Salad Dressing and Are Any Healthy Eating Choices?

Updated on April 04, 2013
J.M. asks from Doylestown, PA
26 answers

OK so in my quest to eat healthier I've been eating salads like they're going out of style. Honestly I always did but I used to eat them with ceasar dressing, and apparently thats like eating a cheesteak. So what dressings aren't so bad for you?

it seems like all of the good ones/creamy ones are horrible, but even when i look up the balsamic vinagerette that seems bad. then it gets M. discouraged and wishing I J. got something tastier and less healthy like the buffalo chicken salad with blue cheese dressing ..yum!
so are salad dressings so unhealthy its J. better to leave them out and J. get a scoop of tuna salad (wait there's mayo in that too) on it instead for flavor?

I should have added. This is for when I'm at work i have these issues. i'm apparently too lazy to make my own lunch and its super cheap to buy it here discounted...cheaper then buying the ingredients and making it. they have 15 diferent kinds but they arent super healthy options it seems

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answers from Seattle on

I make my own. Super easy/cheap (s'why I started, couldn't afford Cardinis), and if you make a bunch, you can J. throw a bottle in the [email protected] feeling is this: anything that is 2 teaspoons... Even if it IS cheesecake... Isn't that bad for you.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

Years ago when I did Weight Watchers I asked a similar question and a woman suggested using my favorite dressing in a small amount and adding vinegar to it. This worked for M. because I really prefer ranch or creamy italian dressing. Now I also buy Ken's Lite Vidalia Onion, it's pretty thick so I do mix it with water to thin it a little but it still has lots of flavor.
I also love to have tuna in salad with the vidalia onion dressing!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Sarasota on

If you're not up for making your own, I really like the Bolthouse yogurt dressings. I also like Marie's balsamic vinaigrette. It has 4.5 grams of fat and 50 calories per 2Tbs serving. Both are found in the refrigerator section of the grocery.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I like the Neuman's salad dressings--all natural--in the salad dressing aisle.

Marie's in the refrigerated salad section of the grocery store are pretty good--they make yogurt-based ones so they aren't as fatty, and the carbs are pretty good too.--also all-natural

ETA: Does your work have a fridge? If so, J. get some good salad dressing at the store and keep it in their, with your name on it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Make your own to and vary it...Use 2 teaspoons of olive oil and then balsamic vineger or red wine vinegar. You need healthy oils in your diet anyway. The vinegars don't have calories and fat plus you'll get enough taste to make your salad interesting. I also, use olive oil (2tsp) and half of fresh squeezed lemon, salt and fresh ground pepper or Mrs. Dash.

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answers from Columbia on

It really is okay to allow yourself a little bit of healthy fats. It's the sugars you want to watch out for. Read the labels.

I don't really buy much dressing. You really don't need to. Make your own. Here's the balsamic vinagrette recipe I stole and adaped from Emeril Lagasse:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional*
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Put everything but the olive oil into a bowl and mix until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Then slowly add the olive oil, put into a screw top jar, and shake like the dickens. I usually replace the brown sugar with chopped fig and walnuts that I blend up to a paste in my food processor. DEEEEE-LISH! So good on spring greens.

Be sure to refrigerate.

I love a good balsamic vinagrette. Add a handful of low-sugar craisins for a real treat. Chopped apple too.

When I'm in the mood for creamy salad dressing, I use a couple of tablespoons of cottage cheese. I'm sure you could also use Greek yogurt for a tasty, tangy change.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Maple Grove Farms has a Fat-Free Balsamic (15 calories/serving) and a Fat-Free Honey Mustard (35 calories/serving) that are both really yummy and not terrible for you. Bolthouse Farms make a Honey Mustard (45 calories/serving) and a Raspberry Vinaigrette (30 calories/serving) that are also very yummy. If you're really craving creamy Caesar dressing, try mixing garlic and lemon in a plain, fat free Greek yogurt. It's lower in calories than dressing, fat free and packed with extra protein. You can still buy your salads at work, J. keep your own dressing in the fridge.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Can't you J. take small bottles of EVOO and balsamic vinegar for at your desk? Salt, pepper.

Do you have a Pampered Chef dressing carafe? VERY good Italian recipe on the side. You can measure, mix and pour all from that.

We rarely buy dressing. We always make our own oil/balsamic mix.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

I make my own with olive oil and garlic infused red wine vinegar!

