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10 Homemade and Healthy Salad Dressings

Making your own salad dressing can be a healthy and inexpensive alternative to bottled dressings. See more sensational salad pictures.
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"Lose Weight by Eating Gummi Bears!" "Get 5 Servings of Vegetables in One Glass of Chocolate Milk!" It seems there is a continuous stream of health and diet advice coming at us via TV, radio and the web. Some information makes sense; others, like the examples above, are ludicrous. Though it's hard to keep the details straight, thankfully, there's some consensus. When it comes to salads, research supports eating your fair share. After all, salads are:

  • a great source of fiber
  • an excellent way of getting multiple fruit and veggie servings
  • a filling dish that usually has a low calorie count

But, having a salad alone doesn't ensure good nutrition. Too much cheese, fried meats, and bread can ruin a healthy salad. Another culprit is the salad dressing itself. Often, store-bought dressings have lots of transfats (the "bad" fats), sugars, artificial ingredients, and a surprising number of calories. As for your non-fat options -- sometimes the bottle tastes better than the salad dressing itself.

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So, what's a health-conscious, calorie-conscious person to do? Start from scratch! Homemade salad dressings give you the flexibility to use fresh, natural ingredients and make healthy substitutions where needed. Read on to learn what delicious, nutritious concoctions you can make in your own kitchen, all courtesy of TLC Cooking.

When you think healthy, you don't think creamy, cheesy salad dressings. But, there are definitely ways to balance taste and nutrition without giving up either. Learn how from this Stilton cheese dressing.

Ingredients:

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  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup silken firm tofu
  • 2 ounces of Stilton cheese (or other blue cheese)
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat cottage cheese (1 percent)

Optional ingredients used in serving:

  • Romaine lettuce hearts torn into bite-sized pieces
  • Toasted chopped walnuts

Using your blender or food processor, mix all the ingredients, except the cottage cheese, until it's a smooth mixture. Pour the dressing in a bowl, and fold in the cottage cheese. Once blended, refrigerate in a covered container for at least three hours. Serve, using the Romaine lettuce and walnuts for extra flair.

How is this recipe healthy? Tofu gives the dressing substance without using lots of cheese or cream which are high-cholesterol ingredients. Thanks to the lumpy, low-fat cottage cheese, you only have to use 2 ounces (56 grams) of the Stilton cheese -- this amount gives you the flavor needed without going overboard on calories or fat. Finally, the walnuts add a few extra grams of fat but the trade-off with flavor can't be beat.

Low-fat buttermilk and herbs come together in this tangy, healthful dressing.
Low-fat buttermilk and herbs come together in this tangy, healthful dressing.
Lew Robertson/FoodPix/Getty Images

If you order buttermilk dressing in a restaurant, you'll probably blow your diet for the week. By making it at home, you can make key substitutions that will save you calories and give you a more nutritious recipe.

Ingredients:

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  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon of non-fat buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons raspberry-flavored vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh, chopped basil leaves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons of fresh chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

Put everything in a bowl, mix together and refrigerate in a covered container for up to 48 hours.

If you love creamy dressing, you'll love this recipe, but, what will really make you feel good is the difference created by using non-fat buttermilk. One cup of cultured whole buttermilk has 150 calories, and 72 of those are fat. With 5 grams of saturated fat, one cup supplies 25 percent of your recommended daily allowance of saturated fat. Compare that to a cup of non-fat buttermilk. It has 98 calories with only 19 from fat. The total fat content is 2.1 grams, and only 1.3 grams are saturated fat. So the next time you're out to eat, choose a low-cal dressing and save your buttermilk cravings for when you can make it healthy at home.

A common myth is that to eat healthy, you have to give up taste. Chef Emeril Lagasse keeps the flavor in this green onion and cilantro dressing.

Ingredients:

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  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup grape seed oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 bunches or 1 cup of blanched green onion
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground white pepper

Combine ingredients and blend until smooth and -- Bam! -- a great salad dressing.

Of course, dieters may have raised eyebrows at the mention of grape seed oil -- a high-calorie oil (120 calories and 15 fat grams per tablespoon). But, on the plus side, it is a low cholesterol, low sodium and low saturated fat oil -- one of the healthy ones, if you will. Additionally, it is an antioxidant supplement and a good source of Vitamin E. So, a little grape seed oil in your dressing, combined with these other fresh, healthy ingredients is a good use of your calories and fat grams.

Fresh ginger makes this sauce come alive.
Fresh ginger makes this sauce come alive.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Taking a step back from the traditional, we have a ginger ponzu dressing. What is ponzu, you may ask? It's an easy-to-make citrus-based sauce, usually combining soy sauce and acid, like lemon or lime juice and vinegar. You then add extra flavor, based on your personal preference; ingredients like sake, fruit juice and ginger go well in a ponzu sauce.

