How can I make salads healthier?

A chef in a restaurant kitchen adds dressing to a healthy-looking salad

During the summer I eat a lot of salads – do you have any advice about healthier dressings? Also, is a salad a good option to order in a restaurant? 

BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:

Salads are often seen as a low-calorie choice, and therefore ideal for those trying to lose weight. But ingredients like cheese, bacon and croutons can dramatically increase the saturated fat and salt content.

Dressings, too, can be high in calories, fat and salt. An average two-tablespoon serving of Caesar salad dressing contains around 140kcal and 14g of fat.

At home, choose lighter versions of ready-made dressings. Light Caesar salad dressing contains just 10 calories and less than 0.5g of fat per tablespoon and a fat-free French dressing would save you around 63 calories and 7.4g of fat per tablespoon, compared with a standard version.

It’s not just about the calories though – try making your own salad dressing so you know exactly what’s in it. Vinaigrette-style dressings are easy to make by mixing vinegar (such as balsamic, white or red wine vinegars) with oil.

Switching from saturated fats to unsaturated fats like vegetable oils (including olive or rapeseed oils) can help lower cholesterol levels when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Avoid salad dressing ingredients that are high in saturated fat, like sour cream, melted butter and blue cheese. But even unsaturated oils are still high in calories, so watch how much you use.

When eating out, ask for the salad dressing on the side so you can control how much to add. Even better, use balsamic vinegar or a squeeze of lemon instead.

Victoria Taylor Meet the expert

Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with more than ten years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. At the BHF she advises on diet and nutrition.

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