How to: Making your own healthy salad dressings

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Long gone are the days of hearty soups, stews, and roasted root vegetables that kept our souls warm and our bellies nourished all winter long. Spring and Summer mark a time to celebrate fresh, light, and vibrant vegetables. It’s salad season!

While salads are probably one of the healthiest meals of all, how we dress our salad can totally make or break our healthiest intentions. In fact, store bought dressings can oftentimes be what I call the “undo” button, capable of completely sabotaging what could have been a delicious and nourishing meal.

Don’t believe me? Head to your fridge or pantry, pick up a store-bought dressing, and take a glance at the list of ingredients. More times than not, you will find a long list of highly processed ingredients, including sneaky sugar, excess sodium, and highly refined oils, along with an assortment of artificial additives and preservatives.

So, how do we dress our salads for success? You can start by learning what to look for when reading the nutrition label of store-bought salad dressing, which I explained in detail here. And while there are a few good products currently on the market, such as Tessemae’s All Natural Dressings, the truth is, you’re better off making your own. DIY dressing is a no brainer – it’s healthier, more affordable, and puts you back in the driver’s seat.

The idea of making your own salad dressing may feel intimidating, but after a little practice, it becomes second nature. To make it extra simple, here’s a step-by-step guide to DIY salad dressings.

DIY DRESSING: A Step-by-Step Guide

When it comes to making a salad dressing, I follow a simple acronym: FASSS — Fat, Acid, Seasoning, Salt & Sweet. FASSS represents the 5 key components of a delicious and nutrient-rich salad dressing, with no recipe required! Let’s break it down:

  • Fat: Fat serves many purposes! It brings a creamy texture to your salad dressing and serves as an emulsifier that holds all the other ingredients together. Fat also acts as a chauffeur for your salad’s nutrients. Did you know that many of our nutrients are “fat soluble”? That means they need fat to help transport them from our GI tract to our cells. Without fat, our nutrients never reach our cells and we lose out on reaping their health benefits. This is why fat-free salad dressings are actually counterproductive. Try one of these high-quality fats: Olive oil, flax oil, nut and seed butters like tahini or almond butter, organic yogurt, hummus, or a mashed up avocado.
  • Acid: Acid brightens up your salad dressing, bringing a nice tang to every bite. Think: vinegars and citrus fruits. There are so many different vinegars to explore: red wine, white wine, apple cider, sherry, balsamic, white balsamic, rice vinegar – each of these has a unique flavor. You can also use lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits .
  • Seasonings: Here’s where you get to add some personality to your dressing. Add garlic, some minced onions, scallions, or shallots, or mix it up with ginger or different herbs and spices. Think of what kind of flavor profile you’re craving — whether it’s Asian, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean — and let that direct you towards seasoning combinations commonly used in these areas of the…

5 healthy, sugar-free homemade dips, dressings and sauces to spice up your meals

Businessman having a vegetables salad for lunch, healthy eating and lifestyle concept, unrecognizable person
Businessman having a vegetables salad for lunch, healthy eating and lifestyle concept, unrecognizable person (demaerre)

Many restaurant and store bought dips and dressings are high in calories, fat and added sugar. A salad at Mcdonald’s may not always be better than the quarter-pounder with cheese once you factor in the dressing that comes with the salad. You’re always better off ordering a salad without the dressing and making your own at home. If you are eating at the restaurant, you can get the dressing on the side and dip your fork first in the dressing and then in the salad. Here are some healthy dressings and dips that will add a ton of flavor to your salads without all of the extra calories.

Carrot ginger dressing:

To make this easy and low calorie dressing, simply blend cooked carrots, minced ginger root and roasted garlic with unsweetened cashew milk until a smooth consistency is achieved. It will give an Asian flair to any salad or dish. Ginger has a strong flavor so start with two tablespoons to large carrot. Ginger has numerous health benefits and this is a great way to work it into your diet. It is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger also helps with nausea, lowers blood sugar levels, helps improve various heart disease risk factors and has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol and blood triglyceride levels.

Greek yogurt dip:

Greek yogurt is a great substitute for mayonnaise and sour cream in dips and dressings due to its thick consistency…

9 Spring Salads You’ll Want to Dive Into (Really)

Now that spring is in full swing, eating salad is so much more fun thanks to the plethora of fresh, bright produce. From Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing to French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese, these crazy-good recipes will satisfy all your spring salad cravings.

This recipe was inspired by the popular Thai Crunch Salad served at California Pizza Kitchen. It’s made with crisp Napa cabbage, crunchy vegetables and edamame but it’s the creamy peanut dressing that makes it so good; I guarantee you’ll want to put it on everything! GET THE RECIPE

Fragrant spices, bright colors, sweet and savory flavors — this Moroccan salad is a feast for the senses. It’s an exotic twist on the classic carrot-raisin salad, yet you won’t need any hard-to-find ingredients to make it. The magic is made with spices you already have in your spice cabinet. GET THE RECIPE

Fresh berries make an elegant addition to this salad of baby spinach, pecans and goat cheese. The fruity and tart raspberry vinaigrette enhances the flavor…

6 Healthy Recipes For When You Barely Have Time to Cook

I enjoy eating steak every so often as long as there is twice as much veg on my plate as meat. This recipe gets that ratio right, a modest amount of super flavorful steak with a skillet full of everything I want to be eating this time of year: asparagus, scallions, and peas.

