There is no question that increasing our intake of vegetables and fruit is important for health, energy, weight management, disease prevention, digestion, immunity…shall I go on?
Having a salad is one of the easiest ways to include vegetables into your lifestyle ( and it does not have to be boring, see our salad post, here )…but what about the dressing?
There are so many conflicting articles and information about what is good, what is bad, what not to eat, and what to eat more of. It is enough to confuse anyone, really!
Here are some tips on how to stay on the “safe side” when it comes to choosing a salad dressing at the grocery store:
1. Look at the ingredients. This is where my eyes go immediately whenever I purchase a salad dressing. If you are confused about what I am talking about, see nutrition facts labeling guide here.
2. What kind of fats? Many dressings you will find have oil as the first ingredient. That is to be expected. However, avoid any dressing (or other food for that matter) that have the words: “hydrogenated”, “partially hydrogenated”, “shortening”, or “interesterified” on the ingredients list. This is just a tricky way of saying “trans-fat”. Labeling laws do allow companies to include .5g/serving of trans-fat in any processed food without listing it and it still can be deemed, “trans-fat free”. Buyer beware!
3. Check the sodium. For overall heart health, the lower the sodium the better. Many labels that say “low-fat”, “lite”, or “fat-free” are often enhanced with salt and/or sugars to give the dressing back the flavor it is missing from the fat. In general, try to stay well below 200mg/serving and make sure the serving size is about 2 (or more) tablespoons not teaspoons.
4. Check the sugar. Like explained above, sugars are found in many salad dressings and can be under many different names (ie: “cane juice”, “corn sugar”, “high fructose corn syrup”, “maltose”, etc). With sugar, it is best to enjoy it in moderation and in its most natural form possible. Try to stay <5g/serving where possible or choose to use less of the dressing that is higher. (5 grams is roughly the amount of sugar in a level teaspoon).
5. How long is the ingredients list? A general rule is: “less is best”! The less ingredients, generally the closer to nature and the higher nutritional value it has.
6. Are the ingredients things you would find in your own cupboard? Do you recognize the ingredients? are they things you can pronounce? Find dressings that have ingredients that you would find in your pantry like: vinegars, oils, herbs, spices, garlic, citric juices, etc.
7. Better yet, make your own! Not only is it more healthy, but making your own dressing is very cost effective! here are some links to easy and delicious homemade salad dressing recipes….
- Tiny Step’s Basic Salad Dressing Formula
- Dr. Fuhrman’s salad dressing recipes
- Whole Living’s 10 salad dressing recipes for any salad
- Fit Sugar’s healthy homemade dressings
Grocery store brands that are generally okay (always check):
Annie’s Organic: found at most grocery stores and Sprout’s
Bragg’s: found at Sprout’s
Drew’s Organic: found at most grocery stores and Sprout’s
Whole Foods Market (various brands)
Trader Joe’s (various brands. My favorite currently is their Cilantro dressing)
What are some of your favorite dressings or dressing recipes?
Feel free to share in the comments below….