10 Best & Worst Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressings, Say Dietitians
Do you often find yourself navigating the grocery aisles in search of the perfect balance between healthy salad dressings and options that taste good? We've got you covered with a full breakdown from dietitians and nutrition experts on the best and worst of the salad dressing aisle when it comes to balsamic vinaigrettes.
How to differentiate healthy from unhealthy store-bought balsamic vinaigrette.
Salad dressings can be unhealthy due to a variety of factors that contribute to high calorie, fat, sugar, and sodium content. Reading nutrition labels can help you make informed choices when purchasing store-bought dressings, and these are some variables you should keep in mind:
- Fat Quality and Content: The type of oil in your vinaigrette makes a big difference in its healthfulness. Look for dressings that use extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, or avocado oil, which are great sources of unsaturated fats that are good for heart health.
- Added Sugars: Some dressings contain added sugars to enhance flavor. This can lead to an unhealthy increase in calorie intake and contribute to issues like weight gain and blood sugar imbalances. When looking at the Nutrition Facts panel, try to get the number next to "Added Sugars" as low as possible. The recommended daily allowance for added sugar is 24 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.
- Sodium Levels: Pre-made dressings often have high sodium content to improve flavor and extend shelf life. Excess sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. The recommended daily sodium intake is 2,300 milligrams per day or about a teaspoon of sodium. Look for dressings that are lower in sodium.
To make your salad dressings healthier, consider making them at home using healthier oils like olive oil, using natural sweeteners. or reducing sugar. Opt for vinaigrettes over creamy dressings, as they typically have lower fat content. It's also important to be mindful of portion sizes. Using too much dressing can easily add a significant amount of calories to your healthy salad. While salad dressing can be filling and satisfying, over-consuming salad dressing can be a source of empty calories.
Read on to find out exactly what dietitians recommend choosing—or leaving—next time you're at the store. Read on, and for more, don't miss 6 Best-Tasting New Salad Dressings You Should Try Right Now.
7 Best Balsamic Vinaigrettes
Best: 365 Fig Balsamic Dressing
Whole Foods' line of balsamic vinaigrette is quite impressive especially when you consider that they have fun flavors like this Fig Balsamic. Oftentimes, flavored salad dressings have more added sugar, sodium, and other additives. But not this one! With just 25 calories per serving, we love that 365 kept this dressing simple and delicious.
We think this pairs perfectly with sliced tomato and mozzarella for an easy snack or appetizer.
Best: Bolthouse Farms Classic Balsamic Vinaigrette
"Bolthouse Farms has a great classic balsamic vinaigrette option," Jamie Nadeau, RD shares. "It's made with extra virgin olive oil and has no artificial flavors or preservatives. It's also a great lighter dressing option with only 30 calories per 2 tablespoons," she adds.
Best: Marzetti Simply Dressed Vinaigrette
In terms of being completely natural, this blend hits the mark. It doesn't include extra ingredients or high-fructose corn syrup. Nonetheless, it contains one teaspoon of sugar per serving size. If you prefer a slightly sweet dressing, this is an excellent option.
"I love the Marzetti Simply Dressed Vinaigrette for several reasons: It is made with real ingredients, including heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar," says Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness. "Furthermore, the dressing does not contain any preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, or colors. It is a great choice for any salad or even marinade," she concludes.
Best: Mother Raw's Balsamic Dressing
Lara Clevenger MSH, RDN, CPT explains why this is her pick: "I recommend Mother Raw's Balsamic Dressing. It's Organic, made with 100% cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, and naturally sweetened with dates. It's free of refined sugar, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives."
Best: Panera Bread at Home Low Sodium Balsamic Vinaigrette
Panera Bread at Home Low Sodium Balsamic Vinaigrette is a top choice for individuals seeking a heart-healthy option, offers Jessie Hulsey RD, LD an Atlanta-based registered dietitian. "With only 50 milligrams of sodium per serving, this dressing is an excellent choice for those with high blood pressure, offering a mere 2% of the daily recommended sodium intake. By providing a delicious and low-sodium alternative, Panera Bread at Home dressing allows health-conscious individuals to enjoy the tangy flavors of balsamic vinaigrette while supporting their cardiovascular health," Hulsey says.
Best: Primal Kitchen's Balsamic
You won't find anything much more akin to homemade dressing than this. Avocado oil introduces monounsaturated fats that promote heart health, but this product does come with a higher price tag compared to other options on our roster.
"I highly recommend Primal Kitchen's Balsamic made with avocado oil. The ingredient list is minimal and avocado oil does not promote inflammation like other widely used oils such as soybean oil," says Kristen White, RDN, CLT.
Best: Ken's Simply Vinaigrette
Hulsey chimes in with another fan favorite: "Ken's Simply Vinaigrette is one of my top choices for the best balsamic vinaigrette. Its blend of vegetable oils and balsamic vinegar not only delivers a rich and balanced flavor profile but also provides essential nutrients for a well-rounded diet. With only two grams of sugar per serving, this dressing allows health-conscious individuals to indulge in the savory sweetness of balsamic vinaigrette without compromising their dietary goals."
3 Worst Balsamic Vinaigrettes
Worst: Wishbone Balsamic Vinaigrette
"I think Wishbone Balsamic Vinaigrette is the worst, though it has only 60 calories, it has 290 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), and no protein," says Moushumi Mukherjee MS RDN. "While this product is classified as low-calorie, it achieves this primarily due to its high water content. Its main composition is soybean oil, which, in the context of weight loss, might be more detrimental than sugar," she adds.
Worst: Skinnygirl Fat Free Sugar Free Balsamic Vinaigrette
"Skinnygirl Fat-Free Sugar-Free Balsamic Vinaigrette may not be the ideal dressing choice for your health and satisfaction. While the intention to reduce fat and sugar is commendable, taking away the fat content may compromise the overall taste and satiety of the dressing. Healthy fats play a crucial role in absorbing essential vitamins and minerals from vegetables, and their absence in this product could hinder nutrient absorption. Opting for a balanced balsamic vinaigrette with moderate healthy fats can better support your nutritional needs and enhance the enjoyment of your salads," says Hulsey.
Worst: Walden Farms Balsamic Dressing
What might the components of a dressing with no calories and fats consist of? It's primarily a mixture of water, vinegar, fiber, natural flavors, gums, preservatives, and sucralose, an artificial sweetener. The positive aspect of this choice is the inclusion of Dijon mustard.
Despite being low in calories, we think you'll notice the difference here. You might not feel satisfied or full from your salad without some healthy fat drizzled on top. If your meal is already calorie-dense, you might find this is a good option, but otherwise, it's a pass for us.