First look: McDonald’s 2022 salads – a shadow of what they used to be

McDonald’s has always had a love-hate relationship with salads, offering them primarily for mothers of small children who came demanding Happy Meals. But for me, salads were the only half-healthy item I could eat at McDonald’s, so I modified them to cut salt and carried on.

When the Pandemic hit, McDonald’s pulled salads completely from its U.S. menu. But as this spring arrives, a new McDonald’s salad offering is on store menus. Here’s a first look at the new Southwest Style Salad.

The new McDonald’s salad comes in a deeper plastic bowl than the old one and has a tray of ingredients on top that you add to the salad to build it. I left off the beans.

You can see from my pictures, packaging is radically different than the pre-pandemic Southwest salad. Ingredients are in a little tray that sits atop the lettuce.

The chicken, once cooked in the store, either grilled or breaded as you dictated, and added on top of your lettuce, is now premade and cold, cut into tiny pieces that are in the tray. There are no tomatoes in sight. And the size has shrunk to six ounces from closer to 12 ounces pre-pandemic (likely because that big slab of chicken is gone now). A small bag of tortilla chips is beneath the ingredient tray on the lettuce itself.

The lettuce seemed a combination of types although iceberg seemed to dominate

The dressing is still Newman’s Own, which means a lot of salt (300 mgs). I bring my own oil and vinegar to use instead.

This is a salad that requires no in-store work, likely what McDonald’s wanted after streamlining store operations during the pandemic to again concentrate on burgers and fries.

At $5.49 (in my area outside Chicago, prices may vary), the price is low for a salad, but I needed two of them, plus a tiny hamburger to feel anywhere near full. My go-to dessert used to be the yogurt parfait, but that was a Pandemic food causality as well.

The main McDonald’s USA site does not have nutrition information for the new salads, and the McDonald’s app has a nutrition tab but it doesn’t show anything for the salad.

The bottom line — for people who can’t eat anything else at McDonald’s because of health concerns, the salad is back but it’s a pale imitation of a real salad. If you just enjoy sitting in a McDonald’s to feel connected to the world outside your Pandemic hide-away, go to one with free refills on soda and water to help fill you up.

My local McDonald’s was empty when I went recently, allowing me to remove my mask to eat lunch.

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