Healthy Options at California Pizza Kitchen, Part 1: Appetizers, Soups, and Salads

Making good choices at CPK

California Pizza Kitchen has grown to 265 locations in 32 of the United States and ten other countries since 1985. They’re a big restaurant with a big menu, so I’m splitting this review up into two parts. This week, I’ll cover CPK’s healthier choices in Appetizers, Soups, and Salads.  (Here’s Part 2: Pizzas, Pastas, and the Kid’s Menu.)

As with most large chain restaurants, they’re heavy on the calories and sodium, which are the two nutritional metrics I look at first. (Third on the priority list is fiber, but at most restaurants I don’t expect too much, anyway). Interestingly, the CPK Nutrition Information (PDF) lists fiber next to the calories — usually it’s in one of the last columns, so I give them a point for that. Interesting, too, is that they don’t list total fat — just saturated fat (which I suppose is a reasonable choice, helping to unclutter the listings).

Although I’m reviewing the Appetizers and “Small Cravings” categories, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that skipping an appetizer is the best choice unless you’re getting one as your entree. Read on for my recommendations of healthy choices at CPK.

“Small Cravings” & Appetizers – Better Choices

I’m pretty sure the appetizers are meant to be shared, so I’ll list the nutritionals for a half order when appropriate, making them easier to compare to the smaller-sized “Small Cravings” options.

Asparagus & Arugula Salad
173 cal, 385mg sodium, 2g fiber

Tuscan Panzanella Salad
337 cal, 557mg sodium, 6g fiber

Mediterranean Plate
398 cal, 803mg sodium, 3g fiber
The numbers listed here are for the regular pita bread, but I don’t see why you couldn’t ask for the whole grain pita instead, which doubles the fiber and reduces the sodium and saturated fat.

Lettuce Wraps with Chicken (1/2 order)
356 cal, 787mg sodium, 4g fiber
Ask them to go easy on the soy ginger sauce to cut down on the sodium, and don’t eat the bed of noodles.

Lettuce Wraps with Shrimp (1/2 order)
348 cal, 849mg sodium, 4g fiber
Ask them to go easy on the soy ginger sauce to cut down on the sodium, and don’t eat the bed of noodles.

Tuscan Hummus with Whole Grain Pita (1/2 order)
421 cal, 650mg sodium, 7g fiber
I wrestled with where to put this one: The higher calories are offset by the relatively-lower sodium and higher fiber.  Be sure to get the whole grain pita (I doubt it’s 100% whole grain, but it’s has twice the fiber as the “traditional” pita, which is a good sign).

Sesame Ginger Chicken Dumplings (1/2 order)
163 cal, 782mg sodium, no fiber

“Small Cravings” & Appetizers – Worst Choices

Spicy Chicken Tinga Quesadilla X
455 cal, 953mg sodium, 1g fiber

Korean BBQ Steak Tacos
454 cal, 645mg sodium, 9g fiber

White Corn Guacamole & Chips
362 cal, 759mg sodium, 7g fiber

The Wedge Salad
275 cal, 340mg sodium, 1g fiber
By the numbers, this one looks decent — until you realize it’s just a wedge of iceberg lettuce doused with blue cheese dressing.

Tortilla Spring Rolls: Mediterranean (1 roll) X
346 cal, 968mg sodium, 4g fiber

Tortilla Spring Rolls: Baja Chicken (1 roll) X
318 cal, 907mg sodium, 5g fiber

Tortilla Spring Rolls: Thai Chicken (1 roll) X
448 cal, 898mg sodium, 4g fiber

Spinach Artichoke Dip (1/2 order!)
437 cal, 621mg sodium, 4g fiber

Avocado Club Egg Rolls (2 rolls or 1/3 order)
391 cal, 506mg sodium, 1g fiber

Avocado Club Egg Rolls (3 rolls or 1/2 order) X
586 cal, 760mg sodium, 2g fiber

Lettuce Wraps with Chicken & Shrimp (1/2 order)
427 cal, 892mg sodium, 4g fiber
Ask them to go easy on the soy ginger sauce to cut down on the sodium, and don’t eat the bed of noodles.

Soups – Better Choice

Tuscan White Bean Minestrone (Cup)
157 cal, 383mg sodium, 3g fiber
It’s a rare soup that’s relatively low in sodium and calories. Bravo, CPK!

Soups – Worst Choices

Sedona Tortilla Soup (Cup)
324 cal,  724mg sodium, 4g fiber

Dakota Smashed Pea & Barley Soup (Cup)
189 cal, 714mg sodium, no fiber
How on earth does a soup made with peas, barley, and carrots have no fiber?

