What is the Healthiest Salad Dressing for Weight Loss?

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The earliest salad dressings were simply oil, vinegar, and spices used to perk up greens on the tables of ancient Babylonians. The English royals during Henry VIII’s reign ate cold salads with herb dressings. Modern salad dressings came on the scene at the turn of the 20th century, when Richard Hellmann began selling mayonnaise to customers in 1912 due to customer demand. Home cooks couldn’t get the same consistency with their own salad dressings, however, because refrigeration wasn’t widely available and ingredients were sometimes scarce.

Salad dressings added flavor to plain vegetables: bright citrus notes to complement bitter greens, spicy mustards to add zing to a plate, vinegar to improve digestion while adding a unique flavor. Chefs of the past experimented with basic ingredients to create interesting salads. Today’s salad dressings often get a bad rap for being calorie-laden and having little nutritional value. If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to eat healthier, salads are a great choice as long as you choose a healthy salad dressing.

Healthy salad dressings for weight loss

Traditionally, salads are a mixture of small pieces of vegetables, fruits, and/or meats. When you take the time to build a meal with healthy greens, bright carrots, delicious blueberries, and vibrant tomatoes, you don’t want to add high-fat dressings that inundate it with calories and salt. Why bury the nutritional value of the carefully selected low-calorie ingredients?

Finding a healthy dressing for your salad isn’t hard. Healthy dressings tend to be very basic and rely on few ingredients: a high-quality oil, a flavorful vinegar, spices, and herbs. The basic ratio for any vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part vinegar. A common blend is extra virgin olive oil and sherry vinegar. Change the oil to an avocado oil, rich with all sorts of benefits, and you’ve got a new flavor profile. Or find a balsamic vinegar that piques your interest for another great taste. With dozens of different vinegar and oil combinations, you’re sure to find something you like.

Oil and vinegar don’t mix very well, which is why many salad dressings use an emulsifying agent that makes the two come together better. If you’re making a homemade salad dressing, you can use a teaspoon of mustard, which adds a lot of flavor without fat or calories. A teaspoon or two of honey can transform walnut oil and balsamic vinegar into a dressing fit for a queen. For a creamier dressing, you can use Greek yogurt to blend the oil and vinegar.

Get inventive with other flavors to build an even larger collection of salad dressing variants: chop up some chives or parsley to add brightness to your oil/vinegar base, or include some garlic or shallots. Ginger root and soy sauce in a sesame oil and rice wine vinegar base will give you an Asian flavor profile, or switch to a neutrally flavored oil, such as canola, with an apple cider vinegar and lime juice base combined with some chilis or jalapenos for a Mexican flair.

Making your own dressing is healthier because you know exactly what goes into the dressing, with you having complete control over the flavors and quality. There are no preservatives, and you can make small batches for one or two days of salads so that you never get tired of the same dressing by swapping out the seasonings.

Vinegar has a long shelf life because it’s very acidic. Some types of balsamic vinegar age for 25 years before they go on your table, so you don’t have to worry about most brands going bad! Healthy oils have a shorter lifespan, but if you store them properly, you’ll get quite a few salads out of a bottle for far less than you would if you paid for specialty salad dressings.

The convenience of store-bought dressings

Not everyone has the time to make a salad dressing every time they eat. Don’t just reach for the same bottle of dressing that you always do, though: find a dressing that is low-calorie, low-fat and low-sodium. You may also want to check the amount of sugar in the dressing before pouring it over your healthy salad. Some of the healthiest options available today include:

  • Ken’s Steakhouse Lite Raspberry
  • Riverhouse Blue Cheese
  • Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Wish-Bone House Italian
  • Kraft Fat-Free Catalina
  • Ken’s Dijon Honey Mustard
  • Newman’s Own Low-Fat Sesame Ginger

Tips for choosing a healthy dressing

When you’re shopping for a salad dressing, read the label! Ideally, your salad dressing should not have more than 45 calories per tablespoon. Look for fewer than 5 grams of sugar per serving, and read the ingredients: the first few listed should be ones that you recognize. Avoid trans fats and saturated fats, and look for avocado, canola, peanut, or olive oil.

When you’re using salad dressing, measure it out. Two tablespoons (one serving) can easily become four tablespoons or more, which adds calories and fat to your healthy salad. Put your salad in a large bowl and mix the dressing throughout the salad to let it coat every ingredient. Or dip your fork in the salad dressing before taking a bite. You don’t want to use too much dressing to negate your good efforts!

Final Thoughts

Salad dressing adds satisfying flavors to plain vegetables. Don’t be afraid to kick up your salad game by finding flavorful dressings to keep your taste buds excited! Experiment with different vegetables: roast beets or eggplants to add to your salad, or try new vegetables that add lots of color and interest to your plate. Include fruits in your salad, even: blueberries make great additions without adding a lot of calories. 

Shop for seasonal vegetables for the most flavor, and buy local produce whenever possible. The sooner the produce gets to your table once it has been harvested, the more flavor and nutrition you’ll get out of it. Frozen vegetables can add interest if fresh produce isn’t available, though. Use a lot of different textures in your salad to make it even more interesting.

Make your diet healthier by eating more salads! Just remember to keep it interesting, keep it fun, and keep it tasting great. There’s no end to the possibilities if you’re willing to put in a little effort.

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