Whether the dressing you’re considering is dairy-based, oil-based, or vegetable-based… you CAN enjoy it and still make a healthy decision.
P.s- If someone judges you for adding dressing on your salad… don’t eat meals with them, they’re a jerk.
The important thing when choosing a dressing is that it fits your meal/appetite and that you eat the APPROPRIATE serving size.
Now, just to be clear: THE WHOLE BOTTLE OF RANCH IS NOT AN APPROPRIATE SERVING SIZE.
This can be a little challenging if you’re out to eat so the best way to tackle that is to ask for your dressing on the side. It will take a little extra leg work to mix your salad, but it will help you with portion control.
Next, I’m going to generalize dressings (and sauces) into three categories:
- Dairy-Based- Alfredo sauce, Ranch, Blue Cheese, Butter sauce, Mayo-based, etc.
- Oil Based- Vinaigrettes
- Other- Condiment Based dressings: Mustard, Bbq sauce, Salsa, Tomato Sauce, etc.
*With categories 1 & 2, the primary concern for most individuals here would be either high-fat content (if you track macros) or the high calories for a single serving.
*With category 3 dressings/sauces will likely be low calorie but may be high in sodium (if you track that kind of thing).
Now that we’ve broken that down, I want to analyze the reasons most people reach for dressings.
- Their food may be dry or bland (or they just eat it for every meal every day and need something to “switch” it up).
- They don’t enjoy the item they’re eating (usually veggies here, let’s be real).
- It’s standard to add dressing or sauce to salad, pasta, chicken parm, you name it, AND you don’t really need an “excuse.”
And here’s why (in my opinion) we shouldn’t HOLD the dressing if that’s what we want.
- You may be more willing to eat nutrients your body needs. For example, maybe your child won’t eat carrots without ranch. Is it really a “hard no” just because Ranch is high in fat… or is it worth it to give him/her a little so they’ll eat some GOOD FOR YOU foods?
- Nobody wants to eat plain, bland, or repetitive meals. Now, you could always add seasonings to make the meals a little different, but pouring a little oil or dressing over your chicken breast isn’t likely to kill you ASSUMING you practice moderation and proper serving sizes.
- Sometimes it is just good for your mind to eat food that’s a little higher in calories or that you know isn’t a “diet food.” You won’t gain weight from eating 2 TBSP of Ranch dressing or 1/4c of Alfredo sauce once a week. AND if you do… it would likely be because you’re not actually in a caloric deficit.
BUT, the cool thing about dressing and sauces is that in addition to the traditional items we’re used to, there are also tons of lighter and healthier alternatives out there!
I’ll link a few articles and recipes if you’re looking to make your own dressings and sauces but for those of you needing some store-bought options, look no further:
- Bolthouse Dressings– They’re yogurt-based (I swear they’re the best yogurt-based dressings I’ve had), making them lower in fat and calories. We’re talking less than 50 calories for one serving. I keep four bottles of this brand in my fridge at all times.
- Oils– There are many different options here in the oil market, but essentially, get what you like or what fits your nutrition plan. I personally prefer an olive oil/canola oil mixture and add balsamic vinegar to that with a few seasonings to make a homemade dressing.
- Panda Express sauces– If you’re sick of rice, green beans, and chicken, drop a little bit of these sauces (you can find them in the noodle aisle, I believe) if you want to “spice” your meal up. *These are heavily processed, so if you’re looking for an item that you can name all of the ingredients, keep walking by this one.
- Salsa– This is such an incredible option to add variety to your meals because it’s low in calories (although some can be high in sodium), and there are hundreds of different variations.
- Pasta sauce: I’ve made my own before using a recipe from MEAL LIME, but it was even better when I added a store-bought pasta sauce that had a lot of veggies to it. My tip here would be to avoid a cheesy sauce unless that is what you’re going for. I love grabbing ‘Mom and Pop’ brands from our local grocery stores. These are usually on the top shelf (in my experience). Otherwise, watch the sodium content and grab whatever flavor/brand strikes your fancy.
- Greek Yogurt-I spoke earlier about Bolthouse dressing, but I want to talk “in general” about dairy based dressings or sauces. When I’m looking for a healthier option for a dairy-based dressing or sauce, I almost ALWAYS use greek yogurt. It has a similar consistency, higher protein, more probiotics, and is equally as “bitter.” This is an awesome (and a quick way) to make your own dressings or sauces and cut down on the “junk.” This can also make high-calorie items – low calorie. * It’s the perfect substitute for sour cream btw.
- Honey/Syrup– I didn’t plan to write about this one, but I know sometimes a dressing or sauce can be for a sweet dish. Just remember, honey is a GREAT tool and is low on the glycemic index (but still high in calories). There are also several low calorie (and even no-calorie) syrups out there… it just depends on your preferred level of processing.
- Apple Butter– Do yourself a favor and check out last week’s blog and whip up some of that. You’ll find yourself adding it to everything. It’s low calorie (although you’re in control of that), sweet, and delicious.
- And lastly, a condiment I just recently discovered: Honey Mustard. NO… not the dressing (that would be a calorie killer), but honey MUSTARD. Mustard is about as low (or no) calorie as condiments get, and I’ve recently discovered that honey mustard is EVEN BETTER. Still zero calorie (don’t ask me how maybe it’s magic), but it’s good on just about anything you’re looking to spice up (plain chicken and veggies, veggies, and rice, a burger, a sandwich, snacks, eggs)… TRY IT!
Now that you’re probably hungry, I’ll remind you about the tips I have for making dressing/sauce choices:
- Go lighter when you can/when you want to.
- Get your dressing on the side!
- Make your own at home 🙂
- Buy mom & pop type sauces
- Snag some yogurt-based dressing (OR mix some of your dairy dressing of choice with greek yogurt and little water!
And if you’re ready to try your hand at homemade dressings/sauces, here are a few that I think could be fun!
- Wow: I’m making this ASAP
If you try here or have your own dressing/sauce recipes, let me know what you LOVE.