Salads – Better Choices

I’m listing the nutrition information for HALF Salads. They also offer a fat-free vinagrette dressing upon request, which has 106 calories and 218mg sodium per 1.5 ounce serving.

The better choices are under 600 calories and 700mg sodium.  Green checks go to those under 500 & 500.

Roasted Vegetable Salad, no meat
297 cal, 396mg sodium, 8g fiber

Field Greens, no extras
499 cal, 403mg sodium, 7g fiber

Roasted Vegetable Salad, with Shrimp
393 cal, 620mg sodium, 8g fiber

Classic Caesar, no meat
277 cal, 515mg sodium, 4g fiber

Classic Caesar, with Sauteed Salmon
506 cal, 661mg sodium, 4g fiber

Roasted Vegetable Salad, with Sauteed Salmon
527 cal, 501mg sodium, 8g fiber

Roasted Vegetable Salad, with Chicken
537 cal, 885mg sodium, 8g fiber

Thai Crunch Salad
581 cal, 438mg sodium, 8g fiber

Salads – Worst Choices

Remember, numbers are for HALF salads!

Original BBQ Chicken Chopped
576 cal, 785mg sodium, 6g fiber

Original Chopped, no Garbanzos X
471 cal, 1097mg sodium, 3g fiber

Original Chopped, with Garbanzos X
501 cal, 1167mg sodium, 4g fiber

CPK Cobb Salad, with Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing
512-538 cal, 757-810mg sodium, 5g fiber
Ranch is slightly lower in calories and sodium. Adding beets adds about 20 calories and 30mg sodium.

Classic Caesar, with Grilled Chicken Breast
511 cal, 799mg sodium, 4g fiber

Classic Caesar, with Grilled Shrimp
372 cal, 823mg sodium, 4g fiber

Chinese Chicken Salad
376 cal, 1254mg sodium, 5g fiber

Miso Shrimp Salad X
573 cal, 1120mg sodium, 9g fiber

Miso Salad (substitute Chicken) X
555 cal, 997mg sodium, 9g fiber

Moroccan Chicken Salad
616 cal, 478mg sodium, 10g fiber

Moroccan Chicken Salad, with Toasted Almonds
685 cal, 478mg sodium, 11g fiber

Waldorf Chicken Salad, with Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette X
743 cal, 932mg sodium, 8g fiber

Waldorf Chicken Salad, with Blue Cheese Dressing X
781 cal, 910mg sodium, 8g fiber

Thai Crunch Salad, with Avocado
704 cal, 443mg sodium, 13g fiber

Field Greens, with Gorgonzola Cheese
599 cal, 783mg sodium, 7g fiber

Field Greens, with Sauteed Salmon
728 cal, 549mg sodium, 7g fiber

Field Greens, with Grilled Shrimp
595 cal, 710mg sodium, 7g fiber

Menu Mondays are my recommendations for the most healthful options at chain restaurants. Although it may be tough to find “perfect” options when eating out, it’s important to choose “better” whenever possible, and I hope these guides will help make that easier for you.

indicates the “best-of-the-best,” and X indicates the “worst-of-the-worst,” more or less.

See Also: Healthy Choices at CPK, Part 2: Pizza, Pasta, and the Kids Menu

CPK Nutrition Information (PDF).

Photo by contrasts.

A photo of Andrew Wilder leaning into the frame and smiling, hovering over mixing bowls in the kitchen.

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Robyn Majewski
October 29, 2012 10:50 am

It is really not clear in CPK’s and your nutritional info for some of the salads (the grilled veggie salad for one) whether the dressing is included or not. It is difficult for me to believe that the grilled veggie salad is 600 calories without the dressing. The salad contains about 80%+ lettuce. There is a 1/3 of an avocado, if that, and a tablespoon or so of sun-dried tomato along with a hand full of other, less calorie-filled veggies. The veggies also did not appear to be doused in any oil.

August 15, 2012 1:12 pm

Does the information for each half salad include dressing or no? I only ask because I got half the thai crunch salad today with the dressing on the side and barely touched it; I just want to make sure that the calorie count did/ did not include dressing.

July 2, 2011 5:53 pm

We just ate at CPK two nights ago, and I am VERY sorry to say that they have taken that great minestrone off of the menu. So much for the “bravo”… 🙁 They’ve also removed calorie counts from the menu. I don’t think they’re moving in the direction of more health emphasis.

June 20, 2011 12:37 pm

Happy to find a loso soup here…So difficult, usually. We have learned to order ALL salad dressings on the side…I have been known to sneak a Meyer lemon into restaurants.