What would you do if you found out that your efforts to improve your health were actually sabotaging it instead? Would you want to know some simple kitchen hacks to right the wrongs? You’d be surprised at the hidden ingredients lurking in of some of the staple foods in your kitchen right now — foods you thought were contributing to your healthy diet.
Raise your hand if you consider salad a “health food.”
As the wellness program manager of a large hospital, people always assume that I will want salad for a company lunch. After all, salads are healthy and that’s my whole deal right?
It all depends on the details. What type of greens? What type of dressing? What else is on the salad? And very importantly, will I be NOURISHED after eating this salad?
There’s a big difference between a salad made with ice burg lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, croutons, and store-bought fat-free honey mustard dressing and one made with colorful mixed greens, fresh shredded cabbage, sunflower seeds, and a homemade Dijon vinaigrette. Ingredients matter — especially that dressing!
All salad dressings are not created equal.
The type of dressing you put on your salad can make or break the meal, both flavor-wise and nutrition-wise. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that ZERO store-bought dressings are worth buying, you’d be hard-pressed to find one without unnecessary additives that you couldn’t replicate without them at home. And I have my money on the one you make at home tasting better 100% of the time.
Put down that bottle!
Bottled dressings are often full of sugar and highly processed oils. The lovely pictures of vegetables you see on the front label doesn’t often reflect what’s actually inside the bottle (learn how to decipher food labels). Here are a few examples of labels found in the center aisle of the grocery store:
Full Fat Ranch Dressing: As you can see, the first ingredient is soybean oil. Setting aside the fact that virtually all soybeans and a huge proportion of rape seeds (the seed used in canola oil) grown in the US are of the controversial GMO variety, both of these oils are highly processed, often bleached, deodorized, and heated at high temperatures, rendering the oils rancid before they are even added to this concoction. Add that to the fact that soy in general is tough to digest and can irritate your GI tract, and both are full of inflammatory Omega 6 fats — I think we can leave this one on the shelf. But isn’t “low-fat” healthier anyway?
Low Fat Ranch Dressing: Let’s look at the main ingredients. Water (which is free at home) and 4 different words for sugar (corn syrup, maltodextrin, sugar, and modified food starch), make up 98% of what’s in the low-fat model — no, low-fat is not healthier. Using this sugar-filled dressing would completely undermine your good, nutritious intentions.
So far, we’ve only looked at Ranch dressing, and some of you might be thinking, “No one thinks Ranch dressing is healthy. She’s cheating! I only use vinaigrette on my salads.”
“Olive Oil” and Vinegar: Why is the third ingredient a blend of EVOO and soybean oil in a salad dressing labeled Olive Oil Vinaigrette? Because soybeans are cheap, subsidized products of agribusiness, the byproducts of which have found themselves in nearly every box and bottle on the shelves of your supermarket, including most chocolate!
Why would you pay a premium for water, oil, vinegar, and sugar, along with all those other unpronounceables that we’ve seen in all three of these labels? (by the way, “natural flavors” almost always means MSG, which you’ve seen explicitly listed on some of the other labels here as well.)
Make Your Own Salad Dressing
Now that I’ve convinced you that you’re buying garbage in the dressing aisle, let’s talk solutions. Watch me transform ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen into a delicious, nutritious dressing with real ingredients. This simple recipe takes seconds to prepare and if you double it, you can store it in a glass jar to use all week.
I’ll be posting additional how-to recipe videos in the coming weeks that will include more fun salad dressings, along with other “Why Make Your Own” favorites.