Salads are a great option for summertime meals, especially if you load them up with healthy ingredients that fuel your body with vitamins and minerals. But in addition to focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables for your salads, it’s also important to consider the salad dressing you’re using to top it off. Just the salad dressing itself can add hundreds of unnecessary calories and many grams of fat to an otherwise very healthy lunch or dinner.
Here’s a look at the problem with standard, commercial salad dressings and how to make your own healthier versions at home.
Types of Salad Dressing
Many salad dressings are mayonnaise-based to add a smooth, creamy texture and flavor to leafy greens. Mayonnaise is typically made with vegetable oil, eggs, vinegar, and lemon juice. Other creamy salad dressings are made with blue cheese, buttermilk, and sour cream. French, Italian, and Russian salad dressings can give your salads a tangier flavor, while mustard-based salad dressings can be spicy, smooth, or tart. For a lighter dressing, olive oil can be mixed with vinegar and used to make a vinaigrette.
The Problem with Many Salad Dressings
Many creamy salad dressings are problematic because they contain high amounts of sodium and fat, plus lots of extra calories that reduce the health benefits of the vegetables you are eating. Commercial salad dressings that you buy from the grocery store shelf are often packed with artificial ingredients and preservatives so that they maintain a desirable color and last longer. You may also be getting an unwanted dose of added sugar in your bottled salad dressing if you don’t read the label carefully. If you’re trying to eat healthy and natural, some of the worst salad dressings to choose are ranch, thousand island, blue cheese, and Caesar.
Healthier Salad Dressing Alternatives
To make your salad healthier, one of the best things you can do is start with extra virgin olive oil. The best ratio to use for an olive oil and vinegar dressing are three parts oil to one part vinegar. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, shake the mixture in a jar until fully combined, and allow it to sit at room temperature for about half an hour to let the flavors blend together.
White wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar can be mixed with olive oil to adjust the taste. Other ingredients that you add to this simple mixture include a squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of honey, and fresh herbs, such as parsley or thyme.
For variety, you can also try these salad dressing alternatives for healthy and delicious options that you can feel good about:
- Squeeze of citrus juice