Have you ever noticed just how “healthy” packaged food has become? Bottled salad dressings that shout “no high fructose corn syrup”, snack crackers and cookies claiming to be “all natural” or “made with whole grains.” Ice cream bars and popsicles brimming with green labels and taglines like “excellent source of calcium” or “made with real fruit.” Vegetable chips (mostly made of refined potato flour with vegetable juice for coloring) that boast “made with real vegetables” – what else would I expect?
These companies are not trying to make you healthy — they are trying to sell you a product. A mostly lousy product of cheap ingredients, fillers, and artificial flavors and/or colors that make it taste like the real deal.
As a general rule of thumb you should avoid all ingredients that you either can’t pronounce or those that you wouldn’t find in your grandmother’s kitchen.
Since Salads are often the healthy new diet meal #1, people often try to find the tastiest dressing so that they can even just get the salad down. Really? If that’s the case, then don’t blame the dressing just yet. A bland salad has more to do with the tasteless, and poor quality ingredients. If your tomato doesn’t smell like a tomato, don’t expect it to taste like one. And trying to make the salad taste good with a glob of ranch dressing is not going to help you loose weight. Even (or especially) if it’s fat free bottled dressing. Buy high quality, seasonal, organic ingredients, and whip up a dressing that brings out the real flavor of those heirloom tomatoes instead!
Let’s take a look at some of most common added ingredients in commercial salad dressings:
Soybean / Canola Oil: unless organic, those are most likely from GMO soy or canola, containing pesticide residues, and are highly processed and refined, destroying most of the original health benefits.
(High Fructose) Corn Syrup: high doses can cause “leaky gut” where toxic gut bacteria and partially digested food proteins leak through your intestinal walls and enter your blood stream, triggering inflammation. It can also lead to an increased risk of diabetes.
Xanthan Gum: a thickener which, in large doses, can have a profound impact on the gut microbiota.
Sorbic Acid: a preservative that may cause skin irritation; animal studies showed no other harmful effects.
Sodium Benzoate: a preservative that may exacerbate asthma, hyperactive behavior (when consumed in products with certain food colorings), and may cause serious cell damage associated with cirrhosis of the liver, ageing, and Parkinson’s disease. In animal studies, there are reports of possible weight gain, liver and kidney issues, and birth defects.
Caramel Color: may inhibit the metabolism of B6, reduce white blood cell count, or soften feces. In addition, animal studies showed possible carcinogenic effects.
Calcium Disodium EDTA: a preservative; There is much debate as to if EDTA is safe for humans. May be irritating to skin, cause asthma, and kidney damage.
Sulfur Dioxide: a preservative with side effects like migraine headaches, hives, anaphylactic shock, and nausea.
Titanium Dioxide: insoluble material used to make food products look more appealing; sometimes contaminated with lead
Artificial Colors like FD&C Blue1 or FD&C Red40: The use of artificial food coloring signals a lack of nutrition in food (i.e. the nutrients that give color to real food are absent in the processed version, necessitating fake colors). Artificial colors have been linked to hyperactivity disorders and cancer.
Yumm – sounds delicious!! NOT!!! How in the world can anyone think that stuff like that is good to eat, or even worse: should be promoted as a healthy dressing for salad! Good grief!
But not all companies are just after our money with no regards to your health. There still are a few that actually care about what ingredients they use and if all else fails, you can always make your own. Bottled salad dressing – even the better kinds – should always be your last resort. Making your own dressing guarantees you’ll have the freshest, most carefully prepared, and probably tastiest dressing for your salad.
So here are a few alternatives:
Instead of this: Buy that:
Or make your own Creamy Caesar Dressing:
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (found near the tuna fish in the supermarket)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mayonnaise (best organic or vegan)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon salt & freshly ground black pepper each
In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Add the mayonnaise, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper and whisk until well combined. Taste and adjust to your liking. This will keep in the fridge for one week.
Instead of this: Buy that:
Or make your own Zesty Italian Dressing:
3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 small squirt of Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp onion powder
1-2 cloves finely minced garlic
½ tsp each of thyme, basil and oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in small jar and shake vigorously.
Instead of this: Buy that:
Or make your own Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup raspberry preserves (No artificial colors, corn syrup) Or even better: ½ cup fresh raspberries, pureed.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Whisk together raspberry preserves, oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper. Top lettuce with dressing and walnuts just before serving.
Need more salad inspirations?
Check out my easy recipe for the “BEST” salad dressing. I kid you not!
Where to find info on more scary ingredients hidden in your food: