5 Ways to Lighten Salad Dressings

Salads can be excellent additions to a diet -- but if your salad is filled with low-calorie and highly nutritious toppings, adding too much dressing (especially creamy and fatty ones) can turn that salad into a diet villain. Of course, you could opt for the light or low-fat options found in the grocery store aisles, but those options almost always add more sodium, carbs or cholesterol to make up for the lack of fat and sugar.

So why settle for a "healthier" dressing when you can make simple substitutions to make your own at-home light salad dressings?

Have no fear, creamy-salad-dressing lovers. Here are five ingredients you can use to make your own at-home dressings that are healthy, light and have more flavor than store-bought ones.

5. Vinegars

When you take out a lot of the fat in salad dressings, you need to add strong flavors. Vinegars, like balsamic, raspberry or white wine vinegar, add a pungent and sharp touch to any vinaigrette salad dressing. Add these vinegars to extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper for a light dressing to toss in your salad.

4. Citrus or Fruit

Don't use only sugar to sweeten your salad dressings; use natural sweeteners like citrus or fruit juice to add sweetness to a fruity salad dressing. Simply using olive oil and lemon juice will add a fresh, light taste to a spring or summer salad, and will let the fresh ingredients in the salad shine. You can also puree fruit like strawberries, raspberries or blueberries to add to a vinaigrette or light, creamy dressing. Use the flavors of the season for optimal dressings.

3. Soy Sauce and Garlic

Using soy sauce and roasted garlic adds a savory element to a salad dressing. Soy sauce works as the liquid in the dressing, roasted garlic adds depth and thickness and both are extremely low in calories. This combination of ingredients is great for an Asian-inspired salad.

2. Peppers

Use natural ingredients like crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne to add heat to your salad dressings. If you're taking out a lot of the fat and calories, you will need to add more flavor to your dressing -- and spices pack a punch. Just as you can puree fruit to add to a salad dressing, you can also puree roasted peppers to add thickness and heat.

1. Greek Yogurt

When you substitute Greek yogurt for mayonnaise or cream in creamy, thick dressing, you can easily and significantly lower the calories and fat while adding sharp, tangy flavor. Make sure you're using low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt, otherwise your substitution will be pointless. I love using Greek yogurt in a Caesar salad dressing recipe. Use all of the other ingredients you normally would use, but lighten it up with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise.

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Molly Dunn
Contact: Molly Dunn