Lunch is a stressful meal. Do you make it? Do you buy it? What’s even healthy these days?!
Fear not- I’ve compared salads from five top High Street chains to see which measure up and which will leave you hangry.
So when it comes to lunch, what’s important? For me, my food must obviously taste amazing. I also expect my food to be fresh– no pot noodles here! As a penny-counting graduate, I also need it to be good value. Making a balanced choice is important too, so I’ll always consider the calories. It’s always nice to have a meal that looks pretty, too.
With these criteria in mind, I chose salads from Greggs, Marks and Spencer, Starbucks, Pret a Manger and Boots. For comparisons’ sake (scientific validity and all that), I tried to choose as similar a salad each place could offer.
Oh, and I’ve also checked the protein content and general healthiness for all those who are slaves to the gains (ehem, me. Maybe.)
Greggs Teryaki Chicken Noodle Salad- £3. 256 kcals, 20g protein
23g sugar- yikes! Not really balanced, is it Greggs? That aside, I was definitely intrigued to try a salad from a, er, bakers. The sweet chilli dressing was more of a very thick sauce. My first thought was ‘this tastes like a takeaway’. The noodles were so nice and moist and the chicken has a lovely flavour. It was a little bland if you get a mouthful without sauce or chicken, but certainly much tastier and filling than expected. Peas and peppers were also good veggie choices.
Calories– 4/5 (would be higher if the sugar was lower)
Marks and Spencer Sweet Chilli Chicken Noodle Salad- £4.25. 342 kcal, 25.4g protein
The sweet chilli dressing in this was quite vinegary, though the chicken itself very nice- it was sweet chilli flavoured as opposed to plain. I like grated carrot in a salad so that worked for me, though it didn’t feel overly ‘salad like’. The noodles were also a bit bland.
Starbucks Rainbow Chicken Salad- £3.99. Kcals and protein unkown
The prettiest salad, both in the container and the bowl. I thought this was a little low on chicken, and while the dressing nice, I thought it could’ve done with more- the rice was bland. I was bored VERY quickly. Chicken seemed a bit like those pre-bought packs you get- quite dense and a little salty. I enjoyed the first few mouthfuls then it swiftly went downhill. I chewed big chunk of coriander and the taste was NOT going away… grim. I had to have an emergency, unhealthy back-up lunch- NOT what you want when you’re spending precious pennies!
Pret a Manger Chef’s Italian Chicken Salad- £4.50. 577kcals with dressing (345 without), 25g protein
I’m always suspicious of low-carb salad. I’m also surprised Pret didn’t have an option with noodles. This salad has 22g fat, which is not necessarily an issue but something to be aware of. The chicken was absolutely delicious, as were the nuts and roast peppers. I liked the Parmesan too! However, there was a lorra lorra lettuce (I don’t love leaves) and I advise you don’t bother with the dressing- it adds a lot of calories and not much taste.
Taste– 5/5 (minus the dressing)
Boots Herby Chicken Salad- £2.39. 163 Kcals, 17g protein
No noods available in Boots either. Boo! I decided to go for the salad most similar to the Pret one instead. This was not hugely visually appealing- especially after being sloshed about in my bag! I definitely wish I never added the dressing- it was VERY mustardy and made my tongue tingle. I did like the chicken, though I am partial to any chicken mayo. I managed to power through the mustard and finish this, and with my snack and drink as part of the meal deal I was sufficiently full.
Value– 5/5 (as part of a meal deal)
Calories– 4/5 (maybe too few? Is that a thing?
So who’s the winner? I think Pret takes it. It’s definitely not the cheapest option, so for everyday I would suggest getting a Boots mealdeal or Greggs salad. But for a delicious, fresh and unique choice, it’s got to be Pret!
Where’s your favourite lunch choice? Share your thoughts in the comments below!