I remember being warned about salad dressing back in my very early dieting days. You can ruin a healthy salad with the wrong salad dressing. And don’t forget dips, marinades and more. So today I’m going to talk about what I look for in a salad dressing and go over some of my favorites.
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My old habits with salad dressing
I used to look specifically for low-fat dressings. As long as there wasn’t fat, I considered it healthy. But there is a big problem with this. Most of these low-fat dressings are overflowing with sugar.
What I didn’t get back then is sugar is super inflammatory. And it’s in everything. So the more I can cut it out of my salad dressing, the better I’m being to my body and my health.
I don’t miss the sugar
When I transitioned from low-fat, high-sugar salad dressings, I just felt better. And my salads tasted fresher and less processed. And I felt my salads were more satisfying when they contained some fat.
Because come on people. A meal shouldn’t be just plain, undecorated vegetables. There should be some oomph. And I personally feel that having a little fat in my salad dressing gives my salad that oomph. It’s more satisfying than a salad covered in lots of sugar, but no fat.
And mind you, these are healthy fats. We’re talking about olive oil, coconut oil. avocado and such. These are all healthy, anti-inflammatory and weight loss promoting fats. Awesome!
Reading labels is king
So now I read the labels on all my salad dressings to look for excess sugar. And the best way to do this is to look at the ingredients on a label. But here’s the catch. There are so many sneaky terms for sugar, it can be hard to identify.
Additionally, manufacturers often try to advertise their products as low or no added sugar by using sugar that sound more natural. For instance, fruit juice concentrates sounds so healthy and natural, right? I mean, it seems like it should barely count as sugar.
But that’s not the case. Fruit juice concentrates are sugar. They’re made by isolating the fruit sugar from the fruit. So you’re not eating fruit when you’re eating fruit juice concentrates. You’re eating pure sugar. So even if a product advertises itself as low-sugar, or no-added sugar, you still have to check the label. I’ve seen dressings advertised as no sugar that are overflowing with “more natural” ingredients that are sugar!
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My favorite no-sugar salad dressings. (Nothing greater than a gram of sugar)
It isn’t easy to find a bottled salad dressing that truly doesn’t contain sugar. Even the healthier ones tend to contain sweeteners like honey or agave. And of course, you always have the option of making your own sauces from scratch. But there are days when you need something easier and more portable.
But the salad dressings that made my list are all dressing without added sugar. And in my opinion, they taste phenomenal.
Tessemae – Organic Lemon Garlic
I have to admit that this didn’t appeal to me at all at first. I wasn’t sure about the lemon garlic combo. But for real, every person I know who has tried this loves it. It’s so much better than it sounds. Unless you’re all about lemon with garlic in which case it tastes exactly as good as it sounds! And it contains very natural ingredients like oils, garlic, lemon and mustard.
Tessemae – Organic Green Goddess
Let’s get real. I actually love pretty much every option made by the Tessemae brand. But Green Goddess is another one of my favorite no-sugar salad dressings. It’s filled with great spices like garlic, onion and pepper, natural oils, and tamari for just a little kick.
Hilary’s – Ranch Chia
I have to preface my review by saying this: Hilary’s Ranch Chia does not taste like conventional ranch dressing. And it also isn’t as thick. So if you’re old fashioned ranch or nothing, this might not be the right option for you. But I think it has a delightful taste all it’s own. And it’s one of the only salad dressings I’ve used that contains coconut milk. Such a health promoting way to do creamy!
Primal Kitchen – Ranch with Avocado Oil
Come on…avocado oil! How cool is that? This is another one with nice, simple ingredients like apple cider vinegar and cage-free eggs. And it’s blended with the perfect spices, making for a really satisfying, healthier salad dressing. Again, it doesn’t share the thickness of conventional ranch. But that doesn’t matter because it has a unique zing all its own.
Annie’s – Oil & Vinegar
Many of Annie’s options are relatively high in sugar. But this one is extremely natural. Nothing but oil, vinegar, and some herbs and spices. But you don’t always need complicated. Sometimes a simple choice can be the best choice.
Go simple or go home
I’m all about making interesting salads. But the dressing shouldn’t be the main attraction. It should show off the wonderful foods you put in your salad.
Most salad dressings (even healthy sounding ones using honey) contain high amounts of sugar. But you don’t need all that. You just need something that’s going to naturally bring out the best in your salad.
I hope you check out the salad dressings I shared today if you use store bought dressings. And I also hope you start to make a habit of reading the label when a food advertises itself is healthy. Marketing is deceiving. The only way to know for sure what your food is offering is to to read the label and keep out the sugar you don’t need!
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Karen Morse says
Who needs the sugar when you can have dressings that are tasty even without it! I think this is a good guide for people who are trying to limit their sugar intake. It’s really helpful.
Terri Steffes says
I really appreciate this post. It is hard to find a tasty salad dressing that isn’t loaded with sugar and fat. These sound delicious with low/no sugar and healthy fats!.
Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh says
I know all about salad dressings and sugar! A couple of years ago my husband and I did Whole30, and it was impossible to find a dressing that didn’t contain sugar of some kind. More often than not we ended up whisking up our own. I love that you have found options!
Angela Tolsma says
I am sometimes amazed by how much sugar is in our food. Reading labels is key and I do a lot of it when I’m out.
I love the dressings from Anne’s. I never check the sugar contents but now I will. I definitely prefer to avoid added sugar whenever possible.
