Salad dressing can make your salad so much nicer to eat but the problem is that there are quite a few pitfalls when looking for high-quality salad dressings in the store. These fall into four categories: serving size, added sugars, less-than-great oils, and other extra ingredients that can be problems.
Most purchased salad dressing have about 2.5 grams of carbs per tablespoon
Salad dressing is one of those foods where we tend not to notice how much we're putting on, and thus "rounding error" can enter in. For example, 1½ grams of carbohydrate per serving is reported as one gram, which makes two servings three grams of carb. Also, if you're watching calories, they can add up fast.
One tip for keeping serving size reasonable: It turns out that it really only takes a small amount of an oil-based dressing to coat the leaves of a salad. The trick is to put a small amount in a bowl and toss the salad very well. This not only uses less oil, it tastes better when the salad has an even coating of dressing instead of being poured on the top.
It's quite surprising how much sugar and other carbohydrate can be added to salad dressings, so it pays to look at the label under Total Carbohydrate and also the ingredient list.
The best oils for salads dressings have high amounts of monounsaturated fats and low amounts of omega-6 fats. (Although omega-6 fat isn't at all a bad thing in and of itself, we tend to get too much in our diets.) Of the easy-to-find and reasonably-priced oils, olive oil is probably the best choice, at 73% monounsaturated fat and 9% omega-6. It also has other good-for-you nutrients. Canola oil has 59% monounsaturated fat and 20% omega-6. Soybean oil, the least expensive and most commonly-used oil, is 23% monounsaturated fat and 51% omega-6.
Again, a little is fine, but if you use a lot of salad dressing you'll want to steer away from soy oil.
Also, look carefully for partially hydrogenated fat, which is almost entirely trans-fat. Although most manufacturers have dropped this ingredient in salad dressings, it still in appears occasionally
Some people prefer to stay away from foods that have a long list of additives, either because they would prefer to eat foods closer to a natural state or because they don't trust ingredients they can't pronounce. Others find that dressings with a lot of strange ingredients simply don't taste as good, or have a texture that is off-putting. For example, there are quite a few salad dressings on the market whose first or second ingredient is water. Those dressings tend to have a lot of vegetable gums and other ingredients to add "body" back into the dressing. I find it harder to dress a salad with these "gloppier" dressings.
The Best Salad Dressing: Make Your Own!
It is incredibly easy to make your own salad dressing. You need:
- Vinegar or lemon juice
- Salt and Pepper
- Optional: Herbs, spices, fruit, other flavorings, mustard (mustard actually helps hold it together so it doesn't separate as easily.)
The ratio of oil to vinegar should be about 3 to 1. Shake it all together in a jar or whisk in a bowl. That's all there is to it.
To make a creamy dressing, start with mayonnaise and/or sour cream as a base, and add whatever flavorings you want. Herb mixtures often work well -- just check for sugar or extra carbs.
To get you started, here are some salads and salad dressing recipes:
1. Low-Calorie Red Pepper Salad Dressing
A one-of-a-kind salad dressing that uses no oil. Yes, that’s possible with this flavorful, low-fat salad dressing that combines the palatable taste of cider vinegar, apple juice, garlic, onions and roasted red peppers. Definitely, this is one healthy dressing that will jazz up each meal.
- ¼ cup of cider vinegar
- ¼ cup of apple juice
- 2 cloves of chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoon of chopped onions
- ½ tsp of mustard powder
- ½ tsp of dried oregano
- ½ roasted red pepper
- ½ teaspoon of paprika
- 1 pinch thyme
- 1 pinch rosemary
2. Smoky Sweet Paprika Dressing
Brighten up your salad or grilled eggplant with a unique recipe can't be found anywhere else. Made from smoke-dried red peppers, this smoked paprika gives your taste buds a distinctive earthy zest that combines flavorful ensemble of Dijon mustard, shallot, sherry vinegar and olive oil.
- 3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil, extra-virgin
- 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp paprika (smoked)
- ¼ tsp pepper, freshly grounded
3. Low Carb Blue Cheese Vegetable Dip and Dressing
Make your vegetable salad or greens relishing with this awesome salad dressing recipe that contains less than 1 gram of total carbohydrates.
- Mayonnaise, low sugar or homemade
- Sour cream
- Heavy cream
- Crumbled blue cheese
- Lemon juice
- Seasonings such as mustard and pepper
4. DIY Italian Salad Dressing
- Red wine vinegar
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Traditional Italian seasoning such as basil and oregano
- Artificial sugar substitute like sucralose
Ingredients (makes 6 servings, about ¾ cup):
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp mustard,
- ¼ cup extra virgin oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped herbs of choice (parsley, oregano, basil, chives, etc.)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Greek Lemon Garlic Dressing
- Sugar-Free Thousand Island Dressing
- Sweet and Sour Lime Dressing
- Warm Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing
Reference: Brown, Melody, Ferruzzi, et al. "Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings..." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 80.2 (2004):396-403
Original Article By Laura Dolson