Food Showdown: How to Dress Up Your Salad for Less

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Ranch dressing is one tasty topper that many dieters don't want to give up.  Unfortunately, the full-fat version can pack up to 120 calories and 12 grams of fat per a measley two-tablespoon serving! Luckily, you can still have your ranch and eat it, too, even while watching your weight: many dressing manufacturers toil over making lower-fat and lower-calorie versions of this creamy sauce that still pack plenty of flavor.

Both of these ranch dressing options are fat-free, but which one is lowest in calories: Hidden Valley Fat-Free Ranch or Kraft Fat-Free Ranch?

The Winner: Hidden Valley Fat-Free Ranch!

Consider Hidden Valley to be the ranch dressing authority. Their fat-free version contains less calories of its competitor, at 30 calories for one serving. Kraft's ranch dressing also makes a good choice compared to regular ranch, but loses this battle since it contains 50 calories. Flavor your salad for less by dipping each bite into dressing on the side, rather than pouring an entire serving (or two) on top of your salad. Other healthy dressing options include low-fat or fat-free vinaigrette, salsa (great for Mexican salads!) or a touch of olive oil and vinegar. You can also buy ranch seasoning packets and stir them into low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt for a protein-packed veggie dip!

What's your favorite way to dress your veggies?

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ERIN_POSCH 12/25/2019
thanks for sharing Report
KOALA_BEAR 12/21/2019
I hate ranch & am allergic to dairy so yogurt based dressing is out. Seasoned rice vinegar contains sugar so now I make my own dressing as per Eat To Live:
Soft tofu 1 pkg blended w/ 1 cup ACV & fresh (or frozen) berries. In the beginning it was too tart so I've added 1/4 cup 0apple cider or pineapple juice. I also prefer it w/ garlic & onion powder, ground white pepper, & turmeric; maybe a little bit of No-Salt (a potassium chloride salt substitute that doesn't raise blood pressure, your body needs potassium) & sea kelp for iodine. Makes about a quart & you can use all you want. Stays for a long time in fridge Report
Thank You for a great article. Report
Great suggestion Report
Personally, I've tried fat free Ranch dressing and its gross. Mixed with a little regular ranch isn't bad. But I've found I prefer something like Vinaigrette better. . Report
Short and sweet, but very informative. I've been making a few of my dressings and I like them a lot better! Report
low fat often = high sugar. this is an interesting tip, but bottom line is that fat doesn't make me feel agitated, anxious, amd tired. sugar does. so i will jist watxh my portions...I would rather have a little bit of what i really want than a giant serving of a dubious substitute. jmo.
I like to just squeeze a little lemon or lime on my salad. It gives some brightness to the flavours. As for the fat that should be included to help with absorption of some of the nutrients I like to throw in a handful of salt free nuts or avocado or shave a little bit of Parmesan over it. Much more satisfying and the nuts or cheese add some protein. Report
thank you so much Report
good article Report
I don't use dressing at all as it covers the flavor of my veggies. I'd rather add veggies than the calories or the taste of dressing. This is good to share with others. Report
Thanks! Report
I like to make my own vinagarette. Report
I like vinegar. Report
Fat-free usually means more sugars, be careful! Report
NEVER use fat-free dressings on a salad!