Yona Williams says
I love how you can buy and made salad dressings with no sugar. One that I’d like to mention is Mixed Berry Dressing with Bragg Super Berries. It has no added sugar “sugar” (besides a stevia extract). It is soooo good. It’s only 20 calories per serving. It’s made with superfruit concentrates and purees, and vinegar.
I know Braggs but didn’t know about this dressing. I’m for sure checking it out. Thanks!
Can’t go wrong with oil and vinegar. Keeping it simple. Nice to have some flavor sometimes. Hate the hidden sugar when not needed
Tina Grant says
Great alternatives for those that want sugar-free dressings. You are right, manufacturers can be so sneaky when describing sugar content. Seems like everything contains sugar. Thaks for the suggestions
I have to go back to my no sugar diet! The last time I did it (and actually stuck to it) I lost over 15 pounds in two weeks and felt great. Sugar is probably my main addiction. Great suggestions!
Medha Verma says
I actually love lemon garlic dressing, it makes such an amazing combination! Good guide for those looking to switch to a healthier diet, without sugar. You are right in saying, a lot of foods have sugars in their ingredients hidden in a sneaky way 🙂
Some lovely suggestions here, I like to make my own with oil and vinegar too for a quick fix!
Jessica Joachim says
I feel like salad dressing is a weakness of mine. I can make a big healthy salad, but I want to smother it in blue cheese dressing. I will look into some of the lower sugar options that you mentioned though.
I love this dressing brand. I love the ingredient because they are clean with no sugar or bad oils like canola.
Finding sugar free anything is so difficult. Thank you for sharing your finds with us, because the last thing I want when I eat a salad is added sugar. Takes away so much of the benefit!
Tizzy Says says
Thanks for the sugar free cheat sheet. I had weight loss surgery 4 months ago, and I still have a hard time finding sugar free options.
Salad dressing is my weakness. Lol and I know it is. I’m always looking for brands that don’t have that much sugar in them.
These are some great tips for those trying to reduce their sugar consumption. I often worry that the dressings that I use on my salads have too much sugar.
I never really thought about sugar content in salad dressing. This is eye-opening!
Flossie McCowald | SuperMomHacks says
You are so right – fat being a dirty word is SO unjustified esp. when “low fat” is really just code for “high sugar”! So glad you took some of the guesswork out of this for us – thanks for the suggestions, will have to try some of them!
Mackenzie Jervis says
I love making my own dressing at home but usually it’s just lemon and olive oil. I definitely need to try some of these on my salads. But I do agree that the actual salad components should be the stars and the dressing should just complement them!
I am really bad when it comes to salad dressings. Thanks for giving me the motivation to make a healthy change in my dressing habit.
Cassandra Rose says
Perfect timing! I hate using salad dressing because it’s super packed with sugar and unhealthy fats. Is it sad that I didn’t even know a sugar free option was possible? I usually stay away from products that are sugar free since they sometimes add chemicals that are just as unhealthy, but would love to check these dressings out and see if they work!
Sondra Barker says
Great picks! Salads can get so sugary sometimes that they aren’t even healthy anymore!
Thank you so much Erica. I am going to bookmark this page for grocery shopping list. I have always felt that the salad dressings took away from overall healthiness of the salad because of the oil and fat content. However, it was too tiring to read the labels and find “healthy” ones so thank you again for doing the research and letting us know.
That’s awesome, i like how this salad free sugar, we have problem in finding a good stuff with no sugar in it :)), great post!
Blair villanueva says
When you buy dressings outside, sometimes tends to pickup dressings with more sugar. Best way is to prepare your own homemade dressings! That would be awesome.
Annette Dattilo says
Such a great informative post. I am always leary about dressings so don’t use them at all on my salads, but these options sound very intriguing. The avocado based dressing sounds the most intriguing to me….looove avocados. Thank you for sharing
This is a great list! A few years ago my dad changed his eating habits but then got really sick because of all the salad dressing he was putting on his “healthy” salads. This is a good reminder that just because it’s salad, you still have to be careful how you’re eating it.
It is crazy how much sugar is hidden in EVERYTHING!! I make my own dressing but don’t always have time I need to check out your suggestions:)
Blythe Alpern says
I read labels like crazy these days. It’s crazy how much sugar is in foods that don’t need, like salad dressing. I love all of the brands you mentioned and have them regularly in my pantry or fridge. Another favorite is Trader Joe’s Goddess dressing. It’s incredible.
Cindy Ingalls says
Tessamae and Primal Kitchen are some of my favorite go-tos for dressings. They have such great choices and flavors. I don’t need sugar in my dressing to make my salad taste good.
Doreen Pendgracs says
Wonderful post, Erica. I love pure and simple dressings. I’ve never heard of the Tessemae brand, but let me tell you. If you like Greek food as much as I do, you totally embrace the combination of lemon and garlic. I cook with this flavour combo all the time.
I usually make my own salad dressings however it is good to know the good store bought dressings for those days when I don’t have the time to make it myself. Thanks for the tips.
Emily Terrell says
I never considered sugar in the dressings we use. Now, I’m thinking I should be more mindful of that. I have started buying the “lite” versions though. And we are reading the labels on products far more now than we ever did before.
RoseMary Griffith says
Thanks so much for telling us about these brands, Erica. I rarely add any dressing to my salad, but sometimes I am surely craving the additional zip and zing. I love garlic, so I’d gamble on the lemon-garlic one!
You can also make your own and use stevia in the recipe 🙂