The Truth About Salad Dressing


Salad dressings can be preposterously high in fat and calories — high enough that choosing the wrong one all but defeats the purpose of eating a nutritious salad in the first place. Healthy-sounding dressings are found all over the supermarket, but beware because a fancy name can be deceiving.

Any dressing billed as creamy begs closer scrutiny, and this goes for low-fat dressings as well. Fat tastes good, which is why reducing fat content in dressing makes it taste, well, less tasty. To counter this, dressing makers may pile on sugar or oils that end up rivaling the amount of calories you get with blue cheese dressing!

Always check the nutrition label on the bottle, and as a rule of thumb, avoid any dressing that exceeds 100 calories per serving (figure that one serving equals two tablespoons). If you see the words “partially hydrogenated” anywhere on the ingredients list, it means the product contains trans fat, which is a definite no-no.

You can’t go wrong making your own light and delicious salad dressing. Start with flavorful vinegar such as balsamic, and mix in a dab of whole grain mustard along with a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese. The fat in the cheese creates an emulsion just like oil, but with nowhere near the same amount of calories and fat. Actually, this quick and easy recipe is a mere 30 calories per serving. For an even lighter and simpler option, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on your mound of greens.   

You can still opt for store-bought dressings, of course. Here are some great choices:

For those with a sweet tooth, try Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Raspberry Walnut Dressing. With only 60 calories in two tablespoons, this dressing is the perfect light accompaniment for a spinach or romaine salad. Throw in some walnuts (a great source of heart-healthy omega-3s) and some tart apple chunks for a boost of flavor and dietary fiber.

For an Asian-inspired salad, try Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing. This kosher dressing is more than delicious, and two tablespoons pack only 35 calories. Plus, Newman’s Own donates all of its profits to charities, so this product not only tastes good, but it does good, too. For a touch of tangy sweetness to compliment the dressing’s sesame and ginger flavors, add some mandarin oranges to your mixed greens.

If you cannot bear the thought of giving up ranch dressing, here’s a tasty compromise that will keep your calories in check: Wishbone Salad Spritzers Ranch Vinaigrette delivers lots of great ranch taste without weighing your salad down. A whopping 10 spritzes has only 15 calories and more than enough flavor to pump up a bowl full of greens and chopped veggies.

Annie’s Naturals Organic Papaya Poppy Seed dressing is another great option for health-conscious salad lovers. It tastes exotic and indulgent, yet a serving has only 90 sensible calories and eight grams of fat. This brand is also organic, gluten free and vegan.

If Greek salad is a staple in your diet, you’re not alone. Lighten up your Mediterranean meal with Kraft’s Greek Vinaigrette with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Two tablespoons contain only 50 calories and five grams of fat, so enjoy this with some fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and maybe a generous sprinkle of feta.