Great Low-Fat Dressings

Dressings make a huge difference in the healthfulness of a salad and how good it tastes. It doesn't take much to adopt healthy salad dressings -- these tasty additions may encourage you incorporate more greens into your meals. But before you learn how to make healthy dressings, here's the truth about the worst dressing offenders.

What are these bad dressings? Any dressing that uses mayonnaise, hydrogenated oils, lots of sugar and salt, preservatives (i.e. MSG), artificial flavors and colors, processed meat, fried ingredients, candied or flavored nuts, and even croutons are probably not healthful. These are ingredients high in trans-fat, sugar and salt and low in nutrition. Drenching your salad with too much dressing adds more unnecessary fat and calories to your meal.

How about the good dressings? Fresh greens like rocket, watercress, romaine, spinach and butter-crunch are refreshing in taste even without any dressing. However, it doesn't mean your salad should taste bland. Thinly sliced fresh fruit and berries are great for adding flavor to salads. A few cheese crumbles or lowfat protein, like chicken, also add flavor.

Pump up the veggies in your salad by topping it with salsa. If you must eat a salad with dressing, try making your own. Homemade dressings contain no additional preservatives -- unlike the bottled and packaged supermarket versions. They are easy to make and leftovers can keep well for a couple of days in the refrigerator. Here are some great, low-fat basic dressings you can try at home.

Lemon Vinaigrette -- A good olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon, and salt and pepper add zest to your salad. To add texture, drop in some slivered almonds or other plain roasted nuts. To add a little strength, chop in raw garlic. This is a very light and refreshing dressing to use with plain or multi-ingredient salads.

Balsamic Vinaigrette -- For a bolder flavor, use a little balsamic vinegar mixed with olive oil and a small dollop of Dijon mustard. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle some chopped walnuts after tossing into your salad. This dressing is ideal for a mesclun mix, which has a strong, nutty flavor.

Yogurt Salad Dressing -- For those who prefer creamier dressings, this is one great substitute for the usual mayonnaise-based, high-fat dressing. Use plain, unsweetened yogurt with a little salt and pepper. Add some chopped fresh herbs like parsley and plain roasted nuts for both crunch and taste. This dressing is excellent for coleslaw and potato salads.

Chili-Soy Dressing -- This dressing adds great oriental flavor to salads. It goes well with lettuces, beans and even noodles. Use canola oil, sesame oil with soy sauce and lime juice sparingly as a base. Mix in chopped chili and cilantro for extra flavor. If chili is too spicy, substitute with thinly sliced ginger. Add a little bit of chopped peanuts for texture.

To create a variety of taste from the same basic recipes, substitute olive oil with rapeseed, safflower, grapeseed, corn, almond, walnut or flaxseed oil. Adding spices like cumin, Cajun or paprika to yogurt dressing creates different flavors. Use other citrus juice and honey for a sweeter dressing without adding extra sugar. Herbs like rosemary, tarragon, thyme and roasted nuts and seeds used sparingly will enhance the flavor, fragrance and texture to the basic dressings. Get creative and enjoy your salad!