What is the healthiest option at Sweetgreen?

Sweetgreen is a popular fast casual salad chain with locations across the United States. The restaurant offers a variety of salads, bowls, wraps, and sides made from fresh, seasonal ingredients. With so many options on the menu, it can be tricky to determine which is the absolute healthiest choice. This article will examine the ingredients, nutrition information, and preparation methods of Sweetgreen’s offerings to identify the best options for eating healthy at the popular salad spot.

Examining the Ingredients

The first step in identifying the healthiest items on the Sweetgreen menu is looking closely at the ingredients used. Sweetgreen emphasizes using fresh, locally sourced produce and antibiotic-free poultry and meat. While most menu items are made from wholesome ingredients, some feature less nutritious add-ins like bacon, cheese, and creamy dressings. When aiming to make the healthiest choice, it’s best to avoid these extra ingredients that add saturated fat and calories. Sticking to salads and bowls with vegetable proteins like tofu or lentils is an easy way to boost the nutrition in your meal.

Most Nutritious Base Greens

Sweetgreen offers a variety of base lettuce and greens to build your salad or bowl. Choosing the most nutritious options will maximize the vitamins and minerals you get from your meal. Some of the best options include:

  • Kale – This leafy green is low in calories but high in vitamins A, C, and K. It also provides antioxidants and fiber.
  • Spinach – Popeye’s favorite is high in vitamins A and C, iron, and phytonutrients that act as antioxidants.
  • Arugula – The peppery green contains folate, vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals like calcium and potassium.
  • Romaine – This versatile lettuce is high in vitamin A, potassium, and folate.

Choosing one of these nutrition-packed greens as the base of your salad is a smart first step. Iceberg lettuce has a high water content and fewer nutrients, so it’s better to avoid that option.

Most Nutritious Proteins

Adding lean proteins like chicken, tofu, eggs, and beans to your Sweetgreen salad or bowl boosts staying power while providing nutrients. Some of the best proteins to maximize nutrition include:

  • Chicken – Opt for grilled or roasted chicken breast to get protein without too much saturated fat.
  • Tofu – This plant-based option offers protein with no cholesterol or saturated fat.
  • Sweetgreen Eggs – Boiled eggs offer protein, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin D, riboflavin, selenium and phosphorus.
  • Beans and legumes – Options like lentils and black beans add fiber.

Heavier proteins like bacon and fried chicken tend to be high in saturated fat and should be avoided when aiming for maximum nutrition.

Most Nutritious Veggie Toppings

Loading up on vegetable toppings is an easy way to pack extra nutrition into your Sweetgreen salad or bowl. Some especially healthy options include:

  • Carrots – Contain beta carotene, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber.
  • Broccoli – Provides vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium.
  • Peppers – Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are high in vitamins A and C.
  • Mushrooms – Great source of B vitamins like riboflavin, folate, and niacin.

Aim for a variety of colorful veggies to get a range of valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.

Healthiest Dressings

Sweetgreen’s selection of salad dressings includes creamy, oily, and vinegar-based options. To keep your salad nutritious, it’s best to avoid cream-based dressings and those made with cheese or bacon. Here are some of the best choices:

  • Balsamic vinaigrette
  • Lemon tahini vinaigrette
  • Vinaigrette
  • Sesame ginger vinaigrette

Oil and vinegar-based dressings have healthy fats from ingredients like olive oil and avocado. Lighter vinaigrettes help flavor your salad without adding too many calories or excess saturated fat.

Comparing Nutrition Information

Analyzing the nutrition information for Sweetgreen’s many combinations of salads, bowls, and warm options can pinpoint the very healthiest choices. Here is a comparison of some of the top nutritious options along with a less healthy meal for reference:

The Guacamole Greens Salad with Chicken

  • Calories: 440
  • Total Fat: 24g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.5g
  • Carbs: 36g
  • Fiber: 11g
  • Protein: 30g

This salad with guacamole, chicken, greens, cabbage, romaine, and balsamic vinaigrette provides a hefty serving of protein along with crunchy veggies and healthy fats from the avocado.

Mediterranean Grains Bowl with Tofu

  • Calories: 620
  • Total Fat: 18g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Carbs: 101g
  • Fiber: 15g
  • Protein: 29g

This vegetarian bowl combines lentils, kale, quinoa, chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, and tofu along with a lemon tahini vinaigrette. It’s high in protein, fiber, and vitamins.

Bacon Chicken Ranch Salad

  • Calories: 740
  • Total Fat: 49g
  • Saturated Fat: 10g
  • Carbs: 36g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • Protein: 44g

While high in protein, this salad with bacon, cheese, ranch dressing, chicken, and romaine has more total and saturated fat than the more veggie-based options.