I love ranch, but I will try this Hidden Vally one Report
Not a fan of ranch dressing at all. Most of the time I just spritz my salad with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Report
I use Walden Farms Ranch Dressing. Zero calories, Zero sugar, Zero carbs and they come in individual packets that I can take with me anywhere. Report
I take greek yogurt and add dill, vinegar parsley and cilantro and create my own ranch. I would never buy any low fat dressing, actually I would never buy any dressing at all. If you look at the ingredient list, can you buy those ingredients on your own and replicate it? Hell no, those chemicals are all poisons. It is better to just make small batches of your own. Chimichurri can be watered down with water and vinegar or lime juice to make a very tasty low cal dressing. You can also use lemon juice a little olive oil and mustard to create a tangy lemony mustard dressing. It tastes so much better when you make it yourself! Report
I prefer to make my own low-fat ranch with ranch dip mix and light sour cream, sometimes I add an avocado to make avocado ranch dip/dressing, yummy. I have to say I rarely agree with food recommendations from weight loss sites, I tried the Bolthouse dressings and thought they were terrible. Report
I've never left a comment before, but I have to share this. My coworkers and I are hooked on Bolthouse Farms Yogurt Dressings. I keep Classic Ranch, Salsa Ranch and Ceasar Parmigiano in my fridge all the time. The 2 tablespoon serving is 25 calories for the Ceasar or 30 for the ranches and it tastes great! My coworkers also love the Asian Ginger and Vinaigrettes, which I'll get around to trying soon. Look for it in the produce department of your grocery store. Look at the entire line on I bet you'll be hooked too. Report
Oh, cannot eat the fat free salad dressing--the brands I've tried taste sort of plastic-y to me. I take the lite or full fat versions, but use them sparingly. I depend on the flavor of what I add in the salad (edamame, peppers, olives, arugala, onions, carrots, cauliflower, even cold roasted brussels sprouts) to make up the flavor I don't get from the dressing--and it works! Report
My absolute favorite salad dressing is salsa. It adds lots of flavor with almost no calories. Sometimes I'll sprinkle on some shredded part-skim mozzarella for a little creaminess, too. Report
Luckily I don't like salad dressing, with the exception of a bit of low-fat thousand island on my crab louie, on my salads. I always order it on the side when I have salad out because most restaurants drown their veggies in it. Yuck. I prefer seasoned rice vinegar (at 20 calories per tablespoon) or some balsamic with a few drops of olive oil or fresh squeezed lemon. They all seem to enhance the flavor of the salad greens rather than over power. Report
This is contradictory to what is posted else where on your site. You need fat with your salad to absorb certain vitamins. Report
Here's a recent article on a study proving that "No-fat, low-fat dressings don't get most nutrients out of salads":

Because why eat salad if you aren't getting the "good stuff" out of it? Worth a read! Report
I'm finding that what I put in my salad makes the dressing a lot less important.
I'm pretty much just using red wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar. I like the the way it contrasts with the sweetness of the strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries in the salad. Report
Bolthouse Farms yogurt-based salad dressings are the best! Low sugar and only 25 cal per serving. Report
I've lost 40 pounds in 8 1/2 months without "going on a diet". I don't believe in "fat-free" foods loaded with junk. I just count calories and fill up on healthy food, while enjoying 2% Greek yogurt with fruit every morning, and a square or two of dark chocolate nearly every day, along with normal food. I never feel cheated. When I'm really hungry between meals, I scarf some grape tomatoes or cucumbers. EAT REAL FOOD, just less of it, and EXERCISE! I walk 4-5 miles per day, in an hour or so, outdoors. Report
Sorry I dont agree. With salads you want some fat in there or you are wasting so many nutrients that are fat soluble. If you have cheese or meat fine go for the fat free but why eat something unless it is going to satisfy you. I would rather put my fav ranch on the side and dip my fork in the dressing before I put the salad on there. A diet trick I read somewhere years ago and just incorporated it in my life. Perfect amount of dressing per bite and I dont feel like I am depriving myself =). Usually always have some of my serving or dressing left over unless I was starving and used a BIG salad bowl for my meal lol.

