Thanksgiving is this Thursday, as well as my birthday (hint* hint*) and it’s easy to throw your healthy eating plan out of the window. Believe me, I’m going to pray before each house that I walk into that I don’t eat so much food that I have a hangover afterwards. Fresh salads and healthy lifestyles can go hand in hand, even when you’re surrounded by pies and buttery casseroles.
On the other hand, having a salad can be just as calorie dense as that dessert you pass up. Unfortunately, you could end up negating these delicious and healthy choices if you aren’t careful about the type of salad dressing you use.
Taking a quick look at the list of ingredients on your favorite bottle of store-bought dressing can be a real eye opener. In fact, you may be surprised to see a host of ingredients you weren’t expecting, including high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, trans fats, MSG, and an assortment of artificial colors and preservatives to make it all seem more fresh and natural.
When it comes to homemade salad dressings, vinaigrettes are fast, easy and delicious choices. One general rule of thumb to keep in mind when creating your own vinaigrettes is to use 1 part vinegar (or other acidic ingredient) to 3 parts oil. In other words, if you use ¼ cup vinegar, you’ll want to use ¾ cups of oil. If you like a little more kick to your dressing and a little less calories and carbs, try a 2:1 ratio instead.
When choosing these key ingredients, don’t be afraid to get creative. Think beyond plain white, red or cider vinegar and give rice vinegars, aged or white balsamic, or fruit-infused varieties a try, as well. Citrus juices, such as lemon, lime, oranges and grapefruit, also work particularly well.
When it comes to choosing your oil, it’s hard to beat a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. However, you may want to consider other healthy alternatives, such as grape seed oil. Olive oils infused with garlic, rosemary or other herbs are also great choices.
A third ingredient you may want to add to your vinaigrette is Dijon mustard. Dijon is a popular choice because it tastes great and helps bind all the other ingredients together.
Beyond these three ingredients, there are countless ways you can customize your vinaigrette recipes to complement your salad ingredients. For example, you can add minced garlic, onion, shallots, fresh or dried herbs, honey, or a variety of fruit juices or zests.
Here is a basic recipe to get you started:
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-2 cloves finely minced garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl or container with tight-fitting lid. Mix or shake vigorously to combine thoroughly.
Starting with this basic recipe, I bet you can come up with dozens of yummy options to suit whatever salads are on your menu. Enjoy!