Bottled sauces are full of nasties
Next time you’re grocery shopping, turn over a bottle of salad dressing to check the ingredient list. Chances are, you are going to be shocked at what you discover; line-after-line of ingredients, some quite difficult to pronounce, and others that might really disappoint you. Many dressings use copious amounts of canola, soybean, corn, and other inexpensive and heavily processed oils. The higher quality, heart-healthy oils, such extra virgin olive oil, are very low on the ingredient list, if included at all! Additionally, gums, preservatives, and emulsifiers (to keep the oil from separating from the rest of the product) are commonly added to make your dressing “shelf stable.”
Healthy dressing basics
Well what if you are more interested in healthy ingredients and phenomenal flavor than a cheap dressing that can sit unrefrigerated on a shelf for a year? Have no fear, there are plenty of delicious recipes that you can make from scratch using things you probably already have in your cupboard!
A high-quality salad dressing contains three main components:
- A flavorful acid (think freshly squeezed lemon juice or red wine vinegar)
- A healthy fat (perhaps omega-3 rich flax oil or avocado oil)
- and lastly, flavor enhancers like herbs, spices, salt, or a little honey.
Steer clear of dressings that use heavy ingredients like sour cream, mayonnaise, or cheese as its base (such as Ranch, Thousand Island, or Bleu Cheese) if you want to avoid excess saturated fat and calories that don’t have the same health promoting benefits as the oils mentioned above.
Think outside the box
Speaking of health promoting benefits, think outside of the box when it comes to additions to the dressing. If you have a food processor at home, you have endless possibilities for fruits and vegetables that can become a salad dressing. Try blending a sweet Valencia orange with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and two Tablespoons of olive oil for a delicious, tangy dressing for massaged kale. If you want to dress a southwestern salad, blend a tomatillo, avocado, cilantro, and lime juice. Add garlic salt to taste and enjoy with black beans, corn, and tomatoes on top of romaine lettuce!
Nature is full of delicious ways to spice up bland, boring salads. Experiment with fresh herbs, nut butters, seeds or anything else that you have on hand. Some delicious additions to a simple vinagrette can include fresh basil, poppy seeds, tahini, or fresh chives! Be choosy with bottled salad dressings and remember that just because a product is promoting you to eat more salad, doesn’t mean it’s a healthy choice!
For some salads with homemade recipe dressings check out our Healthy Recipes section or the examples below: