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Choose a Smarter Salad Dressing


Updated May 29, 2014


How you dress your salad makes all the difference.

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Downsize Dressing Calories

By now we all know that creamy salad dressings, such as ranch and blue cheese, really pump up the fat and calorie counts of our salads. This is due to the fact that creamy salad dressings are often mayo- or sour cream-based. But did you know that creamy dressings also have saturated fat, and eating too much can increase cholesterol and raise your risk of developing heart disease?

Take a look at the calorie counts for some of the most popular dressings:

The biggest problem with salad dressing is that few of us use the standard 2-tablespoon serving and instead land somewhere between drizzling and dousing our salads. If you need to get your dressing doling habits under control, consider using measuring spoons or a shot glass to control portions until you can eyeball an accurate serving size.

Dipping your fork into a small container of salad dressing before you spear your salad, rather than pouring it on, is also a good way to use less. And now that spray dressings are available, automatic portion control is even easier. Try a light spray variety, such as Wish-Bone Salad Spritzers, which provide only one calorie per spray (about 10 spritzes are suggested for every cup of salad).

Finding a reduced- or low-fat dressing isn't always so easy. Not only do you have to taste test until you find one you like, but as with all other food choices, you will need to always check and compare the nutrition labels. It's possible that a reduced-fat dressing could have more calories than a regular kind. Typically, when fat is removed from a reduced-fat product, something else is added to compensate, such as sugar (which accounts for the extra calories) or salt. Look for reduced-fat dressings with 100 calories or less per 2 tablespoon serving.

If you don't find a light dressing that suits you, consider making your own. Oil and vinegar is a good choice, if used in moderation. Simply combine one part olive oil to two parts vinegar, adding additional herbs and spices to taste.

If you find a regular dressing recipe that you like, healthier substitutes such as reduced-fat yogurt, buttermilk, or cottage cheese can replace mayo, and tomato juice or fruit juice can be used to replace the oil required in the recipe.

Other calorie-cutting options include adding the juice from a few lemon wedges to your salad or using picante sauce or salsa as dressing. If you really crave regular dressing, you can dilute it with either lemon juice or vinegar to cut calories and fat.

Tip: Those handy dressing packets provided at some restaurants don't provide automatic portion control. They often hold four tablespoons (at least two servings), and that adds around 300 to 400 calories to your salad.

To find out the calorie count of your favorite foods, from salads to snacks to steaks, check out About.com's Calorie Count.

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