The Mediterranean Grains Bowl comes out at the top with high fiber, protein, and low saturated fat. In general, salads and bowls focused on lean proteins and lots of vegetable toppings trump those with heavier meats, cheeses, and creamy dressings.

Examining Preparation Methods

How Sweetgreen prepares their proteins and veggies also affects the overall nutrition. Some preparation methods are healthier than others:

Grilled Chicken

Grilled chicken breast avoids the saturated fat of frying and provides plenty of protein along with B vitamins.

Roasted Vegetables

Roasting vegetables like sweet potatoes, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts caramelizes them for more flavor without adding any oil.

Steamed Vegetables

Steaming is one of the healthiest cooking methods, preserving nutrients in veggies that can leach out into boiling water.

Sautéed Vegetables

While sautéing adds flavor, the oil raises the fat and calorie count of the vegetables. It’s a less healthy choice when trying to eat nutritiously.

Overall, grilled, roasted, and steamed preparation methods help the proteins and vegetables retain maximum vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants compared to frying in oil.

Putting it All Together

By examining the ingredients, nutrition information, and preparation methods, we can determine the healthiest possible order at Sweetgreen:

  • Base: Kale, spinach, arugula, or romaine
  • Protein: Grilled chicken breast or marinated baked tofu
  • Veggies: Carrots, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms
  • Dressing: Balsamic vinaigrette, sesame ginger vinaigrette
  • No cheese, bacon, tortilla strips or other high-fat add-ons

This salad maximizes nutrient density by including the most nutritious greens, lean proteins and a rainbow of vegetable toppings. Using a light dressing, avoiding fried and fatty ingredients, and opting for grilled and roasted preparation methods all help to minimize calories and unhealthy saturated fats. While Sweetgreen offers endless combinations, choosing the most virtuous ingredients and cooking techniques results in an incredibly nutritious meal.

Cons of the Healthiest Salad

While the salad described above is nutritionally sound, it does have a few drawbacks:

  • Higher cost – All the extra veggies and a double protein adds to the price.
  • Not as satiating – Without starchy ingredients or fatty proteins, you may get hungry sooner.
  • More prep – Chopping many veggies takes more work than ordering a pre-mixed signature salad.
  • Potentially bland – Without cheese or richer dressings, the salad may be less interesting.

Making the healthiest choice requires paying a premium for all the extra toppings. The lower calories and fat also mean it may not keep you full for as long. However, the major nutritional benefits outweigh these potential issues for most health-conscious customers.

Tips for Ordering the Healthiest Salad

Follow these tips to customize the healthiest salad or bowl when ordering at Sweetgreen:

Choose Nutrient-Dense Greens

Pick spinach, kale, arugula or romaine over less nutritious lettuces like iceberg.

Load Up On Vegetables

Get extra servings of veggies like broccoli, carrots, mushrooms and peppers for more nutrients.

Pick Lean Proteins

Grilled chicken breast and baked tofu provide filling protein without excess saturated fat.

Ask For Dressing On The Side

Requesting dressing on the side allows you to control how much you use.

Avoid Unhealthy Toppings

Stay away from bacon, tortilla strips, cheese and other add-ons with saturated fat and carbs.

Double The Protein

Extra servings of chicken or tofu help you stay full and satisfied.

Following these suggestions allows you to take advantage of Sweetgreen’s healthy ingredients and customize the most nutritious combination possible.

Healthiest Sweetgreen Menu Items

While salads make the easiest healthy choice at Sweetgreen, the restaurant also offers warm bowls, wraps, and sides that can be nutritious with the right modifications. Here are some of the best options:

Warm Bowls

  • Moroccan Chicken Bowl with Quinoa
  • Harissa Tofu Bowl with Ancient Grains
  • Shroomami Bowl with Quinoa (hold the pesto)

Choose grilled chicken or baked tofu along with whole grains like quinoa and avoid heavy sauces for a healthy warm bowl.


  • Chicken Pesto Parm (hold the parmesan)
  • Falafel Wrap (with yogurt dressing)
  • Mexicali Salad Wrap (no tortilla strips)

Hold ingredients like cheese and tortilla strips and opt for lighter dressings to keep wraps lean.


  • Balsamic Beets
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  • Garden Greens salad

The roasted veggie sides make healthy low-calorie accompaniments to complete your meal.

With the right customizations, you can turn bowls, wraps, and sides into nutritious options as well.


While Sweetgreen has a variety of tempting options, choosing the right ingredients, prep methods, and dressings can lead to an incredibly healthy salad or bowl. Avoid fatty proteins, heavy dressings, and fried toppings in favor of lean proteins, nutrient-packed greens and veggies, and light vinaigrettes. Grilled chicken or tofu paired with a rainbow of produce atop spinach or kale makes a delicious and nutritious option at the popular fast casual chain. With the endless combinations available, you can customize the perfect healthy meal that aligns with your dietary needs.

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