Salad dressings hold a very special place and can make our salad fantastic, giving it a very special taste. I do not think that any of you likes to consume salads or vegetables without any dressing and if you have the choice -with or without - you will choose without! In fact, I think there are a lot of people who have a great weakness for dressings and add them to many of their daily meals, such as sandwiches and wraps. It is worthwhile to learn how to make your own unique dressings at home, mixing simple ingredients without much salt and sugar, thus creating a healthier version. Even for those of you who are on a diet, it does not mean that you should exclude them from your life, just make the most nutritious version of them.
So, shall we see how and why to make the healthiest version of a dressing at home?
1. Choose a spice mix that you like!
As we have said plenty of times, spices are rich in antioxidants and are an ideal way to season our foods by replacing salt. You can choose any mix of spices you want and make your own combinations. You can use 2 or 3, or even 4 different ones at a time! The spices and herbs you can try are: oregano, parsley, mint, peppermint, nutmeg, turmeric, tarragon, rosemary, pepper, paprika, garlic, curry, and cumin. This way, you will know exactly what your dressing contains and you will be able to make the most incredible combinations based on what you like best! Be aware that when using dried herbs, dressings can be stored for up to 2 months in the refrigerator, while with fresh ones they can be stored from 1 week to 10 days.
2. You can make it lower in sugars.
Surely, if you want to make a slightly sweeter version, you should add a little honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, or even grape molasses. These ingredients also contain sugars but, usually, we do not need to add so much to get the sweet version of our dressing. This way, you can at least avoid the large amount of processed sugar, you can choose your recipe a little wiser and if you want you can add one of the above sweeteners or a jam with stevia or with no added sugars! Of course, there are healthier dressing versions on the market, but there are still those that have more preservatives, sugar, and salt, which is best to be avoided.
3. You can make it lower in fat, and especially in saturated or trans fats.
By making your own dressing at home, you can use the kind of oil that you like and that -at the same time- is a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, such as olive oil, avocado oil, and flaxseed oil. You can also pay attention to the proportion and add less oil by combining it with some balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or even low-fat yogurt. Thus, you will create a different combination that will be lower in total fats, as well as in saturated or trans fatty acids. Moreover, for those of you who love Asian flavors, you can make a dressing based on sesame oil.
4. The dressing will suit your dietary preferences.
What do I mean by that? For example, if you are vegan or vegetarian or follow gluten-free, lactose-free, or dairy-free diets, or if you are allergic to a nut, then the only sure thing is that you have to prepare your own dressing! This way, you will make what you prefer and like, and you will avoid any form of allergy since you will have chosen and checked the ingredients one by one.
5. Add something acidic, giving flavor without overdoing it with calories.
This is what will give your dressing the extra taste and acidity it needs. As we said above, add balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, or plain vinegar, lemon juice, lime, or even orange juice if it suits the other flavors. All these ingredients will give a more special sour taste to the dressing without adding a lot of extra calories! You can also use mustard -prefer one that is lower in salt- or a tomato sauce that you have prepared on your own and you know exactly what it contains.
This article was written in collaboration with the scientific advisor-sports nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr, INDI.
The website akispetretzikis.com offers as a service a variety of articles, based on scientific sources. All the articles are provided as general information and no text should be used as a substitute for advice from a physician or another health scientist, regardless of the date it has been published.