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answers from Miami on

If you want to be super healthy, go with salt, pepper and a squirt of lemon juice. It's not as bad as you think if you have tons of varied veggies on the salad. Tomatoes and peppers have a really nice flavor with a touch of seasoning.

- skip anything cream based
- no cheese
- no croutons

Anything that in oil and vinegar based is going to be healthier than cream/cheese based. Don't dump a bunch on the salad (you can't control the portion size that way). Either put some in a cup and dip (a little) with each bite or put a little on your salad as you need it.

What would I do? Buy your own dressing (something that is low in calories) and keep it at work. It will take you a month to work your way through a bottle and you'll J. need to purchase the salad itself.

I like the Publix brand "Lite Ceasar" or the "Lite Raspberry Walnut". Read labels but AVOID anything that you can't "see through".

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Sadly we've gotten the whole "healthy" eating thing wrong. Think about it - we evolved eating full-fat meat, cheese, milk. Our brains are 70% fat - we need fat. Sugar, not so much - which is what low-fat dressing are full of. Google award winning science writer Gary Taubes (he point out we also need salt) or read a bit about his research on my blog: The Skinny on the Fat Lie
Enjoy your Caesar and blue cheese, avoid the high fructose corn syrup.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

For healthier salad dressings I make my own. I make Italian dressing with Olive oil. Olive oil is pretty good for you, and I add my own spices.

I also make my own ranch using Greek Yogurt. That's also good for you because of the probiotics.

Don't be afraid of salad dressing if they are made of good ingredients! J. make your own!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

When I Weight Watchers I ate Catalina Free Dressing. It was yummy and no calories or low. Check out the lights and free dressings they are better for you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Erie on

I use plain old fresh squeezed lemon on my salads! Refreshing and tastes fantastic.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You can make a big batch of your own dressing at home, store it in a bottle of some kind, and bring it to work. Hopefully there is a fridge where you can keep it. Actually, it probably doesn't even need to be refrigerated.

Making your own dressing is super easy. I J. mix extra virgin olive oil (healthy fat), balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, onion powder, and dijon mustard. About 3-parts oil to 1-part vinegar. The rest really depends on the particular products, and your personal taste. So J. experiment!

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answers from St. Louis on

if you can't make your own, then start reading the labels on the light & fat-free options. We use Kraft, Kens, & a few others. I read the labels very carefully, & look for low sugar content vs. low fat content. Sometimes that sugar content is very high on low fat dressings.

My niece created her own version of dressing which is excellent: equal parts fat-free honey Dijon & raspberry vinaigriette. Total yum!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Salsa, if salt is not an issue. I keep a jar at work at all times.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Try making some of your own. They can be simple or elaborate. A really simple one is olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and garlic powder! So easy.

Also, try balsamic and a bit of olive oil with some cranberries or mandarin oranges and a bit of feta.

Adding J. a little fat in the form of bacon bits, feta or egg can make a salad taste amazing.

And for something a little creamier. Out olive oil and vinegar in a jar. Let's say 2 parts vinegar, 1 part oil (if you want healthy, get used to vinegar - it's your friend). Then add some spices (garlic, basil, pepper) and then add a 1/2 teaspoon on mustard. It will keep it from separating. So will egg yolk but it won't stay fresh for long. You can make a batch and refrigerate.

And experiment with oils and balsamics. Some olive oils are J. plain gross. Some taste great and light. Try balsamic with fig (yum) but check for high sugar/calorie content.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Victoria on

Like one suggested, in the veggie/salad section there is Marie's brand, which I like the Ranch one. It has half the calories as normal ranch due to them using yogurt. It also has mostly real items in the ingredients.

Other healthier options are Organic ones. If you have a Whole Foods or other organic stores or stores with organic sections, check them out. Not only can you find healthier salad dressings with drastically fewer calories, but they normally have real items in the ingredients.

I have only made one salad dressing in my life, but I hope to make others. One that I enjoy (some won't) is to take 3 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1 teaspoon of hot sauce (like tabascoo or another brand), and the juice/zest of 1 lime. Mix those up and pour over salad. I tend to use less EVOO and more Lime juice & hot sauce because of the calories and I love hot sauce. The salad is also good with avacados, red onions and tomatoes. You can even make baked or grilled boneless/skinless chicken breasts for dinner and make sure to have left overs to put in your lunch salad.

