Ranking Salad Dressings From Most Healthy to Least Healthy

There's nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a variety of salad dressings. These days, you have a lot of options for giving salads a kick of flavor. What are the best healthy salad dressings?

The Healthiest Salad Dressings

These are my favorite dressings, and they won't add to your waistline:

  1. Vinaigrette: These dressings are full of flavor and focus on a few simple ingredients. What I love is the endless variety. You can go for balsamic vinegar, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar — even strawberries! And with basil, cilantro and other herbs, all I can say is “yum.”
  2. Green Goddess: It’s easy to find green goddess dressing made with a base of Greek yogurt. This gives you the creaminess you crave without the fat. Along with probiotics from the yogurt, you’re getting lots of vitamins from olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and green onions.
  3. Greek or Mediterranean Dressings: Think creamy Italian dressing, minus the cream. Many Greek dressings use avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil for thickness. Both of these oils give you lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins.
  4. Sesame Ginger: My kids love Asian-style dressings, and I think they spice up meals at home. Look for real garlic, ginger and rice wine vinegar in the ingredients, and try to keep sugar down with nut butter.
  5. Honey Dijon: Both Dijon mustard and honey make dressings thicker and smoother naturally. If you’re adding a salad to a meat-and-potatoes meal, try this dressing. The reason it's near the bottom is that you have to keep an eye on sugar and calories with store-bought versions.

The Least Healthy Salad Dressings

Basically, anything with the word “creamy” in its name is going to shock you into falling backwards when you look at the fat content and calories. This includes blue cheese, Caesar dressing, thousand island, French and (sigh) everyone’s favorite ranch dressing.

Now the good news. You can find reasonably healthy alternatives to each. Some replace mayo with avocado oil, coconut milk or Greek yogurt. Others go big on flavor from high-quality ingredients (like more blue cheese) to reduce the amount of other ingredients. Herbs and spices such as chipotle, jalapenos, basil, dill, parsley and chives add a boost of flavor all by themselves.

The Benefits of Homemade Salad Dressings

Homemade dressings offer a lot of benefits:

  • You control salt and sugar levels
  • Non-refined, natural oils give you more heart benefits than many store-bought dressings
  • Fresh ingredients provide more vitamins and minerals
  • Homemade dressings offer more flavor with less fat
  • Dressing you make at home doesn’t have any preservatives

That said, as a mom, it’s not always easy to find the time. Don't feel guilty if organic from the store is the best you can do.

A Sensible View of Dressings

I like to take a balanced view of mom-hood and weight loss. Focusing too strictly on every calorie can make healthy eating a chore. Isn’t encouraging your family to eat more salad a good thing?

It keeps you and your kids munching on fresh ingredients: romaine lettuce, arugula, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, yellow peppers and avocados. That's WAY better kids begging for pizza every night because they're tired of plain vinaigrette with every salad.

More salad + healthy dressing options = more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate and more! That’s a win in my book. So, don't punish yourself if you buy (gasp!) the tiniest bottle of (double gasp!) Ranch dressing sometimes.

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