Most people would never even consider having a salad without the dressing. Go to any salad bar, and you’re probably going to judge it on the strength of dressing alone. Whether you reach for something white and rich, yellow and flavorful or a vinaigrette packed with herbs, salad dressing is hurting you. It may seem essential, but if you just stop eating it altogether you’re not going to miss salad dressing very much at all.
Even just a little bit of salad dressing can turn a very healthy meal into a calorie-packed festival of extra fat. One tablespoon of French dressing, for example, is around 70 calories. One tablespoon. That’s the same amount of calories you get in 14 cups of lettuce. Ranch and blue cheese dressing are even worse, and that healthy vinaigrette option probably isn’t as healthy as you think.
Vinaigrette dressing is really no better than any other type of salad dressing on the table. A single tablespoon of vinaigrette averages about 70 calories. Plain vinegar, on the other hand, is very low in calories. It’s when oils are added that salad dressings go way up in their unhealthy content. However, vinegar is highly acidic. This can cause wear on the enamel of your teeth, and some people cannot tolerate a high amount of acid in their daily diet for health reasons.
What Else is in Your Dressing?
Salad dressings are typically made with what are considered to be “good” or healthy fats, such as soybean oil, but they’re also packed with stuff that’s not so good. Sodium, preservatives, sugars and trans fats are often added to salad dressings as well. This all adds up to be pretty unhealthy, which is directly at odds with the lettuce and vegetables that salad dressings are most often paired with.
Looking at Labels
Even so-called “light” dressings are packed with sodium and sugar, and many of them are higher in calories than you want. Don’t assume bottles that say “fat-free” are good for you. Many dressings, even those that claim to be fat-free or low in calories, are packed with corn syrup. Take a long look at the labels on dressing to see how big the serving size is, how many calories you’re adding and how much sodium and sugar the dressing contains.
If you truly want to eat healthy, stop using salad dressing altogether. There are other ways you can add lots of flavor to salads. Instead of dressing, add salt, pepper and other spices to your salad. Garlic salt is extremely flavorful. Add the spices that you like, and enjoy flavor in every bite.
You can also add a little bit of feta cheese to dress your salad. Feta cheese is high in protein and low in calories when used in moderation, and it packs a lot of healthy flavor. Give your salad moisture with the addition of fresh onions, peppers and tomatoes, all of which have natural juices and all of which are very low in calories. Juicy chicken or turkey can also do the trick. Toss some fresh berries and melon into your salads to give them more moisture and flavor for a fraction of the calories you’ll get with salad dressing.
Try a few salads without dressing, and you’ll find that you don’t really miss all those extra calories, sodium and sugars.