The healthy salad dressing hall of fame
I enjoy a monster size salad for dinner each night. As our media expert commented, it's more like a casserole--layers of veggies, protein, and greens. My 3 to 4 pound garden wouldn't come together without awesome dressings. And because my salad "flavors" vary, I require dressing variety.
Unfortunately most dressings are either calorie and sodium bombs or just don't taste good. I've discovered 7 that are excellent in taste and are super sensible in nutrition. I thought I'd share the salad dressing knowledge wealth!
Taste is paramount. And there is NO reason why a wonderfully flavorful dressing can't also be sensible. All 7 dressings have under 70 calories per 2 Tablespoons and less than 210mg sodium (9% DV). Four of the dressings are dairy-free!
NOTE: Yes, many of the dressings are from Trader Joe's. It just works out that way. We also shop at Henry's, Whole Foods, Vons, Albertsons...So we have tasted dressings from many stores. Also, we ALWAYS use red wine vinegar on our salads (or a mix of red wine and balsamic). We use a sprayer. The vinegar adds moisture, tangy flavor and freshness. It also means you need less dressing.
1. Trader Joe's Parmesan Ranch
- This is my dressing "workhorse". I pretty much use it on every salad I create. Mixed with a tangy mustard, you can create the perfect dip for artichokes and other veggies.
- In terms of flavor, it is NOT a typical ranch dressing. In fact, until I tasted this dressing, I didn't like ANY ranch dressings.
- Nutrition: 2 T = 30 cal, 2 g sugar, 130mg sodium.
2. Walden Farms Thousand Island
- Walden Farms makes a number of No calorie dressings. We also tried the honey mustard and didn't like it at all. We were surprised we liked this one! It's tangy versus sweet. It pairs well with any of the other dressings.
- We have only found the dressing at Henry's Markets. But check the website.
- Salad idea: spinach, bacon bits, sliced almonds, strawberries (or dried cranberries), red pepper and/or red onion, and this dressing along with the TJs Parmesan Ranch
- We're not sure how it can be Zero Calorie...but that's the billing. It does have 190 mg sodium for a 2 T serving.
- Dairy Free
3. Trader Joe's Cilantro Dressing
- The cilantro flavor is not overpowering. This dressing is on the sweeter side so it nicely balances the vinegar in your salad or the above two dressings.
- Salad idea: Mexican!! Salad greens, steamed/nuked broccoli with corn salsa, feta, healthy jalapeno flavored sausage or another protein, chopped carrot, red pepper, red onion and another hearty veggie such as zucchini.
- Bonus salad idea: Curry. Yep. Sounds odd, but it really works. TJs sells a curry sauce and we'll often warm our broccoli with this sauce and then use the Cilantro dressing for the greens. Try roasted curried cauliflower too...
- Nutrition: 2 T = 45 calories, 1 g sugar, 120 mg sodium
4. Galeos Miso Dijonnaise
- Forget any other mustard flavored dressing and try this one. It is an absolute team favorite. We also use it as a dip for shumai and other Asian eats and we drizzle on our crab cakes. It pairs very well with seafood.
- Whole Foods sells this dressing and it's one of our 5 products that we can ONLY get at Whole Foods. We don't mind. It's that good. Galeos makes a few other dressings. We've tried others and have not liked them. It's more expensive than the other dressings -- $5
- Nutrition: 2T 40 calories, 1 g sugar, 170 mg sodium
- Dairy Free
5. Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette
- This is by far the sweetest of the dressings we recommend. It is also (along with the Miso Dijonnaise above) good on its own. The sweetness is flavorful. The dressing does have gorgonzola mixed in which adds a savory balance. For those who eschew the stinky cheese, you don't really taste it.
- This dressing pairs really well with almonds, fruit and crisp veggies. We often use this dressing as the last "topper" to our salad casserole.
- Nutrition: 2T 45 calories, 4 g sugar, 200 mg sodium
6. Trader Joe's Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette
- This is AMAZING. As you likely know, peanut sauces are typically calorie BOMBS. Not this one; and it is BETTER than the peanut sauces we've tried. Use it as a dip or to create an Asian flavored salad. We'll also use it in stir-fries. We have yet to find another Asian flavored dressing that comes close to this one.
- Salad Idea: Asian! Greens, rice vinegar, tempeh or tofu, warmed broccoli topped with Asian style spice, sesame seeds, seaweed, red pepper, red onion. We also will add another previously roasted vegetable and of course this dressing. Like to mix? Use the Parmesan Ranch too. I know it sounds strange, but it works!
- Nutrition: 2T 70 calories, 7 g sugar, 210 mg sodium. This is our least healthy dressing. You don't need much.
- Dairy Free
7. Gayle's BBQ Sauce
- Okay, technically not a "dressing" it can be used as a salad topper. We often thin our store-bought BBQ sauces with apple cider vinegar. When we nuke our broccoli, we top it with the sauce for extra flavor. YUM.
- We like the "sassy" flavor. It has some nice spice and isn't too sweet--more tangy. We purchased ours at Whole Foods.
- There are a number of "fake proteins" with BBQ flavor, so this dressing/sauce is a nice add-on. It pairs really well with the Parmesan Ranch Dressing, the Champagne Pear Vinaigrette and the Thousand Island dressing. You can create a BBQ salad meal.
- Nutrition: 2 T 35 calories, 8 g sugar, 150 mg sodium.
- Dairy Free
Okay, that's it! If you have a dressing that you think deserves to be on the list, let us know and we'll check it out. It must be under 70 calories for 2 T and under 170 mg sodium.
Don't forget that a big part of making an entree salad is the vinegar and a BIG bowl.