Not such a healthy option… The IHOP chicken and spinach salad with the calorie equivalent of THREE Big Macs

Choosing a chicken and spinach salad from the indulgent menu options at IHOP might sound like a virtuous decision.

But the seemingly healthy dish, it was revealed today, contains a staggering 1,600 calories – the equivalent of three McDonalds Big Macs.

David Zinczenko, who is behind the Eat This Not That guides, found that the dish also has 118g of fat and 2,340mg of sodium.

IHOP Chicken and Spinach Salad

McDonald's Big Mac

Spot the healthy option: The chicken and spinach salad at IHOP (left) has three times the calories of a McDonald's Big Mac (right) according to David Zinczenko of Eat This Not That

Of course this poor nutritional value is not the fault of the spinach. The extra calories are thanks to the fact that the chicken is 'crispy-fried', and served with bacon, cheese, a hard-boiled egg and a honey-mustard dressing, with garlic bread on the side.

Mr Zinczenko explained on that the salad was a prime example of what market researchers call the 'health halo' effect.


Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad

Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad

1,380 calories99g fat (15g saturated)1,660mg sodium

IHOP Chicken & Spinach Salad

1,600 calories118g fat (32g saturated, 5g trans)2,340mg sodium

Chilis Avocado Burger on Wheat Bun

Chilis Avocado Burger on Wheat Bun (without fries)

1,190 calories77g fat (26g saturated)1,960mg sodium

California Pizza Kitchen Norwegian Atlantic Salmon with Spaghettini

1,216 calories26 g saturated fat1,202 mg sodium

'This is the psychological phenomenon in which
people perceive unhealthy meals as healthy when those foods are
associated with good-for-you buzzterms or foods,' he wrote.

'Words like 'natural' or 'multigrain' can be misleading, and any time a restaurant serves
something on a salad, people automatically assume it’s good for them.

'The so-called health halo also makes us more likely to overeat.
Restaurants like IHOP know and exploit this, which is how salads with
100+ grams of fat continue to make it onto menus.'

IHOP is not the only chain to seduce its customers with 'health halo' dishes, though.

Eat This Not That contributing editor Clint Carter told MailOnline that Applebee's offers an Oriental chicken salad that contains 1,380 calories and 99g of fat. The 'golden-fried chicken tenders' and crispy noodles are the likely calorie culprits here.

And Chilli's diners who order an avocado burger on a wheat bun might be stunned to discover that it has the equivalent calorie count of two Big Macs.

To IHOP's credit, it does offer an option for grilled chicken, instead of fried, for what appears to be a variation on the salad on the menu it lists on its company website.

For the healthiest option, however, Mr Zinczenko suggested the chain's diners order a Take Two Combo of a 1/2 Double BLT Sandwich and Seasonal Fresh Fruit. The total calories would be just 470 calories, with 28g of fat and 1,180mg sodium.