Alex Lau

At the end of my long days in the Bon Appétit test kitchen, I typically pull together dinner for my wife and me (i.e., cook all over again). What I usually crave at the end of a day spent trying virtually every dish made in the Test Kitchen, is fresh salad. Yet I can’t expect my wife to high-five me for putting some lettuce on a plate. The mix of textures and flavors in this fattoush hits the sweet spot between not-too-much work and very-friggin-delicious.

I love making…

The Health And Beauty Benefits Of Green Vegetables

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The other day, my mother asked if we should have waffles for breakfast, and my response shocked even me: “What if we had a salad?” In the weeks since Allure asked me to write about leafy greens, I’ve changed. Once a kale agnostic, I’m now a Devout Kale Orthodox. The kind of person who eats spinach for breakfast and offers unsolicited advice to strangers in line at the salad bar: “You know, romaine is actually healthier than arugula.” (I know, spoiler alert. Just sit tight for a minute.)

The more I learned about leafy greens, the more of them I ate, and the more I ate, the more I wanted to eat. “It’s a virtuous cycle,” says Dean Ornish, the president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California. “You feel so much better so quickly that it becomes positive reinforcement.” While I can’t say I felt physical changes immediately, the psychological benefits were instantaneous. Nothing makes you feel more superior than pulling out a Tupperware container of collard greens in front of your colleagues. I may have become a zealot, but as cults go, the cult of greens isn’t a bad one to be in. (Although maybe every cult member feels this brand of righteousness?)

Nothing makes you feel more superior than pulling out a Tupperware container of collard greens in front of your colleagues.

It seems like every week there’s a new study telling us that a food we thought was healthy is, in fact, the sole reason for the decline of civilization. But think about the Leafies. There’s a reason you’ve never read a disparaging word about them. Research has shown, over and over again, that there’s practically no anatomical system that doesn’t benefit from more kale, more spinach, more watercress. They lower the risk of heart attack and stroke; they’re linked to lower blood pressure; they keep the digestive tract healthy; they help you see better; they’re protective against many types of cancer; and they even play a role in combating mental decline.

Here’s a gross oversimplification: They have pretty much every nutrient our bodies need, with the exception of protein and fat. But when I suggested to registered dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot that I might go on an all-green diet, she quickly set me straight: “An average woman would have to eat 50 cups of kale per day to get adequate calories.” OK, so you shouldn’t eat only greens, but they actually are a good source of one kind of fat: omega-3, which is associated with alleviating everything from mood disorders to eczema. Fish is usually the go-to for this essential fatty acid, but omega-3s originally come from greens. Fish get them from eating algae, which, as everyone knows, are the salad of the sea!

One place where greens have been shown to be more beneficial than other vegetables or fruits is in the brain. Scientists are beginning to seriously examine the effects of diet on brain function. What they’re finding is great news for anyone who thought cognitive decline was due to unlucky genes. When Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, tracked the eating habits and brain health of almost 1,000 adults over five years, she found that those who ate one to two servings of green leafy vegetables per day had the mental abilities of someone 11 years younger than those who didn’t eat greens. “Of all of the different types of vegetables, green leafy appear to be most related to protection against cognitive decline,” says Morris.

So what is it about greens that make them so good for you? It probably has something to do with the tough life of a leaf. Think of the leaf as the engine of the plant: It’s where photosynthesis, the process of turning light into fuel for the plant, occurs. Photosynthesis creates something called reactive oxygen species, which are turbocharged free radicals that wreak havoc in cells. To combat this molecular chaos, leaves produce tons of antioxidants. “Antioxidants put the…

Dead Bat Found In Fresh Express Salad Prompts Recall

Two people in Florida reportedly discovered a dead bat in a prepackaged salad, prompting a recall and a CDC investigation.

The consumers had already eaten some of Fresh Express’s Organic Marketside Spring Mix before discovering the creature in a “deteriorated condition,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a press release on Saturday. Their health is being monitored while the CDC tests the carcass for rabies. Even if it tested positive, the risk of transmission would be extremely low,…

From Almond Biscotti to “Crack” Nuts: 16 Easy Recipes for Nut Lovers

Nuts are a great way to add flavor, protein and crunch to your cooking. From salads to sweets, these recipes make the very most of nuts.

