The number of calories in a Costa Vida salad can vary considerably depending on the specific ingredients and dressing choices. A typical side salad with lettuce, vegetables, cheese, and light dressing contains around 150-300 calories. A full-size entrée salad with chicken or steak, lots of toppings, tortilla strips, and creamy dressing can contain 600-1200+ calories. Choosing lower calorie dressings and limiting high-calorie toppings like tortilla strips, cheese, and creamy sauces will reduce the calories.
Calories in Costa Vida Salads
Costa Vida offers a variety of salad options ranging from simple side salads to entrée-sized creations piled high with ingredients. Here’s an overview of the calorie counts:
|Santa Fe salad
As you can see, the lighter side salads contain around 150-300 calories while the bigger entrée salads with lots of toppings offer 600-1200+ calories.
Below is a more detailed breakdown of how the ingredients impact the calorie counts:
The base of lettuce and mixed greens that the salad starts with provides very minimal calories, usually around 20 calories per cup. Costa Vida uses a mix of chopped romaine, iceberg lettuce, spinach, and other greens. These are very low calorie.
Adding vegetables like tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and carrots also contributes very few additional calories. These veggies contain 20-50 calories per cup. Getting extra veggies can help make your salad more filling.
Cheese & Avocado
Ingredients like shredded cheese and avocado do pack more calories – around 100-300 calories per cup. Opting for no cheese or avocado is an easy way to lighten up your salad.
Meat, Egg, & Beans
Protein-rich ingredients like grilled chicken, steak, beans, and hardboiled egg significantly increase the calories. A 6oz chicken breast may have around 300 calories, while 4oz of steak could have 200+ calories. Beans and egg contain around 100-150 calories each.
The crispy toppings like tortilla strips, nachos, croutons, and wonton strips add lots of calories for little volume. Just a small handful of these crunchy toppings can add 150-300+ calories. Limiting the amounts can reduce the impact.
The dressing you choose makes a major difference in the calorie count. While a 2 tbsp serving of vinaigrette or Italian offers around 75-150 calories, creamy dressings like ranch, caesar, avocado-ranch, and chipotle-ranch contain 200-400 calories per 2 tbsp. Choosing light vinaigrettes or salsas over thick, creamy dressings prevents excess calories.
How to Create a Lower Calorie Costa Vida Salad
You can enjoy the delicious flavors of Costa Vida salads while controlling calories by following these tips:
– Base your salad on lots of greens and veggies, which add volume and nutrients with minimal calories. Load up on the lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and other fresh options.
– Go easy on high-calorie cheeses and creamy avocado or skip them altogether. Other flavorful, low-calorie toppings like salsa and pico de gallo are great options.
– Choose grilled chicken breast or shrimp instead of higher fat meats like steak or bacon. Go light on any beans, nuts, eggs, and other protein items as well.
– Minimize any crunchy, starchy toppings like tortilla strips, croutons, or fried wontons. These drive up calories quickly.
– Opt for lighter dressings like vinaigrettes, salsa, or lemon juice instead of thick creamy dressings like ranch or caesar. Also control portions and don’t overdress.
– Ask for dressings and high-calorie toppings like cheese and avocado on the side, and use sparingly.
With the right choices, you can keep your Costa Vida salad down to 300-400 calories or less. Load up on the good stuff and control portions of the calorie dense ingredients for a lighter, healthier meal.
Nutrition Information for Popular Costa Vida Salads
To get a better idea of the calories and nutrients found in some of Costa Vida’s most popular salads, here is detailed nutrition data:
Santa Fe Salad
The Santa Fe salad is one of the higher calorie options due to lots of cheese, avocado, tortilla strips, beans, and chipotle ranch dressing. Choosing light dressing could save around 200 calories.
Chicken Caesar Salad
Chicken, cheese, croutons, and creamy caesar dressing contribute to the higher calorie count. A lighter dressing could reduce around 150 calories.
Baja Chicken Salad
With grilled chicken, lots of veggies, some cheese, and reduced fat baja vinaigrette dressing, this lighter salad contains around 540 calories.
When dining at Costa Vida, salad can be a healthy option or a diet disaster depending on your choices. In general, loading up on low calorie greens and vegetables while limiting high-calorie toppings like tortilla strips and creamy dressings will keep your salad around 500 calories or less. On the other hand, piling on the cheese, crunchy toppings, fatty meat, and drenching your salad in dressing can send it up over 1000 calories. Pay attention to your choices for a tasty and nutritious Costa Vida salad.