Salads are a great way to up your veggie count, but don’t spoil them with the wrong dressing choice. While salad greens are very low in calories and fat-free, most dressings are not, providing as much as 150 calories and 16 grams of fat in a single serving (2 tablespoons).
Dressings labeled “light” or “lite” are lower in fat or calories or both. However, they tend to be higher in sodium than full-fat dressings, with as much as 600 milligrams of sodium in a single serving. Check nutrition labels to be sure the sodium count is reasonable.
But don’t assume that fat-free dressings are the optimal choice, either. Though they tend to be lowest in calories, you may miss out on nutrients from your salad because some fat is needed to help your body absorb carotenoids, the key phytochemicals in dark green, yellow and orange vegetables. On the other hand, just a little fat is needed to help with absorption. And if your salad contains a few nuts or seeds or a little avocado, for example, the healthful fats in those foods will do the job.
Keep in mind that most bottled dressings contain unsaturated vegetable oils that are good for your heart. You can also make your own from olive, peanut, sesame and other tasty and healthful oils, combined with flavorful balsamic or herb vinegar, citrus juice, mustard and herbs, to name just a few possibilities. But whenever you use an oil-based dressing, add it with a light hand because of the calories.