  • Tortilla strips – Fried tortilla strips provide a crunchy topping but drive up calories fast. Use sparingly.
  • Bacon bits – Tasty but calorie-dense. Just 2 tbsp provides about 90 calories, so use a light hand.

By focusing your southwest salad around lean protein, lots of non-starchy veggies, and lighter dressing options, you can make a satisfying meal under 500 calories. Load it up with extras like cheese, heavy dressings, and fried toppings and it can quickly jump closer to 1000 calories or more.

Lowest Calorie Salad Ingredients

To keep your salad calories down, build your salad around these low calorie ingredients:

  • Lettuce greens – Romaine, mixed greens, spinach provide nutrients with minimal calories.
  • Vegetables – Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc. Volume and nutrients without lots of calories.
  • Herbs – Fresh basil, cilantro, parsley add flavor for just a few calories.
  • Lemon/lime juice – Add brightness with the acidity, not calories.
  • Vinegars – Balsamic, red wine, rice wine, apple cider vinegars make flavorful low cal dressings.
  • Salsa – Use as salad dressing or dip for a flavor punch.
  • Mustard – Adds lots of flavor for about 5 calories per teaspoon.
  • Spices – Garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper provide taste without calories.

Focusing on these low calorie ingredients ensures you get plenty of nutrition and satisfaction from your salad without unnecessary calories.

Highest Protein Salad Ingredients

Protein is important on a weight loss diet for preserving lean muscle mass and keeping you feeling full. Some excellent high protein salad ingredients include:

  • Chicken or turkey breast – Excellent lean protein sources. 4 oz provides around 25-30g protein.
  • Fish – Salmon, tuna, halibut, etc. About 20g protein for 4 oz.
  • Shrimp – 4 oz of shrimp has about 24g protein.
  • Steak – A lean cut like sirloin offers about 35g protein per 6 oz serving.
  • Eggs – Hard boiled or poached eggs make a great salad topping. One egg has about 6g protein.
  • Beans – Kidney, garbanzo, black beans provide about 7-10g protein per 1/2 cup.
  • Lentils – Great for veggie salads, with 18g protein per 1/2 cup cooked.
  • Chickpeas – One 1/2 cup serving adds about 7g protein to your salad.
  • Nuts/seeds – Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc. Contain about 5-7g protein per ounce.

Aim for about 20-30g protein per salad by incorporating some of these higher protein ingredients to support your health goals.

Lowest Fat Salad Ingredients

While healthy fats are important in your diet, you still want to be mindful of portion sizes of higher fat ingredients. Some better options for keeping your salad low in fat include:

  • Fat free or low fat dressing – Vinaigrettes, lemon juice, mustard, salsa.
  • Chicken or turkey breast – Much lower in fat than dark chicken meat.
  • Fish – Leaner types like cod, tilapia, haddock.
  • Shrimp
  • Egg whites – Skip the yolks to cut out the dietary fat and cholesterol.
  • Beans, lentils, chickpeas
  • Nonfat Greek yogurt dressing

Incorporating more of these lower fat ingredients will help keep your total fat count in check for better overall nutrition.

Should I Avoid Ingredients Like Avocado, Nuts, or Bacon?

While ingredients like avocado, nuts, bacon, and cheese do contain more calories and fat, they can absolutely still be incorporated into a healthy salad in moderation. Some tips:

  • Watch your portion sizes. Stick to 1/4 avocado, 1 tbsp nuts, a sprinkle of bacon bits, etc.
  • Use them strategically a few times a week instead of every day.
  • Balance them out by also including lots of lower calorie ingredients like veggies.
  • Don’t pair together too many higher fat ingredients in one salad.
  • Consider lower fat substitutes when you can. Turkey bacon vs regular, low-fat feta vs regular, etc.

By being mindful of portions and limiting higher fat ingredients to a few times a week, you can still enjoy foods like avocado, nuts, and cheese as part of an overall healthy diet.

Satisfying Southwest Salad Recipe Ideas

Here are some delicious recipe ideas for southwest salads that come in around 500 calories or less:

Steak Fajita Salad

  • 4 oz flank steak
  • Romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 2 tbsp shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp sliced avocado

Chicken Fiesta Salad

  • 4 oz chicken breast
  • Mixed greens
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1/4 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup corn
  • 1 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp light ranch dressing
  • 1 tbsp pepitas

Southwestern Shrimp Salad

  • 4 oz grilled shrimp
  • Romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 Hass avocado
  • 1/4 cup pico de gallo
  • 2 tbsp Cotija cheese
  • Lime vinaigrette dressing

Get creative with combining southwestern flavors into nutrient-packed salad bowls! The key is balancing the richer ingredients with plenty of fresh vegetables.

Tips for Making Satisfying Low Calorie Salads

It’s easy to create flavorful salads that are also satisfying on a calorie-controlled diet. Some helpful tips include:

  • Don’t skimp on the vegetables – they provide volume and nutrients.
  • Incorporate texture with crunchy vegetables, nuts, tortilla strips.
  • Include a lean protein like chicken, fish, or beans.
  • Add a healthy fat like avocado or olive oil vinaigrette.
  • Sprinkle a little cheese or bacon bits for extra flavor.
  • Use lots of herbs and spices instead of heavy creamy dressings.
  • Make your own dressing so you control the ingredients.
  • Top with a crunchy toasted nut mix instead of croutons.
  • Roast veggies to bring out delicious sweetness.

With a balance of flavors, textures, and nutrition, you can create salads that are fully satisfying while still being calorie conscious.

Common Questions

Are southwest salads healthy?

Southwest salads can be very healthy when they are made with wholesome ingredients like grilled lean protein, beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, and dressed lightly with salsa or vinaigrette. However, calories add up quickly when southwest salads contain lots of high fat ingredients like cheese, bacon, tortilla strips, heavy creamy dressings. Enjoy those extras in moderation as part of a lightened up southwest salad for the best nutrition.

What kinds of dressing can I use on a southwest salad?

Great low calorie dressing options for a southwest salad include salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, lime juice, olive oil with lime juice or vinegar, or yogurt-based ranch or cilantro dressings. Look for lighter “southwestern” style dressings without a lot of added fat and sugars.

Should I avoid ingredients like avocado and cheese in a southwest salad?

Not necessarily – in moderation, avocado and a sprinkle of cheese can be included as part of healthy southwest salad. Just watch your portions of higher fat ingredients and balance them out with plenty of non-starchy vegetables to keep calories in check.

What are good salad toppings for a southwest salad?

Delicious mix-ins for a southwest salad include black beans, corn, bell peppers, grilled chicken or steak, sautéed onions/peppers, avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro, pepitas, tortilla strips or chips, and salsa or southwestern dressing.

How can I cut calories in my southwest salad?

Choose lower calorie ingredients like grilled chicken instead of steak, use just 1 tablespoon of dressing, skip cheese and tortilla strips, load up on non-starchy veggies, and use lighter condiments like salsa. Making simple swaps help cut calories while still delivering big flavor.

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