|Lovely photo, thank you Lisa|
I have a longtime client who has maintained a 20-pound weight loss for almost ten years. She’s savvy when it comes to food ingredients, she orders wild salmon from Vital Choice and knows to BYOC (bring your own chicken) so she doesn’t have to eat the antibioticy option at the salad bar at work. She was in my office for a check-in recently and we reviewed her daily routine. “Speaking of that salad, how are you dressing it?” I asked. “I use Newman’s,” she answered. I raised my eyebrows and told her “you can do better than that.” “I know most dressing is bad but even Paul Newman’s”?
I mean no disrespect to the deceased and truly admire the charitable work Newman’s Own has done. Yet their dressings have up to two teaspoons of sugar (1 teaspoon= 4 grams) per two tablespoon serving. This isn’t meant to single out any one brand, this holds for all salad dressings. I’m sure some of you will say that one to two teaspoons of sugar isn’t that big of a deal. The issue is that sugar doesn’t have to be there. Furthermore, this is really an example of a food that could be two to three real ingredients and instead has 20 scary ones (to be clear, Newman’s steers clear of the scary ingredients). Sugar, HFCS or artificial sweeteners aren’t the only issues; salad dressings are preservative playgrounds.
Here are some of the ingredients you’ll find in salad dressing. I can always tell a troublesome ingredient because spell check doesn’t recognize it.
- Natamycin: acts as a preservative or antifungal
- Calcium Disodium EDTA: preservative; prevents air from spoiling food products, known to cause skin reactions and GI upset. It us currently under investigation by the FDA for mutagenic or reproductive effects.
- Carmel color: food coloring known to be a carcinogen and immunosuppressive
- Autolyzed yeast extract: texture, taste
- Sulfur dioxide: preservative
- Sodium Benzoate: preservative, one of the ones research links to hyperactivity and behavior problems in children
- Soybean Oil- much of the soybean oil used in dressings is genetically modified
- Xantham gum: used to add volume and viscosity; it’s not necessarily harmful carbohydrate used in a lot of gluten-free products, but do we need to be adding carbohydrate to our salad dressings?
I’m just not sure why anyone would want to ruin a perfectly healthy meal pouring junk on top.
How much dressing do people typically use?
The serving size listed on bottles is two tablespoons. Most people report using one to two tablespoons but are these people really measuring? A pour could end up being double that amount especially with the gargantuan salads many places serve. Also, some people think they are doing themselves a favor by ordering the dressing on the side then using the “dipping” technique. While this does allow you to control how much dressing you use on your salad, be careful not to dip the entire amount they give you on the side as it often exceeds what they would have otherwise put on the salad to begin with!
When I embark on a mission to get clients to DIY with food, I know I’m going to have to engage in the time debate. When it comes to dressing, I’m going to win with debate. Go into your kitchen or work cafeteria, pour some olive oil and squeeze a lemon wedge or two. If you say that took more than a minute you’re lying or live in a much larger house than I do.
Easy Lemon Vinaigrette
1 small jar (I use leftover Zoe tuna jars)
1 lemon (lemons produce three to four Tbs. juice)
Olive Oil (double the amount of lemon juice)
Salt (optional) and Pepper
Salt (optional) and Pepper
Squeeze lemon juice in jar, add oil and shake. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. That’s it.
You can add lemon zest, Dijon mustard, parsley or basil or a minced clove of garlic. I also love experimenting with vinegars (fig, apple cider, balsamic). The point is that’s it’s easy, tastes better and saves you from ingesting sugar and preservatives.
At restaurants you can ask for olive oil and lemon on the side or olive oil and vinegar. To quote Kelly Clarkson, whose salad dressing habits I know nothing about, “oh sweetheart put the bottle down.”
Do you own bottled salad dressing? Would you consider ditching it? How is your salad dressed?
Crazy that they add so many ingredients to salad dressings when so few are actually needed to make a flavorful dressing. My favorite combo is balsamic vinegar + oil. Sometimes I use mashed avocado + lemon juice as a dressing. Once in awhile I'll buy Trader Joe's champagne pear vinaigrette or cranberry walnut gorgonzola =) YUM =) There is 4 grams of sugar in the pear dressing and 5 grams of sugar in the cranberry (2 Tbsp = 1 serving). So about a tsp. of sugar in each… although I don't use 2 Tbsp. of dressing–only about 1. Look at me justifying my bottled dressing haha!
Mmmm. I am going to make that dressing! I love making my own. I love mixing and matching ingredients, playing with herbs, drawing from other cultures. Thank you for a new recipe!
My favorite – O.O, balsamic, dijon mustard, dash of lemon, and herbs – blended so it gets frothy. Very delish.
