Make-It-Yourself Italian Dressing

Many fast food restaurants  and drive-ins offer salad as an alternative to high-calorie meals.  If you look at the salad greens and veggies you’ll find that they are undoubtedly a healthy choice for many people. The USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov website suggests eating more leafy greens. But what about the dressing? Does it matter which dressing you choose? It depends…Two popular types of salad dressings are creamy and vinaigrette. Ranch, thousand island, and Roquefort dressings are creamy. Italian dressing is prepared by mixing an acidic ingredient with a little salt and a lot of natural vegetable oil; usually vinegar, salt and olive oil.  So which is a better choice if you are buying processed salad dressings? It depends.

According to our registered dietitian. creamy dressings can use low or non-fat skim milk to reduce fat and calories, but add more sugar to improve the flavor and add calories.  Are we being mislead by an industry that claims their product is ‘healthy’ because there is “less of ______” then add more _____ to improve flavor of their product?  Read the label or a better choice could be to make it yourself because there are healthy options whether creamy or vinaigrette.

Health enthusiasts, according to livinglite magazine prefer to use oil and vinegar dressings in order to cut down on calories from saturated fat. These also contain vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids which are good for the body. Lots of Italian-style salad dressing recipes are described at EatingWell.com

If you want to know everything there is to know about making your own dressings visit Epicurious, the go-to site for serious cooks. Their writers suggest that making an Italian (vinaigrette) dressing  is simple, nutritious and the variations are endless.

Basic vinaigrette dressing: 

  • Start with one part of an acidic ingredient, like white vinegar or lemon,  then add pinch of salt, stirring until it dissolves.
  • Then whip the mixture while adding two parts vegetable oil like olive or almond oil. This makes the base for a vinaigrette dressing but there is an  important step you will want to take;
  • taste it.   You can then add more oil, salt or vinegar to adjust the sharpness because all vinegars are not equal in tartness or flavor. I find white vinegar to be too acidic and prefer apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar. The rule is Taste it and adjust the combination of ingredients to your taste.
  • Now you can whip, shake or use a blender to add your favorite herbs and spices.

If you prefer a recipe for Italian Dressing, try  this one that I use:

Italian Dressing & Marinade
Spicy and versatile with lettuce or pasta salad, as a chicken marinade, or flavoring in stir fry and poached seafood.
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Prep Time
5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Ingredients
  1. 1C apple cider vinegar
  2. 2C virgin olive oil
  3. 1 T garlic salt
  4. 1 T onion powder
  5. 1 T white sugar
  6. 2 T dried oregano
  7. 1/2 t ground peppercorn
  8. 1/4 t dried thyme
  9. 1 t dried basil
  10. 1 T parsley or basil
  11. 1/4 t celery salt
  12. 1-2 t salt
Instructions
  1. 1. Whisk vinegar and salt until dissolved
  2. 2. Stir while adding oil
  3. 3 Grind remaining dry ingredients together, mixing well
  4. 4. Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive container, mix well, cover tightly and refrigerate.
Notes
  1. Substitute any spice or fruit juice to your taste.
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 To learn more about the different kinds of fats see the Harvard health series, fats: good and bad