The best and worst store-bought salad dressing

The Daily Meal

The worst and best salad dressing

(Photos courtesy of Hidden Valley, Kraft and Newman's Own)

How healthy is your salad dressing? We take a look at the unhealthiest salad dressings and their healthier low-calorie counterparts.

Choosing salad over a sandwich or burger always makes for a healthier lunch, right? Thanks to hefty portion sizes, extravagant toppings, and certain brand-name salad dressings that pack up to 200 calories and 20 grams of fat per serving, this may not always be the case.

We tracked down nutrition information for the leading store-bought brands of ranch, Thousand Island, Caesar, and Italian/vinaigrette salad dressings, and ranked them each, leading up to the one that has the most fat and calories.

Additionally, most people tend to ignore their salad dressing’s reported serving size, which is usually only 2 tablespoons. If the only way you can enjoy a salad is by drenching it in a cup of dressing, then you may not be getting the healthiest lunch you can.

While you should remain wary of store-brand salad dressings with high fat and calorie contents, nutritionists remind salad lovers not to shy away from fat altogether, and warn that low-calorie or low-fat dressings may not always be a healthier option than their full-fat counterparts.

Nutritionist Keri Glassman cautions that what "light" dressings save on calories and fat, they often more than make up for in sodium and sugar. We also ranked these same varieties of dressings according to which ones had the least fat and calories. While these may appear to be healthy alternatives, the sodium level is worth paying attention to. Glassman further asserts that "light" and "fat-free" dressings are often the most common places to find high-fructose corn syrup which she deems a "diet no-no."

(See also: Best canned chili taste test)

 Furthermore, low-fat salad dressings prevent the body’s ability to absorb the carotenoid antioxidants in salad greens and tomatoes, thus greatly diminishing a major health benefit of eating salad. A Purdue University study found that certain healthy fats — like those in olive oil — were necessary to absorb the full benefits of the other vegetables in the salad.

So, what should you dress your salad with instead? Glassman recommends choosing dressings with the shortest list of recognizable ingredients, and preferably an oil-based vinaigrette.
Next time you reach for your favorite salad dressing, make sure to check the nutrition label before making a decision. Alternatively, try making your own dressing at home sing healthy fat sources like the avocado and olive oil in this Avocado and Mint Dressing.

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Ken's Steakhouse Buttermilk Ranch

(Photo courtesy of Ken's Steak House)

Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing is a condiment made from a combination of buttermilk, sour cream, salt, garlic and herbs, and is popular as a dip for cut vegetables and as a salad topper.

Unhealthiest Ranch Dressing - Ken's Steakhouse Buttermilk Ranch

Creamy? Yes. Tasty? You bet. But at 20 grams of total fat this Buttermilk Ranch from Ken’s Steakhouse is a pretty unhealthy pick. 180 calories and 280 milligrams of sodium make this dressing the unhealthiest ranch dressing out there.  

Nutrition Information for 2 tablespoons: 
Calories: 180
Fat: 20 g
Sodium: 280 mg
Average Price: $3.19

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Hidden Valley Ranch

(Photo courtesy of Hidden Valley)

Healthiest Ranch Dressing - Hidden Valley Fat-Free Ranch

If you’re craving ranch dressing, there’s reason to celebrate. This light Hidden Valley version is your best bet. Ranch takes on a newer, healthier form at 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, and 310 milligrams of sodium per 2 tablespoons.

Nutrition Information for 2 tablespoons: 
Calories: 25
Fat: 0 g
Sodium: 310 mg
Average Price: $3.75

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Newman's Own Italian

(Photo courtesy of Newman's Own)

Italian Dressing

Italian dressing is a viniagrette-type salad dressing that is mainly popular in the U.S. and Canada. This dressing consists mainly of oil, vinegar or lemon juice, chopped peppers, sugar, and a blend of herbs and spices. It's also a popular marinade.

Unhealthiest Italian Dressing - Newman's Own Italian

Undoubtedly the most unhealthy of the Italian selection, this dressing has a total of 13 grams of fat and 360 milligrams of sodium per serving. While it may be a better choice than a creamier topping, this calorie count will still bring down the health value of your salad.

Nutrition Information for 2 tablespoons: 
Calories: 130
Fat: 13 g
Sodium: 360 mg
Average Price: $5.40

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Kraft Fat Free Italian

(Photo courtesy of Kraft)

Healthiest Italian Dressing - Kraft Fat Free Zesty Italian

Despite having a higher sodium content than its Wish-Bone and Newman’s Own counterparts, Kraft takes the lead as providing the healthiest of the low-calorie Italian dressings with only 20 calories and 0.3 grams of fat. If you stick to the serving size of 2 tablespoons, this can be a healthy topping to your favorite salad.

Nutrition Information for 2 tablespoons: 
Calories: 20
Fat: 0.3 g
Sodium: 430 mg
Average Price: $4.50

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Ken's Steak House Thousand Island

(Photo courtesy of Ken's Steak House)

Thousand Island

Thousand Island dressing is a variant of remoulade and Russian dressing, with a common base of mayonnaise, olive oil, lemon juice, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, ketchup, and assorted other ingredients. 

Unhealthiest Thousand Island Dressing - Ken's Steakhouse Thousand Island

And the title for most unhealthy Thousand Island dressing goes to Ken’s Steakhouse. With 300 milligrams of sodium and 13 grams of fat per 140-calorie serving, this brand just about negates the point of eating a salad in the first place. And it's not cheap, either.

Nutrition Information for 2 tablespoons: 
Calories: 140
Fat: 13 g
Sodium: 300 mg
Average Price: $5.50

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Kraft Fat-Free Thousand Island

(Photo courtesy of Kraft)

Healthiest Thousand Island Dressing - Kraft Fat-Free Thousand Island

Once again, Kraft has produced the healthiest of all the low-calorie salad dressings. This dressing has 0 grams of fat, 45 calories, and only 260 milligrams of sodium. This is great news for Thousand Island lovers everywhere.

Nutrition Information for 2 tablespoons: 
Calories: 45
Fat: 0 g
Sodium: 260 mg
Average Price: $4.00

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Ken's Steak House Thousand Island

(Photo courtesy of Marie's)

Blue Cheese

Blue cheese salad dressing is a popular dip and dressing in the United States, and is usually made with a combination of mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, milk, onion powder and, of course, blue cheese. 

Unhealthiest Blue Cheese Dressing - Marie's Blue Cheese

If you’re looking for a sure way to spoil your salad’s nutritional value, this Marie’s dressing with 160 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 160 milligrams of sodium will do the job. 

Nutrition Information for 2 tablespoons: 
Calories: 160
Fat: 17 g
Sodium: 160 mg
Average Price: $5.20

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Wish-Bone Light Blue Cheese

(Photo courtesy of Wish-Bone)

Healthiest Blue Cheese Dressing - Wish-Bone Light Blue Cheese

If you’re looking to get your fix of blue cheese dressing, going with Wish-Bone’s 70-calorie dressing would be your best bet. With only 6 grams of fat and 280 milligrams of sodium, Wish-Bone manages to make an inherently unhealthy salad topper into a more health-conscious choice.

Nutrition Information for 2 tablespoons: 
Calories: 70
Fat: 6 g
Sodium: 280 mg
Average Price: $1.98

Click to see More of the Healthiest and Unhealthiest Salad Dressings

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