The Best Whole Foods Salad Dressings, According to Nutritionists
Salads always feel like the best choice when you’re trying to eat a fast but healthy, nutritious lunch at home or at work. But those salads can be deceptive in that everything from the ingredients to the dressing can be a sea of dietary red flags. Commercially-made salad dressings are often loaded with poor-quality fats, sugar, too much sodium, and other concerning ingredients — which is why the salad dressing aisle can be overwhelming and confusing. Here, we’ve selected our top picks for Whole foods salad dressings that are full of flavor and are packed with healthy ingredients — and types of dressings we’d rather avoid.
How to pick the healthiest Whole Foods salad dressings
Avoid too much added sugar
Salad dressings, especially sweet vinaigrettes, can be a sneaky source of added sugars. “The American Heart Association recommends keeping added sugars to a minimum to reduce the risk of obesity and other diet-related diseases,” says Mackenzie Burgess, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer at Cheerful Choices. “Look for dressings that contain little to no grams of added sugar,” says Burgess.
Stick to healthy fats
To save on costs, many dressing use refined oils like soybean or corn oil. That’s why it’s important to turn the ingredient label over and look for healthier oils like extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil, says Burgess, who notes that both of these oils are extremely high in monounsaturated fats as well as vitamin E.
Opt for clean ingredients
Alongside healthy oils, read over the rest of the ingredients and make sure it contains ones you can pronounce, advises Burgess. Stay away from dressings with additives or artificial colors.
Watch out for too much sodium
A good salad dressing option will have less than 250mg of sodium. Too much sodium in the diet can raise our risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. “Dressings can be a sneaky source of excess sodium in the diet, so I recommend looking for a dressing that contains less than 250mg of sodium per serving,” says Burgess.
The best Whole Foods salad dressings to buy
With these criteria in mind, here are our top picks for salad dressings right now:
If you love a falafel bowl but are trying to avoid fried foods, this dressing incorporates one of the best flavors of that falafel bowl — the tahini — and turns it into a salad dressing. “This product is non-GMO and uses water, tahini, and extra virgin olive oil as a base,” says Tara Bassi, MS, CNS, LDN, CHHC. It has under 200mg of sodium per serving and no added sugar. It’s great on salads, or consider drizzling it over a healthy baked falafel bowl.
Spicy dressings are fun for any taco-inspired salads we make, but sometimes those tend to be a bit too oily or loaded with sodium. This product uses water and lemon juice as the base with sesame seeds, salt, garlic, and chipotle — simple ingredients with no oils or added sugar. “The sodium content is a little higher here at 230mg per serving, but this is still considered a good option,” says Bassi.
Balsamic dressings tend to be high in flavor and low in calories, and this organic choice is a great example. “Although it does contain 1g of added sugar per serving, this dressing is mostly made up of organic balsamic vinegar and healthy fats from sunflower oil and olive oil,” says Brittany Lubeck, RD. It’s also dairy-free and gluten-free, which means it can be an option for a variety of people and lifestyles.
If you’re looking for an all-purpose vinaigrette that will be great for everything from salads to marinating, this is a great one to keep on hand. “It uses extra-virgin olive oil as the main ingredient, with a touch of honey for sweetness,” says Burgess. “It’s also a great option for those watching their sodium intake with only 20mg of sodium per serving.”
Some salad dressings contain cheese or other forms of dairy, which is a red flag for those who are on dairy-free diets. But sometimes dairy-free salad dressings lack the richness of flavor we might be looking for. “This dairy-free salad dressing contains no added sugar and is made from simple ingredients like sunflower oil, lemon juice, and black pepper,” says Lubeck. It also contains mustard, sea salt, and garlic powder. With just six ingredients, this lemon pepper salad dressing would be a light choice that would pair well with plenty of salad toppings.
Another dairy-free, sugar-free salad dressing choice, this one from Whole Foods’ own brand is their take on classic Italian flavors. “Its first ingredients are water, soybean oil, and white vinegar, followed by a variety of herbs and spices. This Italian dressing is also fairly low in sodium, with just 220mg in each serving,” says Lubeck. It’s a great value, too.
There’s nothing like a big, hearty Greek salad — but in a true Greek salad, there’s a fair amount of salt in the feta and olives we seriously want to add, so we don’t want to add a ton more of it with the dressing. “This product uses avocado oil, red wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar as a base with several spices,” says Bassi.
Olive oil and lemon are some of the most classic salad dressings, and this lemon-infused olive oil is simple, bright, and delicious. “This product has two simple ingredients — olive oil and lemon. It has no added sodium or sugar,” says Bassi. Try it on its own, or add a splash of red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar for additional flavor, and you’ve got yourself a well-rounded dressing.
Sometimes simple really is the best, and a dressing doesn’t necessarily have to be labeled a dressing to be delicious on a salad. Balsamic vinegar is a great addition to so many things, including salads, and it contains zero added sugars and little to no calories. You’ll find plain balsamic vinegar or even unique ones like this fig-infused balsamic vinegar. “You can drizzle a small amount of balsamic straight onto your leafy greens or make an easy vinaigrette for one by combining one tablespoon of olive oil, one teaspoon of Dijon mustard, one teaspoon of maple syrup, and one teaspoon of balsamic vinegar,” says Burgess.
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