The top 5 healthiest salad dressings you’ll find on Australian supermarket shelves

While salads are always thought to be the healthiest options if you’re trying to lose weight, what dressing you choose can hide a surprising amount of calories. Dietitian Melissa Meier helps you dodge common salad dressing mistakes.

Salads are synonymous with healthy eating, but contrary to popular belief, they’re not always the most nutritious thing on the menu. Of course, anything with vegetables is a step in the right direction – but if a salad is packed with high-GI carbs and processed meats, and is drenched in mayonnaise, it’s probably not doing your health (or your waistline) many favours.

Are salad dressings healthy?

One of the most common salad mistakes I see is the dressing. Before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight: I am pro dressing. The old ‘order the dressing on the side’ trick doesn’t sit well in my books, because who on Earth wants to munch through dry, boring lettuce leaves?! If a little bit of dressing helps you eat a mountain of veggies, I’m all for it.

My issue lies in store-bought dressings. In my recent escapade to the salad dressing section of my local supermarkets, I was shocked to see *so* many commercial varieties fall short of my healthy eating criteria.

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Almost all are packed to the rafters with sodium, which, in case you’re not aware, is a no-no for heart health. A substantial handful of options contained well over 1000mg of sodium per 100mL – and although you’re probably not going to use 100mL of salad dressing, if you’re liberal with it, you might get close. To give that some context, 2000mg of sodium is the absolute maximum amount of sodium you should consume over an entire day. Let that sink in for a minute.

Some options are high in added sugars and saturated fat, too. The former is not exactly the devil incarnate as many people make it out to be, but an unnecessary kilojoule-rich addition that’s bad for your teeth. The latter, another factor that can hinder heart health.

What makes a healthy salad dressing?

Whether you’re on a mission to lose weight or just eat a little healthier, my top tip is to make your own salad dressings from scratch at home. All you need are some good quality oils (think: extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, macadamia oil), a few different acids (balsamic, red or white wine or apple cider vinegar; or citrus) and some flavour makers (mustards, pepper and dried herbs and spices).

With these ingredients in tow, you can make a much healthier – and far more delicious – salad dressing than you’d ever find in a bottle. Yes, it takes just a smidge more effort, but in my opinion, it’s absolutely worth it.

With all that being said, I know for some, convenience will still triumph. So, I’ve done the hard work for you and picked the best of the store-bought bunch – they’re the lowest sodium options I could find, and are relatively light in kilojoules, too.

The healthiest salad dressings on Australian supermarket shelves

1. Red Kellys Tasmania Sweet Chilli & Lime Dressing

Per 20mL: 212kJ, 0.1g protein, 0.3g sat fat, 2.1g sugar, 18mg sodium

2. Red Kellys Tasmania Tangy Traditional Dressing

Per 20mL: 214kJ, 0.1g protein, 0.2g sat fat, 2.7g sugar, 26mg sodium

3. Praise Balsamic & Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Per 20mL: 180kJ

4. Beerenberg The Mango, Lime & Chilli Dressing

Per 20mL: 159kJ

5. Paul Newmann’s Own Classic Vinaigrette

Per 20mL: 316kJ

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.