Ginger ponzu uses the basic ponzu recipe and then adds -- well, you guessed it -- ginger! For the ginger, crush it in a garlic press or just mince a bit. If you're really watching your sodium, you can even choose a low-sodium or light soy sauce. Regardless, the end result is a perfect mix of tangy and tart, sweet and salty.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon crushed, peeled, fresh ginger

Mix together and you're ready to go.

This dressing wins a triple crown because it is simple, tasty and versatile. It works well on an Asian salad, and can also be used as a marinade or dipping sauce.

No list would be complete without at least one vinaigrette recipe, and this balsamic-herb dressing gives that extra dash of flavor.

Ingredients:

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  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves or 1 tablespoon of minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves or 1 tablespoon of minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Whisk everything together and you're done.

This dressing, aside from being incredibly easy to make, is flavorful and wholesome. Balsamic vinegar, a reduction that comes from grapes, is a low-calorie liquid; a tablespoon only has about 14 calories. Additionally, it's low in sodium and fat, making it an excellent base for a healthy salad dressing.

Fresh tarragon is best for this dressing but in a pinch you could substitute one teaspoon of dry tarragon.
Fresh tarragon is best for this dressing but in a pinch you could substitute one teaspoon of dry tarragon.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Getting back to the rich salad dressings that so many people love, here is a recipe that won't give your doctor palpitations.

Ingredients:

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  • 1/2 cup plain, fat-free yogurt
  • 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup of frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced tarragon leaves

Mix everything in a small bowl, and you have a creamy homemade dressing with a fraction of the fat and all of the taste you'd find in restaurants. If you're a purist and the low-fat sour cream is still too much for you, you can always go for fat-free.

How does it taste, Emeril? Andre Agassi wants to know at the International Taste of Tennis Benefit.
How does it taste, Emeril? Andre Agassi wants to know at the International Taste of Tennis Benefit.
Scott Gries/Getty Images

Eating healthy doesn't have to mean low-calorie, over-processed, over-preserved "diet foods." Often, higher calorie, natural ingredients are more nutritional and filling. In this recipe, you don't have to sacrifice health or taste.

Ingredients:

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  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, tarragon, chives, basil, cilantro and oregano)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grape seed oil

Combine everything except the grape seed oil in a bowl and whisk it until mixed. Slowly add the oil, pouring a steady stream in while you whisk until the dressing has thickened.

This dressing is a great example of a full-flavored, healthy recipe made from fresh, natural ingredients. We've already touted the merits of grape seed oil, as well as the benefits of "good fat" and this recipe has it all. And, would Emeril steer you wrong? No, in fact, he'd recommend that you use this dressing on a Niçoise salad.

We're going South of the Border for our next recipe -- Fiesta Dressing. This goes wonderfully on a corn salad or a taco salad.

Ingredients:

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  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Now here's the tricky part -- mix everything together!

Note: To cut the calories more, you can always step down to a lower-fat yogurt.

Honey sauce enhances this dish of nectarines.
Honey sauce enhances this dish of nectarines.
Eising/Photodisc/Thinkstock

Salads don't have to have lettuce or other veggies. Fruit salad is a great homemade dish, made even better with our delicious honey dressing. A raspberry-cantaloupe fruit salad would go especially well with this.

Ingredients:

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  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel

Mix it until it's blended nicely.

The value of yogurt is well-known -- it's a great source of protein and calcium, chock-full of vitamins and gives us the "good" bacteria that our bodies need. Plus, you always have the option to use low-fat or light yogurt in recipes. But, did you know that honey provides antiseptic and antioxidant benefits for the body? Also, the body needs sugars, such as honey, to transform into carbohydrates necessary for energy and heat. So, enjoy some fruit salad with honey dressing, knowing you're giving your body a healthy, natural sweet.

Garlic is great, not only for fending off vampires and maybe unwanted dinner guests, but also as a key ingredient in this dressing.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove pressed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Once you mix everything together, this dressing keeps for up to two weeks, refrigerated in a covered container.

This dressing is packed with nutritional value. Olive oil is one of the MUFAs, or monosaturated fatty acids -- these acids can lower cholesterol and help diabetics control sugar and insulin levels. (Of course, a fat is a fat, so even the good ones need to be consumed in moderation.) Garlic also has antioxidant benefits, and helps in the prevention of blood clots, a problem associated with heart disease and stroke risk. In fact, one clove daily will improve your general health, while two or three help you fight the common cold.

UP NEXT

When to Cook With Tamari Instead of Soy Sauce

When to Cook With Tamari Instead of Soy Sauce

Is the difference between soy sauce and tamari like the difference between ketchup and catsup – in name only? Not at all, and we'll tell you why.


Related Articles

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