Summer time is peak salad season—it’s the best way to make the most of all the in-season produce at the farmer’s market without having to turn on the oven. But there’s only one downside: It’s really, really easy to get sick of lemon and EVOO as your go-to healthy salad dressings. And healthy bottled options just don’t exist, right?
Wrong. While many are loaded with sodium and sugar, there are still plenty of healthy options if you know what to look for, says Maggie Moon, MS, RD. “Most bottled salad dressings are created for shelf-life, so watch out for preservatives and additives that you would never add at home,” she says. Look for options in the refrigerated section, as they are likely to have fewer or no preservatives, she says.
Be sure to read the nutrition facts label and ingredients statement. “Aim to keep sodium below 200 mg per serving, [and it’s] even better if it’s 140 mg per serving,” says Moon. Plus, try to keep added sugars below 5 grams, as well as saturated fat below 1 gram. And a tip? Thick creamy dressings are generally higher in cholesterol-raising saturated fat, so be extra cautious with those.
Ready to add some pizazz to your bed of greens? Shop these 11 dietitian-approved healthy salad dressings for fun, flavorful salads and marinades.
“I love this dressing because it’s made with extra-virgin olive oil and ingredients that I have at home and would use if I was making a dressing from scratch,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. This Greek one is great in the summer because it goes perfectly on crisp, in-season vegetables, she says.
“It’s rich in heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats from avocado oil, and unlike so many bottled dressings containing additives, this Primal Kitchen Honey Mustard dressing has simple whole foods-based ingredients you would cook with at home,” says EA Stewart, MBA, RD, CLT. It’s a great pick when you’re pressed for time and want to get an easy, healthy dinner on the table fast.
This brand makes their dressings with clean and simple ingredients, and most come without added sugar. “I love the Lemon Pepper and they have a new Everything Bagel Ranch I am dying to try,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC.
“A bold balsamic that’s great for salads as well as marinades, this dressing is well seasoned yet keeps the sodium in check,” says White. It has that little extra kick to take your greens to the next level.
“I love this one because the ingredients are terrific and it tastes great. The base oil is organic EVOO, and the only added sweetener (besides the sugar found in fig paste) is honey,” says Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RDN. Honey adds some richness.
“It’s less sweet and more tangy than some of the other dressings on the market, which is a nice change for the flavor profile,” says Dixon. “I also like the ingredients list: sunflower oil, balsamic vinegar, wild flower honey, and orange juice concentrate are the first ingredients and they are high quality,” she says. You could even marinate chicken or fish in this for a tasty grilled meal.
“The fat comes from two sources: expeller-pressed canola oil, which is a good source of plant-based omega-3 fats and EVOO, which is always a healthy fat to include in the diet,” says Dixon. It has the right flavor profile for a Caesar salad and contains real Romano cheese.
Made with high quality, recognizable ingredients without any artificial colors or preservatives, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD recommends trying the Sir Kensington’s line as a healthy salad dressing option. “My personal favorite is the Golden Citrus Vinaigrette, a bright and savory dressing made with turmeric, apple cider vinegar, citrus, and a touch of honey,” she says.
“I personally like the Poppy Seed dressing because it’s sweet without being overly sugary, and it’s creamy without any weird ingredients,” says Rizzo. She uses it as a dip for veggies, as well as a dressing on salad.
“I’m typically a DIY salad dressing gal but Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado dressing has converted me. With no artificial preservatives or additives and only 40 calories per 2 Tablespoons, it’s a fabulous find,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. It’s also gluten-free, and with only 1 gram of sugar, it fits into almost any healthy diet regimen.
If you love the salad dressing at Japanese restaurants, now you can enjoy it at home, too. ‘With only 80 calories and 1g sugar per 2 tablespoons, it can be a staple in your salads, grain bowls and marinades,” says Harris-Pincus. Look for it in the refrigerated produce section at the supermarket.
If you’re more of a DIY gal, here are healthy sauce ideas from chef Sophia Roe. And if you’re looking for ideas to take your TJ’s cauliflower gnocchi to the next level, enjoy these easy sauces.