Plenty to consider when dressing your greens
The ancient Egyptians were happy with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar on their vegetables. In mid-20th century America, Ranch, French and Thousand Island salad dressings were all the rage.
These days, salad dressings fill almost half a grocery store aisle with a diverse array of creations. But how do these salad dressings impact the nutritional value of your daily salad greens?
Fortunately, there are so many salad dressing choices, it’s possible to enjoy a veggie-filled salad topped with a delicious dressing, as long as you choose wisely.
When deciding how to top your bowl of greens, keep the following in mind.
Don’t fear fat; control it. Most salad dressings are fat-based, made with oil or mayonnaise. During our fat-bashing era, traditional high-fat dressings were replaced with a variety of fat-free dressings. But there were a few problems with these, as well; typically, more sugar and/or salt were added to make up for the missing fat.
Salad vegetables, like greens and carrots, are great sources of fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K, which are best absorbed when eaten with some fat. Thus, eliminating fat from the salad dressing may decrease the amount of nutrients your body absorbs from the salad. At the same time, high-fat salad dressings can contain large amounts of calories that contribute to weight gain when used in large portions.
Don’t go overboard. A serving of salad dressing — 2 tablespoons — can seem small. To make the most of it, serve it on the side and dip forkfuls of salad into it. This way, you get a little taste with each bite, but your vegetables aren’t drowning in it.
Compare brands. Typically, we think of vinaigrettes as healthier than cream-based dressings, but this can vary. One brand offers a creamy, cheesy dressing with much less fat and calories than its vinegar-based Italian counterpart.
Watch the salt. There are plenty of dressings that contain little sodium; but there are just as many with about the same amount as one-and-a-half large servings of fast-food French fries. Check the Nutrition Facts panel to be sure your choices don’t go overboard on their sodium content (less than 280 milligrams per serving.)