It's no secret that it often costs more to eat healthy -- fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins are more expensive than French fries or burgers. But, is a restaurant salad really worth the $7 to $12 that you might pay?
Take a shrimp Caesar salad, for example. The restaurant buys the romaine lettuce and other ingredients in bulk, and croutons are cheap, often made from day-old bread to give them that nice crunchiness. So, the true cost is in the seafood. It's a common perception that seafood is more of a delicacy and it's healthy, so we're willing to pay more for it. However, there's a good chance that the shrimp in a Caesar salad are not the large, high-cost Atlantic shrimp but low dollar product that's not much more expensive than chicken.
The iceberg lettuce wedge is another budget buster on the menu. In the 1950s and 60s, people thought iceberg lettuce was suave and sophisticated so the lettuce wedge became a popular salad in restaurants. Even though it's made a comeback now, it's basically a head of lettuce that is mostly water, drizzled in ranch dressing. For around $5, you can create this at home and have lettuce wedges to least all week.
For the best salad value, choose one that you couldn't create at home, with ingredients like fresh lobster or sirloin to justify the cost.