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The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Salad Dressings

The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Salad Dressings

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Are you buying the healthiest option?

There are so many salad dressings to choose from. Sure, you know what kind you want on your salad. Some days you’re in the mood for a creamy Caesar. Other days you want herbed vinaigrette. But even once you’ve narrowed it down to the type of dressing you’re craving, there are so many brands and types that it can get tough to choose.

Not all brands make their dressings the same — some brands’ products are healthier than others. And when you’re cooking yourself up a nutritious and crisp salad, you don’t want to pour something without any nutritional value over the top. Not when you have an equally delicious option that could be better for you!

It takes some serious poring over numbers and labels to get to the bottom of which ones are really the healthiest. We did all that label-roving for you and narrowed it down for each of the 11 most popular types of salad dressing. On one list, you’ll find which options are the healthiest.

The Healthiest Store-Bought Salad Dressings Gallery

On the other, you’ll find the unhealthiest options.

The Unhealthiest Store-Bought Salad Dressings Gallery

Since there are so many brands out there, ranging from generic to specialty, we selected the most popularly sold store-bought salad dressing brands. These included Annie’s, Ken’s, Kraft, Newman’s Own, Wish-Bone, Hidden Valley, Bolthouse Farms, and Marie’s. From there, we checked the nutrition labels for each type of dressing to find the healthiest and unhealthiest version of each.

To judge the healthfulness of each dressing, we checked the calorie count, fat content, sodium content, and added sugar. Find out which brands sell the healthiest salad dressings and which sell the unhealthiest salad dressings for all your favorite flavors.

The Healthiest Salad Dressings, Ranked By Nutritionists

Salads can be a great source of healthy fats, fiber, protein and other nutrients, but things can quickly go downhill with additions like fried foods ― croutons and bacon, we’re looking at you ― and the all-important dressing. While drenching your kale salad with ranch might make it more delicious, you’re simultaneously dialing down its health benefits.

Store-bought dressings are often high in saturated fat, sodium, added sugar and calories , in addition to artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. And it all adds up ― while a typical serving size is 2 tablespoons, it’s not uncommon for people to use more.

“Getting familiar with serving sizes and having measuring spoons and cups at home is a good way to practice so that eventually you can eyeball correct portions in order to keep them in check,” Rebecca Ditkoff, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition by RD , told HuffPost.

We chatted with three nutritionists to gain some insight into what makes a salad dressing healthy or unhealthy, and asked them to rank some of the nation’s most popular varieties .

The healthiest salad dressings are the simplest ones

“The best salad dressings are typically very simple with few ingredients,” Pegah Jalali, a registered dietitian at Middleberg Nutrition, told HuffPost. “You always want to focus on the first few ingredients [and] avoid a salad dressing with ingredients that you cannot recognize like phosphoric acid, calcium disodium EDTA and artificial flavors.”

Jalali lists vinegars, oils and spices found in a typical home kitchen as solid core ingredients. Her store-bought salad dressing of choice is Primal Kitchen’s green goddess dressing . “It’s made with minimal ingredients and uses health-supportive ingredients including avocado oil, [plus] it has no added sugars and is delicious,” Jalali said.

Making your own dressing allows you to control fat, sugar and sodium content

Ditkoff’s favorite salad dressing is a balsamic-Dijon dressing that she makes at home in minutes using just a handful of ingredients: 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, plus salt and pepper to taste. “Not only is it easy to control the quality of ingredients and EVOO used, but it is also so much cheaper to make your own dressing,” Ditkoff said.

As a store-bought alternative, she recommends Stonewall Kitchen’s olive oil and balsamic dressing . “It only contains four ingredients (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spices and garlic) and it tastes great on almost any kind of salad or as a marinade for chicken,” she said.

Note the serving size, sodium content, saturated fat and added sugars

“Most Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium when the recommendation by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is consuming less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium,” said Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics . He added that according to the American Heart Association , saturated fat should be no more than 5 to 6 percent of your total caloric intake. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this equals 120 calories or 13 grams of saturated fat.

Valdez likes miso or miso-ginger dressing. “Miso is a good source of B vitamins, folic acid, and vitamin K and E,” he said. “Because of its fermented makeup, it also has positive benefits for the gut, which more research is suggesting could assist with managing inflammation and overall wellness.”

The ranking

Below is a compiled ranking based on the input provided by these nutritionists. Specific brands were chosen for the purpose of comparison.

Ditkoff pointed out that what’s “healthier” can vary depending on each individual’s nutritional needs and past medical history. “For example, a person with diabetes would want to watch out for added sugars, whereas someone with hypertension would want to keep an eye on the sodium per serving,” Ditkoff said.

