Fast Times

Fast Times: Burger King Garden Fresh Chicken, Apple & Cranberry Salad

Burger King has been advertising a new "Fresh Flavors" campaign -- perhaps you have seen the commercials, featuring late-night host Jay Leno driving into a Burger King in one of his classic cars and ordering from the walk-up counter as if it were a drive-through window. Hilarious! As fellow EOW blogger Sam Brown recently reported, Burger King is in the middle of trying to rebrand itself, recruiting big-name celebrities like Leno, David Beckham, and Salma Hayek to star in commercials for the fast food franchise that recently lost its No. 2 spot to Wendy's.

I'm always intrigued when fast food chains roll out "fresh" or "healthy" campaigns. Success varies, but it's always interesting to see how the fast food world interprets fresh food to meet the demand for healthier fare.

The new "Fresh Offers" menu includes salads, wraps, fruit smoothies, frozen coffee drinks, and chicken fingers. "Fresh" and "healthy" cannot be used interchangeably for each item on the menu, but you can order salads with grilled or crispy chicken to lighten the calorie load. I went with the Chicken, Apple, and Cranberry Salad, opting for grilled chicken atop the "seven premium lettuces, crisp apples, sweet dried cranberries, and crumbly bleu cheese" which comes with a huge packet of Ken's Apple Cider Vinaigrette.

There are two things about this salad that prevent me from expressing unbridled enthusiasm. First, the blend of "seven premium lettuces." While there were absolutely some dark, leafy greens here and there, the greens were primarily iceberg and romaine hearts -- not a problem, except that in every photo and commercial this is a very dark green salad. That said, I expect fast food restaurants to use more iceberg than they depict, so it wasn't a huge shock; there was more romaine than I anticipated, which was a nice surprise.

The truly hideous aspect of the salad was the grilled chicken -- the texture was downright unappealing. The meat was so finely textured and tightly pressed that I think it constitutes animal torture, even though the damage was inflicted post-mortem. I took two bites for the sake of reviewing, but couldn't finish the chicken. It's a shame, because the rest of the salad was delicious -- really! Big chunks of apples and bright, juicy dried cranberries were set off by a generous sprinkling of crumbly bleu cheese. The Ken's Apple Cider Vinaigrette was also yummy -- bright but not sour, and perfect alongside the fruit. The full serving of the dressing packet comes in at 210 calories, but you need far less to dress the salad so using half is an easy way to shave off about 100 calories. And since you will need to order the crispy chicken option in order to eat it, I recommend shaving off a few calories from this salad when you can.

Going for the crispy chicken is going to up the calorie count in a big way -- almost 300 calories -- but from a flavor perspective it's going to be worth it in the end. This is one of the best fast food salads I have had in awhile, so let's not ruin it with grilled chicken like I did, okay?

Nutrition Info: 520 calories, 26 g fat, 35 g protein, 100 mg cholesterol, 950 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrates, 35 g sugar

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Christina Uticone