Veggie and protein-rich salads can be a smart choice any time of day. But too much dressing can send your meal deep into the red zone. Here are four tips, plus a few DIY recipes from our coaches to help you find and make your own healthier options.
Stick to simple ingredients. Choose cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil mixed with various vinegars, herbs and spices. If you’re craving a creamier dressing, consider something made with yogurt, nut or seed butters (i.e. tahini), avocados or buttermilk. Watch out for added sugars–especially with low fat flavors (sugar is sometimes substituted for fat) and aim for under 140 mg per serving as a lower sodium option. A few coach-approved bottled brands include: Bragg’s, Primal Kitchen, Alpine Avocado and some of the Trader Joes dressings (Coach Kathleen loves Green Goddess, Carrot Ginger Miso and Almond Butter Turmeric. They’re fantastically low in sodium, sugar and fat.)
Drizzle don’t drench. Even if you choose the healthiest salad dressing, using too much of it will load up your salad with extra calories, which can hamper your weight-loss goals. Get a handle on portions by measuring out a 2 Tbsp serving into a small bowl and then pouring it over your salad. Coach Beth recommends doing this once or twice to help you visualize how much to use in the future, as well as taking a small container of dressing when you pack a salad, instead of the whole bottle.
Think outside the bottle. Consider topping your salad with cottage cheese, herbs, nuts and seeds or a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt. You can also try a combination of tapenade, hummus and tahini. It’s flavorful and filling and goes great with greens.
Make your own. Many store-bought salad dressings are vegetable-oil based (corn, soybean, canola and safflower), which contain omega-6 fats. Eating too much of them (and without the inclusion of omega-3 fats from foods such as mackerel, salmon, flax, chia seed and walnuts), can lead to inflammation in the body. This can increase your risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Commercially made salad dressings also tend to have a lot of additives (such as artificial flavors or colors). Your best bet is to make your own.
Try some of the coaches favorite salad dressing recipes at home:
Eden’s vinaigrette: 3 parts oil (olive or avocado) to one-part lemon juice or vinegar (apple cider or balsamic), crushed fresh garlic to taste, spices (sea salt, pepper, herbs de Provence blend), Tbsp Dijon mustard, juice of half a fresh orange for sweetness (optional); whisk ingredients together and keep in the refrigerator for up to three days. (You may need to bring it back to room temperature and remix).
Coach Sara likes to mix it up with this ginger tahini dressing: 2 Tbsp raw sesame tahini, 1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce, 1 Tbsp rice vinegar, 3 tsp raw apple cider vinegar (optional), 2 Tbsp marin or cooking sake (optional), 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 2 tsp fresh ginger root, minced, 1-2 garlic cloves crushed, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt; whisk all ingredients together.