The pantry staple extra virgin olive oil was the top choice for Ditkoff and Jalali. “The rest [of the dressings] are really similar as they are all made using poor quality oils and contain too much sodium and many other ingredients that are unnecessary,” Jalali said. While EVOO has the highest amount of calories (240 calories in a 2 tablespoon serving), its health benefits and clean ingredient list make it a winner.

Blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette trail just behind EVOO. With the addition of yogurt, the Bolthouse blue cheese dressing was the lowest in calories and fat content (35 calories and 2.5 grams of fat), and Ken’s balsamic vinaigrette ranked high thanks to its recognizable ingredients list and relatively low calorie count (90 calories).

Ranch and French dressing were ranked the unhealthiest options of the bunch because of their high sodium (260 milligrams and 240 milligrams, respectively) and fat content (14 grams in ranch including 2.5 grams saturated fat, and 15 grams in French with 1 gram saturated fat).

For the ranch lovers out there, don’t despair. Valdez said that the ranking “shouldn’t deter you from eating vegetables with dressing, especially if it will help you meet the USDA’s recommendation of 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables.” To help minimize the amount of dressing you consume, he suggested eating your salad with dressing on the side and dipping each bite.

Keep this in mind when storing homemade salad dressings

As I mentioned, some of these dressings are oil-based, meaning the oil will congeal in the fridge. I recommend before using your dressing to pull it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before so it can come to room temperature. However, not all of these healthy salad dressing recipes call for ingredients that go bad when stored at room temperature, so I've made notes on how to properly store each dressing.

Now some of these dressings do have a natural preservative, like vinegar or lemon, but you really should try to consume them within a two week period. It's a good rule of thumb to follow, but just in case, I listed how long you should hold on each bottle of healthy salad dressing as well.

Here are my favorite 10 healthy salad dressing recipes! And if you need salads to pair, here are our favorite healthy salad recipes.

Wish-Bone Creamy Caesar Dressing

It's no secret that the main component of the beloved Caesar salad is the Caesar dressing. And here, you're going to be spreading a dressing that is made with Parmesan cheese and a blend of black pepper, parsley, and other seasonings. While it might taste great and Wish-Bone is a classic brand, that doesn't mean you should anywhere near this salad dressing.

See, in just one serving—a mere 2 tablespoons, keep in mind—you're getting nearly 200 calories and 20 grams of fat. And 370 milligrams of sodium, too? That's more sodium than you would get if you ate two bags of Lay's Classic Potato Chips. Yikes!

The bad news doesn't stop there, either. Take a look at the ingredients list and you'll see that the main ingredient is inflammatory soybean oil. Sugar and corn syrup are also listed. Plus, it's important to remember that with Caesar salad, it's often drenched in dressing. If you try to replicate the flavors you get from a restaurant salad, you'll most likely have to double up on the amount fo dressing that's suggested. So you would be adding upwards of 400 calories to your salad. Big yikes.

Now, you don't want to add unnecessary calories, fat, sodium, and sugar to your salad, do you? Skip the Caesar dressing, especially this one from Wish-Bone.

The best healthy salad dressing brands.

Ideally, you want your healthy salad dressing to meet certain nutritional criteria. (All numbers are listed for a two-tablespoon serving.)

  • Less than 250 milligrams of sodium
  • Less than 3 grams of added sugar
  • No artificial colors or preservatives
  • Few to no vegetable oils

And while "fat-free" dressings may seem synonymous with fitting into your skinny jeans again, that's not actually the case. You want your topper to contain some healthy fats, which help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K—slimming nutrients found in many salad staples such as spinach and tomatoes.

These are the 10 healthiest salad dressings you can buy.

1. Bolthouse Farms Chunky Blue Cheese Yogurt Dressing

We love that Bolthouse Farms uses protein-rich yogurt for its base to keep the fat content of this healthy salad dressing respectably low. The combination of yogurt and blue cheese bring the amount of protein to 2 grams per serving. And with an impressively low 35 calories per serving, you won't believe this bottle packs in velvety blue cheese in almost every bite.

2. Organic Girl Avocado Cilantro Vegan Vinaigrette

If the avocado on your countertop isn't yet ripe for use, don't fret—you can still get the coveted creamy flavor with this organic offering. Organic Girl boasts a kick of jalapenos and invigorating lime juice as well as satiating unsaturated fats that help you absorb many veggies' fat-soluble nutrients. Squirt this over a Mexican-style salad when you're short on time to make fresh guac.

