The Salad Dressing Situation

The last time I stopped at the local supermarket to investigate salad dressings, I learned some very interesting things. Here’s a warning: After you read today’s post, if you haven’t already done so, you’re going to start making your own salad dressing, even if it’s simply olive oil and salt (my fav), or a squeeze of lemon.

After you read this post, you’re going to walk straight over to your refrigerator and pitch the bottles of commercial salad dressing, which drown your fresh, delicious, and nutritious meals in water and sugar; convert your salads to wolves in sheep’s clothing; and increase your risk of developing diabetes. Ugh, double ugh, and triple ugh. Wait ’til you see what I found.

The first product I picked up, Wishbone Italian, lists water as its first ingredient. Very expensive water, I might add. Surprising, too, given that Italian dressing is traditionally made from olive oil and vinegar. But not this “Italian” dressing.  After water, it contains soybean oil, canola oil, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, dehydrated garlic and onion and red bell pepper, maltodextrin, xantham gum, spices, autolyzed yeast extract, EDTA, natural flavor, lemon juice concentrate, caramel color, and annatto (to color the dressing yellow).

Next I picked up Hidden Valley Fat-Free Ranch. Like Wishbone Italian, its first ingredient is also water, followed by corn syrup, maltodextrin, sugar, and modified food starch (from corn or wheat, whichever is cheaper at the time). These four ingredients are all different ways to say “sugar.” Sixth on the list is buttermilk. Buttermilk is rich in protein, but how much can there be if the nutrition information label lists zero grams of protein? Not much.

Then I looked at Kraft Catalina French dressing. Like virtually all American-invented “French dressings,” the first ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup. Then water, tomato puree, soybean oil, vinegar and salt. Then come twelve more ingredients that constitute less than 2% of the total, including red dye 40, yellow dye 6, and blue dye 1 to create the product’s remarkably intense orange color. Two tablespoons of Kraft Catalina contain 10 grams of carbohydrate, nine grams of which are from sugar. Think of it as pouring pancake syrup on your salad.

The final dressing I examined was Kraft Balsamic Vinegar. Once again, water came first in the ingredient list, then “vegetable oils” (canola, soybean, extra virgin olive), “balsamic” vinegar (wine vinegar, grape juice, water), and a long list of ingredients each of which constitutes less than 2% of the total. Here’s my simple balsamic vinegar recipe, much more delicious and certainly more nutritious: Mix 3 tbsp. of olive oil with 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Toss well with washed lettuce greens, and serve.

Now stay tuned for a few of my favorite salad dressing recipes later this week!



4 thoughts on “The Salad Dressing Situation

  1. Bravo on this article. I haven’t bought salad dressing in over 5 years. I mix some Balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, chopped garlic clove, Italian seasonings, and a heaping tsp of Dijon mustard. Stir, shake, pour, yumm.

    • Love it! I have to say that having written this article has awakened in me a new desire to branch out and start making a traditional French dressing like the one you describe here. Thank you! RBS

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