5 Insider Secrets on Choosing a Healthy Salad Dressing
By Alyssa Kessel, RDN, LD, Expert Dietitian
Almost every dietitian recommends eating more salads, right? Unfortunately, this leads many people to believe that salads are inherently healthy, but that’s not always the case. It’s usually a surprise to my patients when I tell them that it’s not just about what goes in your salad; what’s more important is what goes on your salad.
There are a lot of salad dressing options out there that are full of sugar, calories, fat, and preservatives. So today, I’m going to share some of my best tips on picking out the best salad dressings.
It’s a simple trick, but it’s the best one. Look at the ingredient list to see what exactly is in the dressing. Remember, the fewer ingredients, the better. I suggest looking for oils, vinegar, and water as the first three ingredients. Oils will give you heart-healthy fats, and the vinegar and water won’t add any extra calories.
Fresh herbs and spices are also great. They add delicious flavors without needing to add those long, chemical words you often see on processed dressings and foods. Skip those preservatives in favor of fresh herbs and spices!
2. Check the portion size
After reading the ingredients, check out the listed portion size. Most dressings are going to be around two tablespoons per serving, but some may only be one tablespoon per serving. Knowing the portion size will help you calculate how many nutrients (and calories) will be in each bottle, and how much you should use on your salad.
Creamy dressings are often packed full of calories and fat. That fat comes from saturated fat sources, which can be harmful to the heart. To reduce this fat content, manufacturers created “fat-free” dressings. Unfortunately, a lot of sugar and preservatives are then added in to make these dressings taste good.
Avoiding fat-free dressings will be more beneficial to your heart and overall health. Choose dressings that are oil-based. These dressings also use fats, but they use the heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
4. Look at the nutrient content
You want to aim for around 120 calories per serving of your dressing. Remember that you should be aware of those added sugars. Many manufacturers add them to make the dressing sweeter, but you want to stay under 3 grams of sugar per serving.
5. Measure out your servings
Even if you’re choosing a healthy salad dressing, it’s still important to measure out how much you’re actually using. I recommend buying a measuring tool and scooping out the two tablespoons before adding it to your salad. You’ll probably be surprised that a little bit can go a long way!
Bonus tip: Make your own dressing
The best way to ensure you’re eating a healthy salad dressing is to just make it at home. This can be a little intimidating at first, so here are some of my favorite recipes to get you started:
- Lemon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing by Wholefully
- Italian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing by Taste of Home
- Honey Mustard Salad Dressing by Wholefully
- Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing by Culinary Hill
- Greek Salad Dressing by Little Broken
The 3 best store-bought brands
For those of you who would rather buy a dressing than make it, here are my three favorite brands:
- Tessamae’s Green Goddess: It’s packed full of flavor, with herbs, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and sunflower oil.
- Bolthouse Farms: These dressings are a great alternative to traditional creamy dressings. The yogurt-based products help keep the fat and calories low. I love the Ranch, Blue Cheese, and Honey Mustard styles!
- Primal Kitchen’s Lemon Tumeric: Another brand with a variety of great flavors. The Lemon Turmeric is made from avocado oil, apple cider vinegar, and turmeric. If you love sweet and sour flavors, you’ve got to check this one out.
Hopefully, these tips will help you feel more confident at the grocery store when picking healthy salad dressings – or getting ingredients to make your own. As always, if you have any questions about creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself, give us a call at 513-791-9474 or check out our weight loss program for more information.