Store bought versions are often made with less quality oils, filled with additives, preservatives, artificial colours, flavours, added sugars, calories and unhealthy fats. Have you stopped to look at the ingredient list of your favourite store bought dressing? Here's a quick look at what you might find!
Potassium Sorbate, or Calcium Disodium EDTA are chemical preservatives found in salad dressings. These preservatives are used to extend the shelf life of the product, inhibit microbial growth, and slow oxidation of fats and lipids (keeps the oils from going rancid).
You probably know monosodium glutamate by it's more common name, MSG, it is the controversial flavour enhancing substance found not only in dressings but many food products. People can experience a sensitivity or reaction to MSG with symptoms including migraines, blurred vision, nausea just to name a few. MSG is a brain excitotoxin, it excites your taste buds and can make bland food taste wonderful. Unfortunately spotting MSG on an ingredient label can sometimes be tricky as it can be listed under other names such as ajinomoto, anything autolyzed, calcium caseinate, anything hydrolyzed, malt extract, anything protein, sodium caseinate, yeast extract, vetsin.
- Fat free may mean lower calories but your body needs good fats to absorb such things as carotenoids, a healthy group of phytochemicals naturally found in vegetables such as vitamin A, found in kale, spinach and carrots
- Remember serving size! Most labels give you the nutrional value of a single serving (usually one tablespoon) of dressing! Unless you can adhere to the serving size you could be adding on the upward of 150-200+ extra calories and unhealthy fats as well as extra sugar and sodium
- Be cautious of vague label ingredients such as seasonings, spices and flavours (natural or artificial) they could be hidden forms of MSG
- Don't buy anything containing high-fructose corn syrup
- "Made with Extra Virgin Olive Oil" usually means EVOO is in the dressing, not the primary oil
- When whipping up your own homemade dressings use healthy fat sources such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil or avocado
- If you see the words "partially hydrogenated" anywhere in the ingredient list, it means the product contain trans-fats, a definite no-no, leave it on the shelf!
- Stay away from dressings with artificial colours, they can cause allergic reactions in some people and could contain cancer promoting substances like benzidine
- If you can't pronounce the ingredients or don't recognize them, you are probably better off not buying that dressing
- If the dressing boasts light, reduced fat or low fat take a second look at the nutritional and ingredient list, reducing the fat content in dressings makes it less tasty so often to counter this the producers add more sugar, sodium or flavourings.
- Be aware of "natural" or the names and marketing of a dressing, "healthy sounding" dressings can be found all over the grocery store and the wording can be deceiving, look at the ingredients!
- Ask for the dressing on the side when eating out, this way you control the amount that actually goes onto your salad
- To rest assured ask for your salad undressed and pack your own small 3oz bottle of homemade dressing when dining out or travelling
Making Your Own Dressing
I often like to whip up just enough for my meals, keeping it fresh and different each time! Use your imagination and the guide below as motivation to create a dressing at home! Looking for extra inspiration check to see if your city has an olive oil and balsamic bar and try using infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegars to enhance the flavours. I enjoy visiting our local establishment Dressed By an Olive....their Blood Orange Olive Oil matched with the Cinnamon Pear Balsamic mixed with a little organic Dijon mustard, a pinch of sea salt and a dash of fresh black pepper, delish!!! I love making this combination and enjoying it over a bed of organic spinach, topped with raw chopped pecans and organic strawberries!! ........Think I am off to make a salad!!! Happy salad dressing creating!!