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The Power of Homemade Salad Dressing

Why whipping up your own vinaigrette is good for your health—and your sanity.

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homemade salad dressing

I want to share a secret that I learned recently: The genie is not in the bottle, after all. 

I discovered this when I started making salad dressing instead of purchasing it and suddenly—POOF!—my children were eating salad. Lots of salad. A mother’s wish come true! And they’ve kept on doing so…as long as I (or one of them) make the dressing.

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Ok, so it takes a little longer than opening up a bottle of dressing. Approximately four and half minutes longer. Just a few ingredients whisked together in a small bowl does the trick. (If I am feeling fancy and we’ve got a few extra ingredients, I might use a blender.)

Why do I bother when there are so many options at the store? I have been asked this on numerous occasions. Let me tell you. Not only does it taste so much better, but also homemade dressing is so much healthier for you.

Bottled salad dressings may seem like a negligible topping, but many have lots of oil and lots of sugar, which puts lots of empty calories on your otherwise incredibly healthy vegetables.

Do you know about all of the wonderful phytonutrients available in salads to help keep you healthy this summer? You can help your heart and brain with dark-colored fruits and vegetables since they contain anthocyanins, which are flavonoids that may help prevent cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. I like dark purple peppers and berries, but eggplant works, too. And don’t forget the carotenoids (think carrots, tomatoes, yellow peppers). These powerful antioxidants have been found to help with a host of chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.

MORE: How to Build a Superfood Salad

Don’t drown these amazing foods in sugary goop. Keep it simple! My simplest effort involves whisking olive oil (rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as opposed to most bottled dressings that contain oils such as soy or sunflower, which have omega-6 fatty acids instead), fresh lemon juice, garlic (fresh if you’ve got it, but powdered if you don’t), salt and pepper together in a small bowl. If I am really stepping out, I might add a bit of yellow mustard. Yellow mustard has turmeric in it, which is a great anti-inflammatory!

If I have a few more minutes and few more ingredients, I will make dressing in a blender. I use the same ingredients as above (olive oil, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper) and then I usually add scallions, whatever fresh green herb I have at the moment—cilantro being my go-to—and a spoonful of vegan mayonnaise.

Simple, easy, healthy: the perfect trifecta!

And, as an added benefit, this is a great kid-activity. Treat it like a fun (and—shh!—healthy) science experiment: One day try more of this, one day add more of that. What kid doesn’t like tinkering with powders and potions? The topper? Put it in the blender and let them push the button!

Making salad fun? Now that’s real magic.

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