Why Most Salad Dressing Is Unhealthy + How to Make Your Own

Nutrition Real Food Recipes

Salad Dressing is last thing you’d expect to have unhealthy ingredients in it, right?

I mean after all, it’s salad dressing. SALAD. That stuff that people eat to get healthy. That plate full of veggies with other some other healthy stuff tossed on top like sunflower seeds, strawberries, or quinoa.

While it may be counterintuitive it at first, most salad dressing is unhealthy — just another processed, food-like product.

And I’m sure you’ll agree that if you’re going to be eating a bowl full of nutrient-dense greens, why smother it with a bunch of harmful, heavily-processed ingredients?

Let’s take a look at some of the unhealthy ingredients in salad dressings.

First, it’s important to note that when you see terms such as ‘lite’ and ‘fat-free’ on salad dressings (and any food-product for that matter) it essentially means that they’ve removed the fat and replaced it with refined, processed sugar or corn syrup (both of which should be avoided).

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common culprits hiding in salad dressings (and why they should be avoided):

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup: We know that HFCS is dangerous (you may have noticed it being removed from processed foods like yogurts and cereals recently) but did you know that it is actually more toxic to the body than refined sugar itself? Recent studies have connected it to obesity, diabetes, and more.
  • Sugar: Yes, A lot of salad dressing contains straight-up sugar!
  • Vegetable Oils: Most store-bought salad dressings contain vegetable oils (including soybean, canola, and more). Contrary to what the name suggests, these types of oils are far from healthy. They’re high in omega-6 fatty acids and lead to inflammation. Plus, most are genetically modified.

Here is an example of an ingredient list from a popular salad dressing. Notice that the first ingredient is vegetable oil (which we want to avoid).

salad dressing ingredients unhealthy 1

  • Titanium Dioxide: This one might surprise you, but it’s true: titanium dioxide, the same chemical that is used to make paint brighter, can also be found in store-bought salad dressings! It is used to make the color of the dressing brighter and more appealing, but it comes with a cost. It has been linked to a host of inflammatory issues and is commonly contaminated with lead.


salad dressing ingredients unhealthy 2

The good news is that salad dressings are quite simple to make at home.

How to Make Your Own Healthy Salad Dressing

1. Start with an oil

Two of my favorite oils for homemade salad dressings are olive oil and avocado oil. Unlike vegetable oils, these are both high in omega 3-fatty acids, which we want to increase!

2. Add in the vinegar

You have several options here. My personal favorite is Apple Cider Vinegar, but you can also use champagne vinegar, white vine vinegar, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, depending on taste preference and the type of salad.

*The ratio is typically 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, but experiment with this to find what you like best – have fun with this!

3. Add in fresh citrus

Fresh citrus juice is essential to any tasty homemade salad dressing. This gives it a bit of sweetness and reduces the bitterness from the vinegar. I like to squeeze in some orange or grapefruit juice. Fresh lemon juice can also be used in addition to other citrus juices.

4. Throw in seasoning

This is where you can get really creative! Depending on whether you have a sweet or savory salad, you can add a variety of seasonings.

My favorite seasonings for fruity/sweet salads are: honey, liquid stevia/fresh stevia leaves, and fresh mint leaves.

My favorite seasonings for savory salads are: minced garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, turmeric, basil, cilantro, ginger, mustard, parsley, and more!

Simply whisk all of your ingredients together or shake in a blender bottle and you’re set! Be sure to store in an air-tight container and use within 5-7 days.

Making your own salad dressings at home is not only super simple, but so much better for you (and quite tasty too)!

Have you checked your ingredient lists to find out what’s hiding in your store-bought salad dressings? Think you’ll start making your own salad dressing?

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  1. We make our own ranch dressing with homemade kefir, organic greek yogurt (or homemade mayo for those who can tolerate eggs) and raw, grassfed milk/cream. Add himalayan salt, lemon juice and we add Trader Joe’s 21 seasoning salute, and we think its just as tasty as Hidden Valley, but oh so good for you!