3. Bragg Vinaigrette

Apple cider vinegar, which has been linked to weight loss and appetite suppression, is the top ingredient in Bragg's healthful vinaigrette. This healthy salad dressing is sweetened with a drop of organic honey and liquid aminos, and balanced with a dash of black pepper for a low-sodium sauce that's as wholesome as it tastes.

4. Primal Kitchen Lemon Turmeric Vinaigrette & Marinade

Curcumin, the main antioxidant in turmeric, has been shown to fight inflammation—a key driver of weight gain. After you've drizzled your greens with the golden stuff, add a dash of black pepper. The zesty spice helps increase turmeric's bioavailability.

5. Hilary's Ranch Chia

Instead of relying on a fatty base of vegetable oil and buttermilk, Hilary's concocts its creamy ranch with hearty coconut milk. To add to the benefits, this healthy salad dressing packs in heart-benefitting chia seeds for a dose of omega-3s in every bite.

6. Annie's Organic Red Wine & Olive Oil Vinaigrette

Annie's adds tang and body to your salads without breaking your calorie budget. Two tablespoons pack in under 140 calories and boast 14 grams of fat coming from extra virgin olive oil. EVOO is brimming with oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that has been shown to prevent heart disease.

7. Primal Kitchen Dreamy Italian Dressing

Avocado oil—the first ingredient in this pick—has been shown to prevent metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes, a study in BioMed Research Journal shows. What's more, this dreamy dressing features aromatic flavors from basil, garlic, red chile peppers, and thyme, deeming this the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

8. Annie's Organic Caesar Dressing

If you're yearning for an indulgent flavor factor to keep your salad streak going, Annie's organic Caesar trumps most commercial brands that inject their formulas with belly-ballooning fat and salt. Plus, this Ceasar is egg-free and non-GMO.

9. Tessemae's Green Goddess

Unlike our other healthy salad dressing contenders, Tessemae's serving size is trimmed down to a mere tablespoon. However, even if you double it to two, the nutritionals remain quite impressive. Instead of stuffing in deleterious amounts of sodium and sugar, Tessemae's flavors its sauce with organic tamari, EVOO, and turmeric.

3 healthiest (and 2 unhealthiest) salad dressings

Sauces and dressings are an important part of our meal. We use them in different delicacies, dry mixes, coatings, and glazes. Each one adds a distinct flavour to the food. Traditionally when we think of dressings, most commonly used ones are mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup. But there are a wide variety of dressings available in the market these days. From flavoured mustard to barbecue sauces, not all are nutritious and healthy for you. You may add them to enhance the flavour of your food, however, when it comes to health you need to pay extra attention to what you are adding to your plate.

Here are 3 healthy salad dressings you can eat without worrying about your health.

02 /6 ​Mustard

Made from mustard seeds, distilled vinegar and other spices, this condiment is low in calories and carbohydrates. 10 grams of mustard sauce contains only 6 calories. One serving of mustard sauce contains negligible fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Moreover, it contains turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties. You can add mustard in your food without worrying about your health.

03 /6 Salsa

Salsa is another low-calorie condiment you can add in your diet. 30 ml of salsa contains only 10 calories. Made with avocados, chiles, spices and lime juice, salsa is one of the healthiest condiment options that you can add to yours scrambled eggs or sandwiches. Just make sure your salsa contains less amount of sugar and sodium.

04 /6 ​Vinegar

Vinegar contains a negligible amount of calories and you can use it guilt-free in your food. Whether balsamic, white wine or apple cider, all are healthy options and can be used on sandwiches or salad. Studies suggest that vinegar can reduce fasting blood sugar in people at risk for type 2 diabetes.

2 condiments that you should avoid

05 /6 ​Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise is a favourite condiment of most of the people, but health wise it is not a good option. Mayonnaise is high in calories and fat. One tablespoon of mayonnaise has upto 100 calories and 11 grams of fat. Although it mostly contains unsaturated fat, it is difficult to control the portion size. If you are trying to lose weight mayonnaise is a bad option.

06 /6 ​Barbecue sauce

Barbecue sauce contains less amount of calories as compared to mayonnaise, but it is high in sodium and sugar. Two teaspoons of barbecue sauce contain 60 calories. The quantity of sodium and sugar depends on the brand of sauce you are using. One bottle of sauce may contain about 10 to 13 g of sugar and 280 to 350 mg of sodium.

Per 2 Tbsp (36 g) : 70 calories, 0 g fat, 270 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 0 g protein

With 12 grams of sugar and the first ingredient being HFCS, you might as well top your salad with artificial sugar. As Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of the New York Nutrition Group, previously told Eat This, Not That!, "high fructose corn syrup has been shown to increase appetite and lead to health problems such as obesity and diabetes."

