When it comes to healthy eating, you really can’t go wrong with a giant bowl of rabbit food. Generally, big entree salads are one of the healthiest meals around, as they’re chock full of a variety of plant-based foods, lean proteins, healthy fats and satiating carbohydrates.
Salads can go terribly wrong though and truly be worse for you than the burger you wanted anyway. No really, it’s true. A McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken and dressing has six grams more fat than a full Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
The first step in avoiding slathering your otherwise healthy salad with calories is to reconsider your salad dressing.
The purpose of a salad dressing is to first add moisture to the bed of greens and veggies, making them a little easier to eat. So when replacing your dressing, you want “wet” toppings that accomplish this task.
The second purpose is to add flavor, otherwise it’s just a plate full of plain vegetables. You can add big flavor without adding fat, calories, or junked-out chemically processed ingredients with what Cheryl Forberg, RD calls flavor agents. The James Beard award-winning chef and Biggest Loser dietitian highlighted foods like fresh herbs, roasted garlic, citrus zest, and robust spices in her book Flavor First, showcasing how to add mouth-watering flavor to foods without impacting the nutrition counts.
Your typical off-the-shelf ranch, Caesar and the like aren’t great for you. They’ll undo all the good you put into a salad. So whether you’re just trying to eat more clean, avoid dairy, count calories, watch fat, or are a foodie looking to try something different, here are nine salad dressing alternatives you’ll really enjoy.
Avocado. A serving of avocado is about one-third of the fruit, and it’s enough to add creamy texture and moisture to the greens. It also adds a healthy fat that you may have otherwise gotten from olive oil, so you don’t have to double up on fats. If plain avocado won’t fly, a dollop of guacamole may be the boldest salad dressing replacement out there.
Try this: Roasted Garlic and Habanero Guacamole
Hummus. This creamy bean-based condiment is an excellent topping for salads. The beans provide a hearty dose of protein and “healthy” carbohydrates — so not only will will you skip the fatty dressing but you’ll give yourself a satisfying boost of macro nutrients. Plus, who doesn’t need an excuse to eat hummus?
Try this: Pumpkin Hummus
Splash of citrus. Simply squeeze a bit of lime, orange, or lemon (or a combo) over your greens. The bright flavors will bring your salad to life, while the citrus juices won’t affect your calorie or fat count.
Try this: add a little salt and pepper, too!
Yogurt. If you love the thick, creamy texture of a ranch or Caesar dressing, then you’ll love this easy replacement. Choose any flavor you like, or just stick to plain. Jazz it up with the citrus suggestion above.
Oil and vinegar. Simple and delicious, this vinaigrette is one of the best replacements for traditional dressings. A splash of red wine, apple cider or balsamic vinegar with a splash of olive oil is all you need!
Try this: 8 ways to make a vinaigrette
Salsa. This is one of the most popular ways to replace salad dressing. It adds an extra serving or so of veggies and a big boost of flavor, while adding the necessary moisture to the greens and veggies. Usually under 10 calories per serving, you don’t even have to order this on the side.
Try this: Smoky Tomatillo Pineapple Salsa
Champagne. Add a spash of champagne over your greens for a subtle pop of flavor that feels fabulous to eat. At only 29 calories, you could even afford to fill a glass on the side, too!
Try this: Add a splash of pomegrante juice to the champagne.
Roasted tomatoes. Spread a baking sheet in a single layer of cherry tomatoes, garlic, cracked black pepper, a little Kosher sal, and a little mist of olive oil. Then pour the tomatoes directly over your salad. The thick, flavorful juices will fill your salad and you’ll never miss a “real” dressing.
Try this: Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad
Olive tapenade. Famous on the not-so-healthy New Orleans muffuletta sandwich, this olive condiment is an excellent salad topper. Mix your choice of minced olives with olive oil, parsley, lemon, garlic, and pepper for an exciting new “dressing.”
Try this: Easy Olive Tapenade
TapGenes Takeaway: Get out of your salad dressing slump with some fresh new ways to top your salads. Champagne, guacamole and citrus could be the new icing on your veggie cake!
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