How many calories does a large grilled chicken salad have?

A large grilled chicken salad can contain a wide range of calories depending on the ingredients used. In general, a full serving of grilled chicken breast contains around 200-250 calories. When combined with salad greens, vegetables, cheese, nuts, dressing and other toppings, the total calorie count for a large salad with grilled chicken can range from 500-800 calories or more.

Calories in grilled chicken breast

Chicken breast is a lean protein that is relatively low in calories compared to other meats. According to the USDA, a 6 oz grilled, boneless, skinless chicken breast contains the following calories:

  • 242 calories
  • 7g fat
  • 48g protein

So a full grilled chicken breast that is 8-12 oz would contain approximately 200-250 calories. When adding a marinade, the calories may increase slightly depending on the ingredients used.

Calories in salad greens

The base of a grilled chicken salad starts with leafy greens. Salad greens like romaine, spinach, arugula, kale and mixed greens are very low in calories. Here are the calories for 1 cup of some common salad green varieties:

  • Romaine lettuce: 8 calories
  • Spinach: 7 calories
  • Arugula: 5 calories
  • Kale: 8 calories
  • Mixed greens: 10 calories

So the lettuce and greens themselves add very minimal calories to a chicken salad.

Calories in vegetables

Chicken salads often contain a variety of vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, bell peppers and more. The calories in vegetables can range quite a bit, but most are still low calorie. Here are the calories for 1 cup of some popular chicken salad vegetable add-ins:

  • Tomatoes: 32 calories
  • Carrots: 45 calories
  • Cucumbers: 16 calories
  • Bell peppers: 30 calories
  • Onions: 46 calories

Adding 1 cup of mixed vegetables will increase the salad calories by about 50-100 calories depending on the types used.

Calories in cheese

Cheese is often added to chicken salads for extra flavor and protein. But cheese can significantly increase the calorie count, since it is high in fat and calories compared to vegetables. Here are the calories in 1 oz of some typical chicken salad cheese choices:

  • Cheddar: 115 calories
  • Swiss: 111 calories
  • Feta: 79 calories
  • Blue cheese: 100 calories
  • Parmesan: 111 calories

A large chicken salad may contain 2-4 oz of cheese. So cheese can add 230-450 calories to the total.

Calories in nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are often used to add crunch and flavor to chicken salads. But they are very high in fat and calories, so a little goes a long way. Here are the calories for 1 oz of some popular nuts and seeds:

  • Almonds: 164 calories
  • Walnuts: 185 calories
  • Pecans: 196 calories
  • Sunflower seeds: 165 calories

A large chicken salad may have 2-3 oz of nuts or seeds, adding 330-600 calories or more.

Calories in dressing

The dressing used on a chicken salad can also impact the calorie count significantly. Creamy, oil-based dressings tend to be higher in calories than lighter vinaigrettes. Here are the calories in 2 tablespoons of some typical salad dressings:

  • Ranch: 140 calories
  • Caesar: 120 calories
  • Blue cheese: 180 calories
  • Thousand island: 190 calories
  • Balsamic vinaigrette: 70 calories

A full salad is likely to have around 4-6 tablespoons of dressing, adding 280-720 calories.

Putting it all together

Taking into account all the potential ingredients, a large grilled chicken salad of 8-12 oz chicken breast plus lettuce, veggies, cheese, nuts and dressing can range from about 500-800 calories. Here is an approximation:

  • Chicken breast (8-12 oz): 200-250 calories
  • Lettuce and greens (4 cups): 20-40 calories
  • Vegetables (1-2 cups): 50-100 calories
  • Cheese (2-4 oz): 230-450 calories
  • Nuts/seeds (2-3 oz): 330-600 calories
  • Dressing (4-6 tbsp): 280-720 calories

So a typical total calorie range is:

  • Total: 500-800 calories

Of course, this can vary depending on exact serving sizes and specific ingredients used. But in general, a full, loaded grilled chicken salad will contain 500-800 calories for the entire dish.

Lower calorie options

There are some simple ways to lower the calorie count of a grilled chicken salad if you are looking for a lighter option:

  • Use grilled chicken breast without skin to save on fat and calories
  • Load up on non-starchy vegetables which are low in calories
  • Use lighter dressing options like vinaigrettes or lemon juice
  • Limit high calorie add-ins like cheese, nuts and seeds
  • Swap in lean protein options like shrimp, tuna or salmon

Choosing a salad with 6 oz grilled chicken, lots of veggies, and just a tablespoon or two of dressing can keep the calorie count under 400 calories for the entire dish.

Higher calorie options

On the other hand, there are ways to easily increase the calorie count if you want a heartier, higher calorie chicken salad meal:

  • Use fried chicken tenders instead of grilled chicken
  • Add avocado, bacon, croutons or tortilla strips
  • Use full-fat dressing, cheese and nuts/seeds liberally
  • Top with a creamy coleslaw mix
  • Add higher calorie fruits like apples, dried cranberries or mandarin oranges

A chicken salad made with fried chicken, bacon, avocado, cheese, nuts and creamy dressing can contain over 1000 calories for the full salad.

Calorie ranges for common chain restaurant chicken salads

To give a comparison, here are the typical calorie counts for large grilled chicken salads from some popular chain restaurants:

  • McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken – 350 calories
  • Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Salad – 270 calories
  • Applebee’s Grilled Chicken Salad – 540 calories
  • Panera Bread Asian Sesame Chicken Salad – 550 calories
  • Cheesecake Factory BBQ Chicken Salad – 810 calories

As you can see, the calorie ranges can vary significantly based on preparation methods and portion sizes. A lighter style restaurant salad may have 300-400 calories, while large chef salads or those with lots of toppings can contain 700-800+ calories.

Nutrition benefits of grilled chicken salads

Despite the wide calorie range, grilled chicken salads can be a nutritious meal option when prepared healthfully. Some benefits of grilled chicken salads include:

  • High in protein from chicken breast
  • Provide vitamins A, C, K from leafy greens and colorful veggies
  • Contain antioxidants like lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein
  • May include healthy unsaturated fats from dressing, nuts or avocados
  • Vegetable fiber aids digestion and gut health
  • Lower in carbs than sandwiches, pasta or pizza options

Just watch out for excessive amounts of sodium from certain salad dressing, cheese and other ingredients if limiting salt intake. Overall though, a grilled chicken salad can be a tasty lighter meal or main dish option that is filling and nutritious.


A large grilled chicken salad contains an average of 500-800 calories, depending on the specific ingredients used. Grilled chicken breast, lettuce, mixed veggies, cheese, nuts, seeds and dressing all contribute to the total calorie count. There are also many ways to adjust the calories up or down based on your preferences and diet. Just be mindful of high calorie additions like fried chicken, bacon, heavy dressings and abundant cheese, nuts or seeds. With the right balance, a grilled chicken salad can be a very healthy, delicious meal full of lean protein, fiber and nutrients.

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