Lisa, c'mon you can create your own pear vinaigrette (with chia no less), would you ever put 1 tsp sugar in your salad? Cameo- love your dressing the one listed is a easier/quicker version of yours. We could've done a hurricane dressing contest :0
I usually dress my salad with a simple vinaigrette. I also like using fresh salsa as a dressing. Or tomato/basil/almond pesto (tomatoes, basil, almonds, a little olive oil, salt, pepper).
Salsa is another great idea, I figured you didn't use the bottled stuff Andrea- not with all your good CSA stuff.
I didn't like salad until I learned to make my own dressings. The viscous texture and cloying sweetness of bottled dressings gross me out. I like a very simple vinaigrette like others described above, or sometimes just a splash of flavored vinegar is fine. Dressings are too easy to make to have to purchase.
That dressing sounds tasty and simple enough that maybe I will ditch the bottle. Thanks for this post! Perfect.
Mare- I'm with you the texture (and taste) of bottled dressings taste fake and nasty to me. Amy- yay yay for ditching the bottle. Report back after you experiment.
I love making my own dressings at home! I will say my 'go-to' dressing in a bottle is the Maple Grove Farms of Vermont fat-free Ceasar. Less than 1g of sugar per serving (although sodium is high). No scary ingredients. It's good for 'in a bind' 🙂
I make my own salad dressing all the time…it's so easy. I sometimes add 1 tsp of sugar to the mix, but it's for my entire recipe, NOT one serving. If I use a bottle it's Drew's All Natural Rosemary Balsamic (<1 gram sugar/serving). I think it's just a matter of getting used to a less sweet taste. It takes a little time, but once you do get used to it, you can't go back! Kind of like when you switch from regular Peanut Butter to the natural kind.
This is very helpful! I don't really like salad, in part because it's hard to find a healthy-ish salad dressing that I enjoy. I don't know why I've never thought of making my own.
Madeline- agree there are some better ones but I still think making your own is way to go. As Danielle pointed out, even if you add a little maple syrup, agave or sugar to dressing it can be a spoonful per cup. It's funny Danielle, I don't know if people find the salad dressing switch as hard as the PB one. I think the flavor of fresh basil or good olive oil wins. Stephanie- there are no rules use any herbs, vinegars, citrus you like and let me know how it goes.
Lauren, great post! I just found a recipe in my local paper, the Advocate, for a dressing called "Hollyhock" which I'm going to make tonite:
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce (I'll use low sodium wheat free tamari)
1/3 cup water
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes (my favorite ingredient ever!)
1 cup olive oil
Emulsify in food processor for 30 seconds.
I'll let you know how it turns out!
Great post! This is often something I struggle with my clients.
They automatically assume the healthier choice is a salad but then they tell me what kind and how much dressing they are using.
I love this light dressing you mentioned. Delicious!
I ALWAYS make my own dressing at home (EVOO, Balsamic, splash lemon/lime, dijon mustard) SOO GOOD!
ps– WHERE do you find the Zoe tuna? I always look at Fairway and never see it?
I like Penzey's Green Goddess dressing mix, but most of the time I make my own like this: I cut up my tomato first. I let it sit while I chop my other vegetables. Then I add a tablespoon of sour cream to the tomatoes and I toss – the liquid from the tomatoes mixes with the sour cream. Then I sprinkle on some herbs – make Penzeys' Pasta Sprinkle or some caraway seeds and ground pepper. Yum
Einat, your dressing sounds great. Zoe near other tuna at fairway, citarella, whole foods in a jar. I like tonnino too (lots of places have even your better delis). I love penzey's Caron (their cinnamon is one of my staples, not in salad ha) also like the Eden Gomasaio seasoning which I just found out about this summer.
I don't care for salad dressing actually. I'd much rather have olive oil or salsa on the side. I do have a particular weakness for Cheesecake Factory's basalmic vinagrette though…and they serve it in a trough. Literally.
Surprised Ameena, seems lots of commenters either don't love bottled dressing or don't love dressing (like you). With Cheesecake factory they need a trough of dressing to keep up with the enormous salads. You don't strike me as a Cheesecake Factory gal.
I am sending this to my dad at this very moment! I went to visit him for dinner the other day and we were talking about eating healthfully and he mentioned his daily salad…and then his dressing…this is a much healthier alternative!
Thanks Lauren, I think so many people think there's nothing wrong with a bottled vinaigrette. There are countless DIY options using sesame oil or fresh ginger but I kept it simple so people would give it a try.
I can't remember the last time I bought bottle salad dressing! I dress my salads with lemon juice, olive oil, a bit of salt & pepper, and lots of fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, chives and mint. No need for dressing when you add fresh & healthy flavors!
Agreed, cilantro and mint especially. And we left out basil.
