Salads seem like the perfect healthy meal. They’re full of vegetables, you can add protein-packed lean meat, and with some hearty toppings like nuts or avocado, you get your fill of heart-healthy fats, too. However, the salad dressing you choose can really make or break the nutritional value of your meal. While some salad dressings contain helpful ingredients like olive oil or vinegar, other store-bought salad dressings with the lowest quality ingredients can be loaded with saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
To feel more confident in what you’re choosing as a good dressing for your salad, we spoke with a few dietitians about which salad dressings with the lowest quality ingredients to avoid while at the grocery store. Read on to find out which salad dressings with the lowest quality ingredients these dietitians think you should steer clear of—and for some healthy salad dressing ideas, be sure to also check out 6 Best Salad Dressings for Weight Loss.
Blue cheese dressing can add a burst of creamy flavor to your salad, or can act as a dipping sauce to a plate of buffalo wings. However, many versions of this dressing can fall on the unhealthier side.
“This is a bottle of preservatives and inflammation-promoting ingredients, says Sydney Greene, MS, RD. “The first ingredient in this dressing (thus the most abundant) is soybean oil, which is high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids need to be consumed in the correct ratio with omega-3 fatty acids, but most Americans consume far more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids, and this excess can be a cause of inflammation.”
“This dressing is a sneaky source of sugar,” says Greene. “One serving (2 tablespoons) of this dressing contains 11 grams of total sugar, and 8 of these grams are from added sugars.”
“For reference, one packet of sugar is equal to roughly 4 grams of sugar, which means there is about one packet of sugar in each tablespoon,” adds Greene.
Buttermilk ranch is a classic choice for dressing and dips, but Ken’s version is heavy in fat content.
“One serving of this dressing (2 tablespoons) contains 19 grams of fat, and 3 of these grams are from saturated fat,” says Greene. “Saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of chronic illness, and according to the American Heart Association, only 5–6% of calories consumed per day should be from saturated fats.
“This dressing is high in sodium (320 milligrams), so I’d suggest skipping it,” says Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our Medical Expert Board.
If you’re someone who needs to watch their sodium consumption, you may want to find a dressing with less sodium, especially because it’s far too easy to go beyond the serving size when it comes to using dressing.
“Many salad dressings contain quite a bit of sodium because it adds to flavor and increases shelf life. But for those with high blood pressure, this is a no-no,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of the Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Medical Expert Board.
Brianna’s Homestyle Buttermilk Ranch is a classic choice, and one that has a lot of versatility as a salad dressing, dip for wings or veggies, or even a pizza topping. However, Brianna’s—like many buttermilk ranch brands—is full of fat, saturated fat, and sodium.
“With 17 grams of fat and over 300 milligrams of sodium, I’d leave this dressing on the store shelf,” says Young. And with just a 2-tablespoon serving, it’s safe to say that you may easily eat more than a serving in one sitting.
“I’d recommend skipping it,” Young says, based on the fact that “this dressing contains 13 grams of fat and 2.5 saturated fat.”
The fat calories in this dressing come from things like sour cream, milk, cheese, and soybean oil, but you could always try making your own Caesar dressing with nonfat Greek yogurt as the base to help lower the fat content.
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