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Scrumptious Salad Dressings

2 spoons with Oily And Creamy DressingsPiling on produce and tossing in whole grains, beans and a sprinkle of nuts is a sure bet for a nutritious salad. But a fatty dressing can load your dish with extra calories.

Instead, make your own dressing so you can control the ingredients and explore a huge variety of healthy and delicious possibilities.

Start with a healthy fat as a base. Options include olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil or even fancier walnut, avocado or almond oil.

Then add an acid such as vinegar (balsamic, white or red wine, rice or cider vinegars work well) or citrus (lemon, orange or lime juice). To make a basic vinaigrette use a ratio of 2:1, oil to vinegar/juice. Other 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices taste delicious in a vinaigrette dressing, too.

For creamy dressings, whisk in a touch of plain low-fat yogurt or a teaspoon of reduced-fat versions of mayonnaise or sour cream. Then add other seasonings, like herbs, spices, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste and shake it up. Homemade dressings keep in the fridge for a week or more.

If you buy bottled salad dressings, make it a habit to read their labels and look out for the following:

  • Salt: aim for a dressing with under 300 mg of sodium per serving
  • Unhealthy fats: in particular, avoid “partially hydrogenated” oils
  • Sweeteners: beware of corn syrup and sugars which add nutrition-void “empty” calories

Salads Love Dressing with a Little Fat...

Research suggests that potential cancer-fighting compounds, such as beta-carotene found in veggies like carrots and broccoli, are better absorbed by the body when you consume a little healthy fat along with them.

Here are two recipes for flavor-rich healthy dressings.

Lemon-Sage Dressing

The toasted walnuts give this dressing its intensely savory taste. Serve over mixed greens or you can drizzle it over steamed vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower or carrots.

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 fresh sage leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place walnuts on cookie sheet and toast in oven for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. In blender, combine olive oil, lemon juice and sage. Add cooled walnuts to blender. Purée to desired consistency; season to taste and serve over fresh salad greens, or steamed vegetables.

Makes 6 servings (1 Tbsp. each).

Per serving: 112 calories, 12 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 1 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 mg sodium.

Cucumber, Feta Cheese and Dill Dressing

A creamy, cool topping, this dressing tastes good on roasted vegetables or hot portobello mushroom sandwich. Refrigerated, it will keep up to one week.

  • 1 cup sliced seedless cucumber (peeled if desired)
  • 1 6-oz. container plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh dill leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In blender, purée cucumber, yogurt, olive oil, feta cheese, cumin, dill, salt and pepper together. Tossed with greens; serve.

Makes 12 servings (2 Tbsp. each).

Per serving: 38 calories, 3 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 1 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 45 mg sodium.

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