Yeah, yeah, you knew it was bad, but hear us again: HFCS is bad! Don't believe us? Check out What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Sugar.

1. Wish-Bone Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing

While Caesar dressing might not be the healthiest choice from the start, the Wish-Bone Creamy Caesar Salad Dressing is worse than the average bottle of Caesar. While most Caesar dressings are around 80-120 calories on average, Wish-Bone Creamy Caesar Dressing has 180 calories per serving. It also contains 290mgs of sodium which is high compared to other caesar dressings on the market.

Each serving of this dressing has 18 grams of fats which is 30% of the recommended daily value! If that doesn’t turn you off of this brand of Caesar dressing, then knowing that the main ingredient is inflammatory soybean oil might. It also contains both sugar and corn syrup which can destroy your diet. If you absolutely need Caesar dressing, then try finding an organic version with only 80 calories. While it might not be the best option out there, it will tide over your carving and be much better for you than the Wish-Bone Creamy Caesar.

The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Salad Dressings - Recipes

The Salad Dressing You Should NEVER Eat -- and my Alternative Super-Healthy Recipe

by Mike Geary - Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Specialist
Author of best-sellers: The Fat-Burning Kitchen & The Top 101 Foods that FIGHT Aging

If you want to eat truly healthy, support your fat loss goals, protect your body from inflammation, and avoid some of the nasty additives in processed food, one thing you should eliminate is typical store-bought salad dressing .

I personally NEVER buy pre-made salad dressings from the store anymore, and here's why:

1. Almost all store-bought salad dressings contain fairly significant amounts of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Unless you're in a health food store, it's almost impossible to find a salad dressing that doesn't contain large amounts of HFCS.

2. Almost all store-bought salad dressings contain heavily refined soybean oil and/or refined canola oil. both of which are VERY unhealthy. Yes, that's correct, canola oil IS unhealthy, despite the marketing propaganda you've been fed claiming that it's healthy. If interested, you can read more about why canola oil is NOT healthy here .

Due to the refining process of both soybean or canola oils, the polyunsaturated component of the oils is oxidized and makes these oils very inflammatory inside your body. In addition, soybean oil is WAY too high in omega-6 fatty acids which throws your omega-6 to omega-3 balance out of whack. And as you know, most people already consume FAR too much omega-6 oils to begin with.

We know that olive oil is healthier, but when it comes to store-bought dressings. Even salad dressings that claim to be "made with olive oil" on the FRONT label are deceptive, because if you read the ingredients on the BACK label, they are almost ALWAYS made of mostly refined soybean oil or canola oil as the main oil, with only a very small amount of actual olive oil as a secondary oil.

So here's how to avoid all of these horrendously unhealthy store-bought salad dressings and make your own quick and easy SUPER-healthy dressing.

My Quick and Easy Recipe for Super-Healthy Salad Dressing

Geary's Healthy-Fat Blend Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

Fill your salad dressing container with these approximate ratios of liquids:

  • 1/3rd of container filled with balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3rd of container filled with apple cider vinegar
  • fill the remaining 1/3rd of container with equal parts of extra virgin olive oil and "Udo's Choice EFA Oil Blend"
  • Add just a small touch (approx 1 or 2 teaspoons) of real maple syrup
  • Add a little bit of onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper and then shake the container to mix all ingredients well.

This homemade salad dressing mixture is delicious and healthy , and I pretty much never get tired of it!

The reason I choose to blend the extra virgin olive oil half & half with the Udo's Choice Oil is that they make up for what each lacks. Although extra virgin olive oil is healthy and contains important antioxidants, it is mostly monounsaturated, and is low in the essential fatty acids (EFAs). The Udo's Choice Oil is higher in unrefined polyunsaturated oils with a good healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.

There are several variations of the Udo's Choice Oil, and one of them (labeled DHA 3-6-9 Blend) even contains a DHA algae oil blended into the mix along with organic flax oil, coconut oil, evening primrose oil, rice bran oil, oat germ and bran oil, and a few others.

Overall, blending Udo's Oil with extra virgin olive oil makes nearly a perfect oil blend for salad dressings with a great taste and maximum health benefits. If you can't find Udo's Choice Oil Blends (you can find Udo's at almost any health food store), there are other EFA oil blends on the market. just make sure that they are COLD-processed to protect the EFAs. You should never heat an EFA oil blend.

Also, another option instead of Udo's oil is simply to blend Olive oil (EVOO) with macadamia nut oil and/or avocado oil. Both of those oils have great health benefits too!

Give this homemade super-healthy salad dressing a try! You'll do your body a favor by avoiding the harmful additives in store-bought salad dressings.

