Senior Health

5/24/2024 | By Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN

It’s no secret that a salad filled with bright, colorful fruits and veggies makes for a delicious start to your meal, or is the meal itself. And you probably know that what we choose to top our salad — think beans, croutons, bacon bits, lean meats, etc. — can impact the health quotient of said salad. But did you realize how important the dressing you choose is to the overall nutritiousness of the salad? It’s crucial to pick healthy salad dressings.

Salad dressings are fantastic for adding interesting flavors to your raw veggies, but they do more than that. Dressings add extra calories, saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar to your salad bowl. For this reason, it’s important to make informed choices when selecting your dressing and not go overboard as you pour.

A salad is smothered in healthy salad dressings.

But what dressings provide isn’t all negative. Depending on the ingredients used, dressings can be a good source of healthy fats in your day. Those healthy fats actually help make your salad better for you. Many of the commonly-used salad veggies contain fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K). These vitamins need to be eaten with fat to get the best absorption. Choose dressings with olive, canola, avocado and other healthy oils as their base to maximize the vitamins and therefore health benefits you can gain from your salad bowl.

Helpful hints for healthy salad dressings

Keep in mind the benefits salad dressings can provide the next time you’re choosing one.

  • Dip it, don’t drown it. Having dressing on the side and dipping forkfuls into it maximizes flavor but minimizes the amount of dressing you eat.
  • Skip the fat free. To obtain the most nutritional benefits from your salad, choose a full-fat dressing made with healthy oil.
  • Make sure it’s not too sweet. Some dressings contain up to two teaspoons of added sugar per serving. Be sure to check the nutrition facts panel and choose those with minimal added sugar.

Related: How to build a satisfying salad in six simple steps

Kale salad with maple-balsamic dressing

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.

©2024 Belvoir Media Group. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN

Food and nutrition expert Heidi McIndoo, MS, RD, LDN is an award-winning, registered dietitian. She has written for and been quoted in hundreds of publications and media outlets, including Environmental Nutrition. She began her love of food and cooking as a girl. Her early food allergies gave her an understanding of how challenging eating can be for some. In deciding to become a registered dietitian, she combined these two parts of her life to help others eat healthfully and manage personal eating issues while enjoying the food they ate.