Eat Your Salad Naked

Having salad as part of your low-calorie, low-fat weight loss diet plan may seem ideal to most – this is so only if you select the right salad dressing. For most of us, it is tough to shovel down as many salads in the name of weight loss if it ain’t for the dressings! However, are you aware that a single serving of salad dressing can have more calories than all the vegetables in the actual salad? Read on to find out what are some of the veggie toppers that will help you trim down – without sacrificing flavours.

There are two basic types of savoury salad dressings: the basic vinaigrettes which typically make up of oil and vinegar, and creamy emulsified dressings which make up of an emulsion of oil and egg yolk(s). Most, if not all salad dressings are derived from these two types. In general, non-creamy vinegar-based salad dressings such as balsamic vinaigrette are lower in calories, fats and sodium than creamy emulsified dressings such as mayonnaise.

Here are some favourite salad dressings ranked from the highest to lowest calories and fats in one tablespoon (15g) serving:

Olive Oil: 135kcal, 15g fats

Olive oil can be used as a salad dressing on its own.

There are different types of olive oil: light olive oil, pure olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil. All olive oil contains a healthy type of fat. Most differences in the various kinds have to do with how the oil is extracted and processed.

Light olive oil (also known extra light) is the lowest quality olive oil. Food manufacturers use chemicals and heat to remove the impurities, producing an oil that’s often lighter in colour and flavour than virgin olive oils. Sometimes, it is blended with other oils such as canola. This type of oil tends to be inexpensive. It is best used in baking, where a strong olive taste is not desired.

Pure olive oil is a blend of mostly processed olive oil and a small percentage of extra virgin olive oil, with the ratio as high as 95 percent processed olive oil to 5 percent extra virgin olive oil. It is less expensive than extra virgin olive oil and gives a strong fruity flavour in baking.

Extra virgin olive oil is the highest grade of olive oil with the best flavour. It is produced from the first cold pressing of the olives. Cold pressing means heat or chemicals are not part of the production process. Virgin olive oil, without the word “extra”, is the oil produced from the second pressing. It has a lighter flavour and colour than extra virgin olive oil. These oils are best for salad dressings where the strong olive flavour can be enjoyed.

Thousand Island: 58kcal, 5g fats

This is a beige or light orange-coloured emulsified cream sauce. Primary ingredients include vegetable oil, tomato, sugar, gherkin relish and egg.

Mayonnaise: 56kcal, 5g fats

This is a white emulsified cream sauce. Major ingredients include oil, sugar, vinegar and egg.

Balsamic Vinaigrette: 45kcal, 5g fats

Drizzling plain balsamic vinegar on your salad packs on less than 30 calories per 2 tablespoons serving. You can have the same amount of low-fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing for roughly the same amount of calories. If you opt for a full-fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing made with oil, you get three times as many calories – 90 calories from a 2- tablespoons portion.

Sesame Dressing: 25kcal, 2g fats

A vinegar and oil-based salad dressing seasoned with sesame paste, sesame oil and soy sauce.

Balsamic Vinegar: 13.2kcal, 0g fats

Originating in Italy, balsamic vinegar is a wine vinegar made from grapes that have been crushed, fermented and aged.

Balsamic vinegar by itself is relatively low in calories. But when food manufacturers blend it up with high-fat oil to make a balsamic vinaigrette dressing, you get way more calories than you may realise.

Source of nutrients facts: HPB Nutrients Database

On an ending note, excessive use of even the healthiest salad dressings may result in the consumption of more fat/oil and salt (sodium) than intended. Hence, always ask for dressings to be on the side, and drizzle just a little of the dressings on your salad. Lastly, if you are getting salad dressings from the supermarkets in Singapore to go with your homemade salad greens, choose those that are labelled with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS) as they are lower in fat and sodium.
Now you are all set to eating you salads the healthier way!


By Jean Tong,

Nutritionist at Halley Medical Aesthetics

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