I' sooo…..with you on this! Homemade salad dressing is SO much better than any store bought, and SO easy like you said. If you're on a gluten-free diet, so much the better, so you don't have to decipher which salad dressing ingredients might have gluten in them. My "go-to" dressing is EVOO, balsamic vinegar, sometimes a hint of dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. I also have a yummy Greek dressing with lemon juice and oregano that I make. Great post!
I like my salad dressing to compliment the flavor of my salad – not overpower the veggies. I typically combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard and I swear every time I bring a salad to a party people comment on how good the dressing is! Great post.
Thanks EA, thanks Caitlin I'm so proud to have so many DIY dressing commenters. I feel there are a lot of covert bottled dressing fans. We should spread the word.
I'll admit that I've been using Newman's lately. I used to make my own raspberry vinaigrette but as I've gotten more into couponing I couldn't resist stocking up on bottles since they were so cheap, haha. Thanks for putting this into perspective, I'll have to start making my own again!
I have to do the math but I would bet making raspberry vinaigrette may be cheaper than the bottle with a coupon.
As always, great topic! I LOVE LOVE LOVE homemade salad dressings! You just can't beat them! My favorite: lemon juice, oilive oil, garlic (must be in ALL my dressings and lots of it), parsley, salt, and pepper. Simple, yet SO satisfying! I recently got my hubby OFF Ken's ranch (it was a triumph!) with a dressing of balsamic, apple cider vinegar, agave (yes, sugar), garlic, dijon, olive oil, and s+ p. Even though it has sugar, I don't care! Much better than KEn's!
This is a really informative post. I always knew there were a ton of extraneous ingredients in bottled salad dressing but now I know exactly what they are. I, personally, am not a fan of salad dressing. I usually just squeeze some lemon juice and pepper on top. Works well for me.
This is a fantastic article! I often opt for balsamic but still keep store dressings for guests. I am thinking I'll rid my fridge of this…
Melanie, your guests deserve the best. Kudos for dumping the dressing. Yes!
I've always been a big balsamic vinegar person. I recently discovered a great combination: a little bit of olive oil, a little bit of high-quality honey mustard, and rice wine vinegar (plus sea salt and pepper). I often add cilantro or pickled ginger (sold in a jar in the Asian section of Whole Foods). It works well with all sorts of salads, including my staple bases of kale and arugula. I could eat it at every meal!
Funny thing is I don't really use many salad dressings because I don't like salad haha. I do love vinegar and oil and tend to use those two on the rare occasion I do have a salad.
Oh you are a picky eating RD. I guess you get the pass, at least you don't use bottled dressing!
so agree hate those bottles 🙂
I saw a warning sign at Trader Joes that their Balsamic vinegar bottle contains lead (CA Prop 65 warning). I only use vinegar in clear glass bottles now: ACV, raspberry – my favorite, cherry etc… I'll sometimes add blue cheese, or a pressed garlic clove when using ACV since it does not taste much. And I love the Dijon mustard with whole seeds. You remind me I should include lemon juice more often – so easy as I have a lemon tree in my backyard.
Lead in the bottle or the vinegar? I haven't heard that uh oh.
I dunno, I use bottled salad dressings because I rarely eat salads. I prefer the balsamic vinaigrette from Kraft, which I know isn't so great for me, but I don't use a lot at all and I don't use it often. I normally put it in a little 1 ounce cup (and barely fill it) and then put blueberry balsamic vinegar on my salad first, to wet it, then use the dressing as extra flavor. I think 1 tsp. isn't an issue, have you seen some of the others out there with 4-5 tsp? If my client can stick to the 1tsp sugar dressings, I'd be happy! As long as they also stick to the serving size.
Gina, I bet fresh herbs/good oil and mustard would yield better flavor. Blueberry balsamic sounds delicious. I looked up Kraft and was surprised their ingredients aren't as bad as the others. I am not a conventional soybean oil fan myself. I find 1 tsp of sugar (or maple syrup my favorite in dressing) can be used in a cup or many servings of dressing if you make your own.
Blueberry balsamic? I have not heard of this and now I must investigate! I am a somewhat recent convert to making my own dressing – I used to think it was too much effort but about a year ago I made some salad recipe that included homemade dressing and it was very easy so now I do it almost exclusively (except when I'm eating out, which is not that much for salads). I like something similar to what you posted – olive oil, some lemon juice, dijon mustard, minced garlic, and a little salt/pepper. I don't even take the time to measure it out – just eyeball it. And you can make it once and keep it around for several days. I totally agree with you that while a couple teaspoons of dressing might not seem that bad, it's a totally unnecessary source of sugar and other fake food-type ingredients. And I think a lot of dressings are pretty high in sodium too.
It seems that lead is in the balsamic vinegar itself, not the bottle:
Just made a salad and used your quickie recipe–PERFECT!
I get migraine headaches from the many preservatives in food these days. The latest culprit – blue cheese dressing. It's in other foods too, from soup to crackers, etc. I have to be careful to read food labels.