Hands-down, my favorite biscotti recipe. Adapted from Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, they are everything good biscotti should be: buttery, lightly sweet and crunchy but not tooth-shattering. GET THE RECIPE

Baked oatmeal is a comforting Amish breakfast casserole with a consistency similar to bread pudding. There are endless variations — the recipe is easily adapted with whatever fruits and nuts you have on hand — but this version filled with tart apples and plump raisins with a crunchy walnut topping is my favorite. GET THE RECIPE

Sweet, salty, spicy, and rosemary-infused, these nuts from Union Square Café make the perfect party snack. Bonus: they’re a cinch to make! GET THE RECIPE

This retro snack mix is a party essential in our home. The recipe makes a ton, which is a good thing since one handful is never enough. GET THE RECIPE

When you combine roasted Brussels sprouts, smoky bacon, toasted pecans and maple syrup, it’s hard to resist eating the entire pan right out of the oven. GET THE RECIPE

Made with crisp power greens, toasted walnuts, chunks of Parmesan and a lemony Dijon dressing — this salad tastes like a healthful, crunchy Caesar. GET THE RECIPE

Sweet, tart and gooey, these bars are a happy marriage of blondies and raspberry jam. And they’re just as good with your morning coffee as they are…

Try This Coconut Oil Detoxifying Green Smoothie For Glowing Skin

Spring is almost here. Along with the warmer weather and greener landscape comes a shift in our diets, where we begin to crave lighter and brighter foods. We replace our warming soups and stews with cooling and detoxifying juices, smoothies, and salads. While whole and natural raw produce is one of best sources of unadulterated nutrients, there is still one important nutrient that is lacking in most green smoothies. Without it, it’s much harder for the body to absorb and utilize the potent nutrition inherent in most of our juice and smoothie ingredients. It’s also essential for glowing skin.

The missing ingredient? Fats! Essential vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, for example, are fat-soluble, meaning fats are necessary during digestion for the body to absorb them properly. An…

What’s For Dinner: Beef Larb Is More Than A Funny-Sounding Word

If you have never had larb before, you are in for a treat. Larb is a meat salad popular in Laos and it is just what you need to break up your weeknight dinner routine.

Next time you find yourself with a package of ground beef, resist the urge to make burgers, meatloaf or meatballs. Instead, make this fragrant meat…

This Smashed Avocado Chickpea Salad Is Bursting With Protein

You want an easy lunch that’s healthy and filling, right? Look no further than this zesty avocado chickpea salad, bursting with fresh dill, lemon, celery, cucumbers, and carrots. Even though it’s served on just half an English muffin, you’ll feel satisfied until dinner because it’s full of fiber and protein. It throws together in less than 10 minutes, and you can even make a batch ahead of…

50 Best Weight-Loss Tips

What to know the one secret to losing weight? The secret is — get ready for it — there is no one thing that does it. It’s a lot of little things that add up to big results. And here are some ideas.

  1. Follow the 80/20 rule, which means eating clean 80 percent of the time and indulging a little 20 percent of the time.
  2. Every time you get an urge to eat when you’re not hungry, do 10 push-ups.
  3. Choose a whole-wheat wrap instead of two slices of wheat bread.
  4. Chew gum while cooking to keep from snacking.
  5. Keep cut-up fruits and veggies in the fridge to grab for snacks or easy meals.
  6. Sit on a yoga ball instead of a chair to work your core. Or get one of those standing desks.
  7. Eat in front of a person rather than a screen. It cuts down on mindless eating and makes you more accountable for each bite.
  8. Make 150-calorie nonperishable snack packs to keep in your purse, gym bag, and office drawer. Nuts are a great option since they keep you fuller longer and boost your metabolism.
  9. When making cookies, bake half the batch and scoop the rest into ice-cube trays. When your sweet tooth kicks in, pop out one and bake it to satisfy your craving without breaking the calorie bank.
  10. Use veggies like carrots, roasted spaghetti squash, or zucchini in place of spaghetti.
  1. Halfway through your meal, stop and drink some water and decide if you’re really hungry for the rest or if you’re just eating it because it’s on your plate.
  2. Don’t just stand there! Do squats while brushing your teeth, calf raises while standing in line, or lunges while chatting on the phone.
  3. Add protein powder to sweet recipes (like these Rice Krispies treats) to boost the nutrition.
  4. Keep weights in the living room so you can do some reps while watching TV.
  5. Instead of cream cheese or butter on bread or bagels, spread almond or peanut butter. The healthy fats satiate hunger and can decrease belly fat.
  6. Choose wet snacks such as melon, peppers, cherry tomatoes, or celery. Their water content will fill you up and prevent bloating.
  7. Make your own low-fat ice cream using frozen bananas and peanut butter or luscious cherries and chocolate.
  8. When nature calls, use a bathroom on a different floor to make…

8 High-Sodium Bloat Bombs at Chain Restaurants

You already know that eating out can be a minefield of too-large portions, deceptive marketing (we see you, 1,000-calorie salads) and the temptation of fried appetizers and rich desserts. Being the savvy diner that you are, you already have strategies for dealing with all of the above.But the sneaky monster of next-day bloat can be harder to fight. Why? It comes from the high sodium count in many restaurant dishes, which can be harder to sleuth out just from a menu description. It’s enough of an issue that New York City now requires chains to put a little salt shaker on menus next to dishes with more than 2,300mg sodium. (Just to put it into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 1,500mg sodium for the average person…