Word About Salad Dressings

A few innocent ladles of salad dressing can transform a potentially healthful salad into a high-fat nutrition nightmare. On a large salad, dressing can easily add 800 to 1,000 calories. On even a small side salad, a dressing can drown the salad's healthfulness in 400 calories of fat. These fat calories appease the appetite, add to your waistline, and fail to fuel the muscles with carbohydrate. I advise my clients to educate themselves about salad-dressing calories by reading labels and measuring out the amount of dressing they normally use on a salad—they tend to be shocked by what they learn!

Dressing, 2 tbsp

Calories

Fat (g)

Plain olive oil

240

26

Plain vinegar

5

0

Herbs, sprinkling

5

0

Blue cheese, Wish-Bone, chunky

150

15

Blue cheese, Wish-Bone fat free, chunky

35

0

Ranch, Wish-Bone regular

160

13

Ranch, Just 2 Good

40

2

Ranch, Wish-Bone fat free

30

0

Italian, Newman's Own regular

150

16

Italian, Kraft Zesty Italian

70

6

Italian, Just 2 Good

35

2

Nutrition information from food labels, July 2007.

Nutrition information from food labels, July 2007.

To reduce the fat and calories from salad dressing, choose low-fat dressings or simply dilute a regular dressing with extra vinegar, lemon juice, water, or milk in creamy dressings. By using only small amounts of this diluted version, you'll get lots of flavor and moisture with fewer calories. You might also want to venture into the world of exotic vinegars. Balsamic is one of my favorites.

At restaurants, always request that the dressing be served on the side so you can control the amount you consume. Add the dressing sparingly, or dip a forkful of salad into the dressing before each bite. And be forewarned: Even fat-free dressings have calories and should be used sparingly. Replacing the fat calories from dressings with more carbohydrate (e.g., an extra dinner roll or a baked potato) can improve your body's capacity for exercise.

Tip 3. Pile on the potassium-rich vegetables. This mineral, which gets lost in sweat, protects against high blood pressure. You should try to get at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium per day, an easy task for salad lovers.

Some of the vegetables richest in potassium are romaine lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, and carrots (see table 1.1 on page 11).

Tip 4. Include adequate protein by adding low-fat cottage cheese; flaked tuna; canned salmon; or sliced turkey, chicken, or other lean meats. For plant-based protein, toss in diced tofu, chickpeas, kidney beans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, and peanuts. Too often vegetarians eat just the greens and neglect the protein. They often end up anemic, injured, and chronically sick with colds or the flu.

Tip 5. Remember the calcium. For calcium (and protein), add grated part-skim mozzarella cheese; cubes of tofu; dressing made from plain yogurt seasoned with oregano, basil, and other Italian herbs; or a scoop of low-fat cottage cheese (a better source of protein than of calcium). Drink low-fat milk or nonfat milk along with the salad, or have yogurt for dessert. Don't try to live on lettuce alone!

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