{Nourish} Stop Buying Salad Dressings and Make Your Own, Here’s Why

Why You Should Make Your Own Salad Dressings Plus DIY RecipesEvery week I refill a mason jar with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, herbs and spices, and then give it a shake. It takes no time at all and the taste, it’s magic. Even better, my salad dressing making routine has saved me from the frequent temper tantrums I used to have in front of the salad dressing aisle at the grocery store. Why? The vast majority of the dressings available at the store are crap and this includes the refrigerated varieties and the innocent-sounding, organic vinaigrette. CRAP.

 

My Grocery Shopping Cheat Sheet

When I grocery shop, I follow a few guidelines that help me ensure good quality, nourishing ingredients end up in my cart. Ignore the front label since its purpose is to convince you that the product is “healthy,” regardless of the truth that lies within the package. Instead, head straight for the ingredient list and ask yourself these questions.

  1. Can I buy these ingredients in the grocery store? Would I?
  2. How would I make this myself?

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What’s in the bottle?

When I ask my client how they would make a salad dressing at home they almost always answer, “Olive Oil and Vinegar, of course.” Yet, it’s nearly impossible to find a store-bought dressing made with 100-percent extra-virgin olive oil, a high-quality, good-for-you anti-inflammatory oil. What you’ll find instead is a number of dressings, including so-called “olive oil” vinaigrette’s, that contain inexpensive, inflammatory oils like soybean oil, which even pops up in organic products.

Like many vegetable and seed oils, soybean oil is highly refined and so stripped of nutrients. Plus, inflammatory oils like soybean oil are processed at a high temperature, further damaging the integrity of the oil and increasing the risk of rancidity. Refined, rancid oils create inflammation in the body, which is the opposite of what you want when consuming healthy fats. Soybean oil also contains high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids, which, when consumed in excess, can cause inflammation. The typical American diet tends to be high in omega-6 fatty acids, largely due to excess vegetable oil intake in the form of processed foods.

Why Organic is No Better

Organic salad dressings aren’t much better. The organic label means the product is grown without harsh chemicals, but that doesn’t automatically equate to “healthy.” If you peek at the ingredients on an organic salad dressing label, you’ll find that it may still contain inflammatory oils as well as sugar, additives and preservatives. Store-bought dressings – organic or not – rarely, if ever, contain extra-virgin olive oil.

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What About Refrigerated Dressings?

Refrigerated dressings, meanwhile, are likely free of preservatives, but they are also often made with the same inflammatory oils found in their shelf-stable counterparts. The only way to find out is to read the ingredients list.

Buying fat-free dressing isn’t the answer either. The fat is the most nutrient-dense part of a salad dressing, so going fat-free is beside the point. Remember, healthy fats including those found in avocados, nuts, seeds and extra-virgin olive oil are really good for you. When a salad dressing is low fat or fat free, it often contains other, less-nutritious ingredients like sugar and excess sodium to create flavor. Artificial colors and flavors may show up as well.

So what’s the solution? Make your own dressings using extra-virgin olive oil – a healthy fat that’s rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Uncooked, like in a salad dressing, it’s the most nutritious oil. Just look for single origin oils in dark bottles, since that lowers the risk of rancidity. You can also use avocado oil, although it’s better used as high-heat cooking oil. If you do want to make a dressing with it, choose oils that are cold-pressed, as opposed to processed in high heat, which negatively affects the integrity of the oil and increases the risk of rancidity. Craving something creamy? Try starting with a strained yogurt or pureed avocado instead of mayo which is often made with inexpensive, inflammatory oils.

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Here are a couple of recipes for inspiration:

Lemon and Shallot (awesome on a raw kale salad)

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.

White Balsamic and Thyme (pictured)

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped (you can sub other hearty herbs like oregano and rosemary)
  • 1 clove of garlic, grated
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.

Citrus and Walnut

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnut oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • small shallot, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.

Green Goddess

  • 1 1/2 cups fat free, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped tarragon
  • 2 tbsp fresh chives or scallions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

 

What is you favorite DIY salad dressing?

 

Why You Should Make Your Own Salad Dressings Plus DIY Recipes

Edited from it’s original version which I wrote for US news.

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