When we think of salad we automatically think healthy, right? Why shouldn’t we? Salads can be packed full of various vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and protein, where could you possibly go wrong? Salads have come a long way from traditional lettuce, tomato and cucumber, and we are now spoiled with all of the different topping options, as well as salad dressings. Whether you are into sweet, spicy, tangy or smoky – odds are there is a salad dressing that will satisfy your craving. This can make balanced eating easier for some that have a hard time getting vegetables into their diet. However, we have heard time and time again that our salad dressing choice can take a nutritious meal and turn it into a high calorie or high fat dish. Let us take a deeper look into this debate.
If you take a stroll through the salad dressing aisle at your local grocery store, take a peek at the back of a few bottles to find the nutrition labels, and see for yourself, that not all salad dressings are created equally. When I did this myself, I noticed the main differing elements throughout the dressings were amounts of fat and sodium. Some of them had significantly higher fat than others, while some were much higher in sodium. One thing that seems to stay consistent throughout every dressing flavor and brand is the serving size – two tablespoons. Now what exactly is packed in those two tablespoons, can differ tremendously throughout dressing choices.
Let us start with one of the most popular dressings on the shelf, the coveted Hidden Valley Ranch. In one serving, this product contains 14 grams of fat and 260 milligrams of sodium. On the other hand, Wishbone Italian dressing contains half of the fat at 7 grams with 350 milligrams of sodium. Another favorite, Kraft Caesar dressing holds 12 grams of fat with 300 milligrams of sodium. Lastly, Kraft Bleu Cheese dressing also contains 12 grams of fat per serving and 320 milligrams of sodium. So what does all of this mean?
When looking at the ingredients of these dressings, I observed that all of them were made with soybean oil. Soybean oil is made up of polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, and some saturated fat. While the first two are considered healthy fats, this does not apply to the latter. According to the American Heart Association, no more than 120 calories of your diet should come from saturated fat. This equals out to about 13 grams. Most of the dressings listed above contain around 2 grams of saturated fat per serving. If we are heavy handed with our dressing, this could amount to much more. As for sodium, the American Heart Association recommends individuals to stay under 2300 milligrams per day. At around 250-350 milligrams of sodium in just two tablespoons of dressing, this could potentially make up the majority of our daily sodium intake in one meal ,if we greatly exceed the serving size. Why do we want to be mindful of our intake of these? Studies show that excessive amounts of saturated fat and sodium intake can contribute to illnesses like cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity and high blood pressure.
So can you still use your favorite salad dressing? Of course! However, it is important to stay mindful of the amount you are using. If you are sticking to serving sizes and making sure you are not having too much, go ahead and reach for the Hidden Valley bottle! If you cannot imagine having to eat a salad with two measly tablespoons of salad dressing, finding an alternative might work best for you. For example, Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Ranch dressing will satisfy your ranch craving with only 3 grams of fat per two tablespoons with 230 grams of sodium. This will give you a little bit more to work with, without worrying about consuming an abundance of saturated fat. Another great tip (not to mention more affordable) is making a salad dressing from things you already have on hand at home. Most people have things like olive oil, vinegar, seasonings, mustard, or honey on hand, and many do not know that these can be used to whip up a quick and easy salad dressing. Do some experimenting in your pantry and create a delicious, homemade, heart healthy salad dressing!
Here is my favorite:
· Honey Dijon Vinaigrette
· 1/3 cup Olive Oil
· ¼ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
· 1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
· 3 Tbsp Honey
· 1 tsp Black pepper
· ¼ tsp salt
Place all ingredients in a Mason jar or other container, cover and shake until emulsified.
“How Much Sodium Should I Eat per Day?” Www.heart.org, www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/how-much-sodium-should-i-eat-per-day.