Even though you just discovered a super-healthy salad dressing alternative, that&rsquos loaded with metabolism-boosting & heart-healthy essential fats that also fight the aging process&hellip

On the next page , I want to share with you exactly why you should AVOID whole wheat bread, sugar, vegetable oils, and even a specific type of milk .

Click the 'next page' button below to discover how these foods are destroying your health, causing weight gain, & accelerated aging.

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How to make homemade salad dressings

Healthy homemade salad dressings couldn’t be easier! Just assemble all the ingredients for the variety of your choosing in a jar (I like to use Mason jars). Shake until it is all combined – that's it!

You’ll want to give your dressing a good shake again before using, especially if it's been sitting in the fridge for a bit. It's normal for ingredients to separate but using a mason jar helps in shaking everything up easily.

Five different variations

In this recipe, I’m giving you five popular variations on homemade salad dressing. Here they are listed and pictured below:

Why make your own salad dressing?

If you’ve taken the time to make a big healthy salad chock full of fresh veggies, you don’t want to ruin it with a salad dressing with questionable ingredients. Making your own is the best way to ensure your salad dressing is fresh and nutritious.

These are just a few of the reasons you should set aside a few minutes to make your own salad dressing:

  • Store bought salad dressings usually have a lot of refined sugar.
  • To make salad dressing shelf-stable, manufacturers have to use chemical preservatives.
  • Salad dressing can be high in bad fats and calories.
  • When you make your own salad dressing, you know it was made with fresh ingredients.
  • These homemade dressings taste way better!
  • It’s cheaper to make your own.
  • You can make salad dressing to fit any eating plan – gluten-free, paleo, keto, Whole30 and more!

The best salad dressing formula

While these five salad dressing recipes give you a great variety to choose from, you can start to make your own combinations once you understand the basic formula for healthy homemade salad dressings.

Get creative with this standard formula:

  1. Two parts oil – I use canola oil in many of these recipes. But you can use sesame oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and more.
  2. One part acid – vinegar, lemon juice or lime will all do the job here.
  3. One part sweetner or emulsifier – honey and maple syrup are great natural sweeteners, but if you don't use a sweetener you will want to use an emulsifier like mustard or Dijon mustard, which will help ensure that the oil and acid blends together well.
  4. Salt and pepper – always add these, unless you're using a savoury ingredient such as soy sauce.
  5. Herbs – Your choices here can be infinitely unique. Garlic, parsley, ginger, dill – the possibilities are endless!

Ranch is a little different because it is a creamy salad dressing rather than being oil-based. However, you make it much the same way, but the ratios change. Follow the recipe for this one and your ranch will be way better than anything you buy at the store.

Ingredient substitutions

There are some changes you can make to these recipes if you want to create a different flavor.

Use your favorite oil. Canola and vegetable oils are affordable and accessible, but you can use what you like best or have on hand. Each oil has a unique flavor to bring to the dressing. Avocado oil, olive oil, flax seed oil and more will change the flavor subtly.

Change the acid. Any kind of vinegar will also change the taste. Balsamic, white wine, rice vinegar and more are easy to switch between. Lemon and lime juice will also change the flavor.

Change the seasonings. You can add red pepper flakes to bring some heat. Or increase the ginger or dill if that is your favorite flavor. Herbs and spices are easy to change up depending on what you have on hand. I always like to use fresh herbs when possible too for a brighter flavor but that will impact the shelf life of your dressing. Dressings with dried herbs will last up to 2 months in the fridge, whereas fresh herbs will last about 1 week to 10 days.

Why use mason jars?

Mason jars are perfect for making homemade salad dressings.

With them being glass, you don’t have to worry about any nasty chemicals leaking into your food from unsafe plastics.

They are easy to wash and reuse. Buy a few and they will last for years! They're also dishwasher safe.

If you buy the mason jars with a wide mouth, you can even get a utensil down in the jar!

Plus, the ring and lid seal tightly, making you confident about giving the dressing a good shake before serving.

How long can you store them?

These homemade salad dressing will last for two months in the refrigerator. That means you can always have a few on hand. Just as you would buy a few varieties at the store, make several flavors and rotate to keep your salads fresh.

If you use just oil and vinegar in your dressing, it will be shelf stable. The vinegar is acidic enough to keep it fresh. However, if there are any fresh ingredients like garlic, dairy products or fresh herbs, it should be refrigerated.

More mason jar recipes

Meal prep tools for this recipe

  • These are the mason jars I used in this recipe
  • You can get larger 32oz mason jars if you're looking to double these dressings
  • I also like this salad dressing shaker to make homemade dressings easier
  • These colourful mason jar lids are so fun and perfect if you lose your lids

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