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Smart Tips for Choosing a Healthy Salad Dressing
Salads make a healthy foundation for any diet, but it’s all too easy to block their nutritional punch by drizzling on the wrong salad dressing and other toppings. At the same time, to keep you in love with lettuce and other leafy greens, you want choices that tantalize your taste buds, says Judy Caplan, RD, author ofGoBeFull: Eight Keys to Healthy Livingand a dietitian in private practice in Vienna, Virginia.
Although it’s always the best option to whip up healthy salad dressings at home from vinegar, herbs, and a healthy oil, it is also easy enough to find a healthy, tasty store-bought kind — if you read the nutritional facts label carefully. Caplan generally recommends buying healthy salad dressings with fewer than 45 calories per tablespoon (tbsp), and measuring your portions carefully, though she'll go above that limit if it's for the right healthy fat. She says it is equally important to watch out for fat and added sugars on the label — fewer than 5 grams (g) of sugar per serving is best, with less always being better.
Of course, the body needs fat to function, and there are several fats used in the best salad dressings that provide amazing health benefits, including:
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs) These are found in olive, canola, and peanut oil, as well as in avocados and most nuts.
Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFAs) These are found in other plant-based oils, like safflower, corn, sunflower, soybean, sesame, and cottonseed oils. omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats that are necessary for proper cell function.
When planning a healthy diet, it’s important to avoid bad fats, such as trans-fat and saturated fat. Instead choose the MUFAs and PUFAs. Check the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list when selecting your healthy salad dressings to make sure they contain good fats, but keep in mind the calorie counts. All fats are high in calories. Adjust your diet choices to use good fats instead of other foods — not as an addition to your daily menu.
In addition to watching the calories in your salad dressing, be sure to keep an eye on the calories in the salad itself. Fill the bottom of the bowl with leafy green vegetables and then use portion and calorie-control (and self-control!) with your salad add-ons, such as fruits, nuts, seeds, bacon bits, and other higher-calorie toppings or deli-salads.
Sometimes people eat 1,000 calories in salad, thinking they are doing their body good — when the excess calories will add on pounds if over the daily calorie allotment. It can be particularly challenging at a restaurant, where a salad may have as many calories and as much fat as a burger.
For a healthy shopping shortcut, pick up one of these seven store-bought dressings.
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