Stay away from premade dressings with a lot of cane or artifical sugar. If you do not know the names of each kind of artificial sugar, then usually if the bottle says less sugar, no sugar, etc, then it probably has artifical sugar/sweeteners. Those sweetners are designed to make you addicted and thus, want more of the product as well as not get full. Also stay away from those with artifical dyes/colors. If you like strawberry jelly, there is zero reason for them to add red dye. Salad dressings do the same thing.

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answers from San Francisco on

Many ready made salad dressings aren't necessarily bad for you but most are high in calories, so if you are trying to lose weight, then yes, you should avoid them. I was sooo disappointed when I learned my favorite Trader Joes salad had as many calories as a cheeseburger, J. because of the stupid dressing and cheese!
Whole Foods has some great oil free, low calorie dressings, and if you do a google search you'll come across lots of low cal, healthy and tasty dressings that are easy to make yourself :-)

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answers from Chicago on

Ken's fat free versions of dressing are fantastic. If you're getting the little packs, they're 40 cal/pack, which is more than enough for a large salad.

I make "buffalo" chicken salad using a grilled chix breast (140), lettuce, 1/8 cup shredded cheddar (50 cal), Franks Red Hot sauce, and a packet of Ken's fat free ranch. YUM!!!

Also, McDonalad's Southwest Salad - grilled, and including their southwest dressing = 400 cals.

You J. have to read labels and pay attention to portion sizes. Cheese and meat (like ham) are terrible in your salad. Obviously anything fried is awful. Oil based dressing are high calorie because of the oil. Same with cream.

Try flavored olive oils, or measure out fat free options of your favorites. You want to keep you salad around 400 cals, give or take.

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answers from Wichita Falls on

Oils and fats do not mean it's unhealthy. In fact there are many vitamins and minerals that are fat soluble (i.e. they cant be absorbed without some kind of fat). Try making your own, then use only one serving, pouring on 1/2 a cup of any dressing will make it unhealthy, and toss the dressing into the salad instead of J. pouring it on top.

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answers from Tampa on

I read this trick when I was about 13... Order dressing on the side and don't pour it on your salad. Dip your fork into the dressing before stabbing a bite of salad. Typically you are given two separate tbsp portions of dressing with your salad. With this technique, I rarely eat any more than 1/2 of one.

I also like J. balsamic vinegar or lemon juice on salad depending on my mood. It's not listed on menus by itself but most kitchens have them and most servers will give this to you in lieu of dressing if you ask. I may be odd but I also love balsamic vinegar drizzled over salad with J. a touch of ranch on my fork :-)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

Honestly it's not the fat content I worry about. If you make your own dressing and use it sparingly a salad is very healthy.

My go to dressing is OO, balsamic, dried basil, S&P, an dollup of spicy mustard and a squeeze of honey. Shake it all up and toss lightly on almost any salad. I also make my own ranch, blue cheese and 1000 island which are higher in fat but much better for you than the bottle dressings.

Most bottled dressings are a hodge podge of chemical preservatives, flavorings and sweeteners, look at the label. When I make my own I know exactly what my family is eating and it tastes MUCH better too.

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answers from Kansas City on

I have to agree that Ken's low fat dressings are really good. That one is my favorite low fat Ranch. I think there is also a low fat blue cheese which would be good for your buffalo chicken salad! ;)Oil based dressings can have a lot of fat if you look at labels but you have to see what kinds of oils are in it. If it's olive oil, then it's at least healthy fat, but you still can't eat a ton of it.

There is also this brand, I can't remember the name but it is yogurt based. THey sell it in the produce section usually and those are also very tasty and quite low in fat.

I think if you focus on using less dressing, as well as healthier, that will help too. When you order a salad at a restaurant it has so much dressing usually that it ups the calories, when you could probably use half that amount and still enjoy your salad.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Instead of pouring salad dressing on, get the kind that you spray, on.
MANY salad dressings also come in a spray bottle. Less goes on that way but it still flavors the salad.
Or put the salad dressing in your own spray bottle thing.

It is the oil, that is "bad" for you... because even if it is Olive Oil (which is healthy), it is "fat."
There are different kinds of fats.... trans fats or not. Saturated fats or not.
So J. know the TYPES, of fats. So that you make the healthier, choice.

1 mom found this helpful
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