So far since Jan 2011 I am down 70 lb without ever going on a diet. Lots of small lifestyle changes like dipping your fork into dressing add up over time and you never feel deprived because nothing is forbidden in moderation.
I really believe in the full fat. Not only do we need some fat in our diets it also helps satiate you so you eat less at your meal. I always only have 1 TBS of full fat dressing mixed with 1 TBS of something low cal. For ranch a bit of fat free greek yogurt, for Caesar (one of my favs) some lemon juice, vinaigrettes I have with whatever vinegar compliments them. I eat a ton more veggies this way too. Report
Here's the huge issue I have with a majority of fat-free products: sugar! You may be saving on the fat grams, but the sugar can be twice or three times the "full fat" version. If you're watching your sugar intake, dressings like these can be little landmines! Report
Many of Annie's Natural Organic Salad Dressings are under 60 calories and very tasty: Raspberry Vinagrette, Lemon Zest, Fat Free name a few. I eat salad 2-3 times a day by making it an after meal snack. Report
Ranch dressing is useless calories in any form! Report
In my opinion salad dressing usually is just not worth the calories. I do buy the Kraft ff Asian Dressing, but cut it with Balsamic Vinegar. I would rather have extra Vegetables or protein than waste 100 calories on dressing. I also tend to use hotter spices like Chili Pepper and LOVE Jalapenos. I have tried the no-sodium salt substitutes, but they taste metalic to me, but add some garlic powder and Red Chili Pepper and I'm happy with little or no salad dressing. Report
When eating raw is good to have a little fat. Some of the nutrients need fat to be used by the body...some veggies also are better for you cooked...for one carrots. The important thing is making sure the fats consumed are good for you fats....olive oil, or avocado, or nuts or seeds. Eating well is chemistry...I am afraid we just are not taught enough to know what is good for us. Most of us eat with our taste buds rather than our intellect. Learning to eat mindfully is what this journey is all about.
DH and I have used high-quality olive oil and a good balsamic vinegar for years. Then we found a balsamic that is meant to be for glazing (there are several, but we like Isola Classic Cream we found at Whole Foods, with just 27 calories in one tablespoon). The glaze is thick, so it sticks to the food rather than sinking to the bottom of the bowl. I like it so much that I stopped using the oil, and because it sticks, I use less than a tablespoon. Report
My favorite salad dressing is Wishbone's Creamy Caesar, nothing else tastes quite as yummy to me. Report
Both of these dressings are full of unhealthy crap! Why not try Annie's or Paul Newman low fat? We don't have to go without dressing or have something unhealthy or make our own! There are healthy options out there ... and they go on sale! Report
Whatever dressing I do use, I don't use much of it. I prefer to taste the ingredients in the salad. I went to Wendy's & had one of their salads& got Marzetti's Raspberry Venegraite. That was very good!It wasn't as acidy as other brands I have tasted. Report
What I'd really like to see on blogs/commercials/food packages that compare calories: use the word "fewer" rather than "less." Something has 20% fewer calories than something else. Report
For a salad mix, I just like a squeeze of lime. yum. Report
I agree with some of the other comments - no salad dressing for me! Why waste the calories eating something that isn't that good for me and also hides the woderful tatses of the foods in the salad??? Report
Homemade full fat is the way to go - no crazy chemicals. Just use a tiny bit! Problem solved. Ugh - I know everyone's on their own stage of their health journey, but I absolutely HATE to see fat-free/chemical-laden things promoted on this site.... Report
I make my own vinegrette with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and Pensey's Mural of Spice seasoning blend. Report
I have totally given up on fat free dressings--I had a refrigerator full of ones I tried and hated, so I tossed them. I now use Ken's Healthy Options or Kraft Extra Virgin Olive Oil line (the Greek Vinaigrette is my favorite) and use dressings that are 60-80 calories for a 2 Tbsp. serving and are made with some olive oil--I am finding a real dressing to be a healthier, happier choice over a bunch of chemicals and sugar...and for just an extra 50 calories. If I don't want the 50 calories, I can take a 10-minute walk around the block. Report
knew Hidden Valley was the winner from previous Food Showdown, but also read the article that some healthy fat (like olive oil) helps absorb nutrients in our salads better. So read the labels and make good choices. We make progress one decision at a time. Report
Ranch is by far my favorite! I do not like the low-cal, fat-free versions - just no flavor. So am slowly switching to a vinaigrette or salsa. My Mother just put a bit of oil and salt on her salads - just enough to coat a bit. Report
Following on what Monica W. and Woweetoo wrote, I looked up the Daily Spark article “Diet Myth #2: Plain Vegetables are Better for You.” This post describes how the nutrients in vegetables are absorbed better when accompanied by a small amount of fat.
It’s much better to dress the salad with a bit of healthy fat than a dressing loaded with sugar, starches and stabilizers. It could be confusing when the same site gives contradictory advice, but some logical thinking can show us which message is the true one. Report