Salads wouldn't be the same without a delicious salad dressing. Of course, you can always whip up a dressing at home, but sometimes it's easier to grab a bottle at the grocery store. The only problem is that there are dozens if not hundreds of salad dressing brands out there, and not all of them are good for your health. You want your salad dressing to enhance the flavor and nutrient density of your salad—not detract from it. Certain salad dressings are made with unhealthy ingredients that leave them high in calories, sodium, artery-clogging saturated fat, and sugar. On the other hand, there are healthy salad dressings that are made with better-for-you ingredients.
How can you differentiate what salad dressings are good for you and which aren't? As a registered dietitian, I recommend choosing vinaigrette dressings over creamy dressings, as the former is typically made using a healthy plant oil base. Creamy dressings, on the other hand, are generally high in calories and artery-clogging saturated fat. However, there are some new dressings made with yogurt or avocado, so it is possible to get a creamy dressing without as many calories or saturated fat.
That's why it's important to read the nutrition facts panel and check the calories and saturated fat. If you find your dressing has over 10% of the recommended daily amount of saturated fat, there are many healthier choices you can make. Sodium is another nutrient to be wary of—if you need to cut back on the salty stuff then comparing labels is essential.
To help you make better choices at the grocery store, we spoke to registered dietitians from around the country who did the research for you and came up with six salad dressing brands that are lower in calories, saturated fat and/or sodium. Many of these brands can be found in their own pantries! There are also four dressings they recommend skipping due to their unhealthy attributes.
The 6 Best Salad Dressing Brands
Best: Primal Kitchen
Our Top Choice: Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing
According to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LDN, CLEC, CPT author of Fueling Male Fertility and partner with Primal Kitchen, "Primal Kitchen Ranch Dressing offers a distinct creaminess but without any questionable ingredients. Made with organic cage-free egg yolks and avocado oil, this dressing checks so many boxes when looking for a good-for-you topping for your salad or dip for your snacks." As a bonus, Manaker points out that the dressing is free from added sugars, soy, dairy, and gluten—factors that are important for some people on certain restrictive diets.
Best: Fanny Menciboni's
Our Top Choice: Fanny Italian Lite Salad Dressing
"Being 110% Italian and living in Massachusetts, this salad dressing is a neighborhood favorite because it was born out of a little restaurant called La Cantina Italiana in Framingham, MA," says Dr. Joan Salge Blake, EdD, RDN, LDN, FAND, nutrition professor at Boston University, author of Nutrition & You, and the host of the nutrition & health podcast, Spot On! "It is flavorful, wicked low in saturated fat, but it tastes as though my Italian grandmother made it fresh just for me before I sat down to dinner." Salge Blake also recommends using this dressing as a marinade for chicken and it's gluten-free for those who need to follow a gluten-free diet.
Best: 365 by Whole Foods Market
Our Top Choice: 365 Light Balsamic Vinaigrette
This dressing is a favorite of Washington, DC-based dietitian Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES who says, "With 45 calories per serving and simple ingredients, I love that I can dress my salads with some heart-healthy fat at home without the added calories." Thomason also uses this vinaigrette as a marinade for chicken or veggies before roasting in the oven.
Best: Bolthouse Farms
Our Top Choice: Bolthouse Farms Creamy Dressing Cilantro Avocado
"Bolthouse Farms dressings are located in the produce refrigerated section because they don't contain artificial preservatives or flavors," explains Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook. "These flavorful creamy dressings are made with Greek yogurt to limit fat and caloric content with a range of 35-50 calories per 2 tablespoon serving." Other favorite flavors Pincus loves include Honey Barbecue Ranch, Avocado Green Goddess, and Creamy Caesar.
Best: Haven's Kitchen
Our Top Choice: Haven's Kitchen Edamame Green Goddess
"As a registered dietitian and single mom of three, I love products that make it easier to serve vegetables and get a healthy meal on the table quickly," says Malina Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN owner of Malina Malkani Nutrition and author of Safe and Simple Food Allergy Prevention. She recommends Haven's Kitchen's collection of vegan, gluten-free, versatile dressings that contain premium ingredients like lemongrass, white miso, Serrano pepper, basil, tahini, and mint. Every flavor tastes amazing and works well equally drizzled over salad or as a marinade or sauce for cooked vegetables, meats, and grains.
Best: Trader Joe's
Our Top Choice: Trader Joe's Vegan Creamy Dill Dressing
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD owner of Sound Bites Nutrition recommends this dressing because it's low in sodium, carbs, and saturated fat with only 60 calories per 2-tablespoon serving. Plus, in addition to dressing your salad, Andrews recommends this dressing for your tuna salad.
The 4 Worst Salad Dressing Brands
The Worst Offender: Ken's Ranch Dressing
Although a little ranch goes a long way, Andrews says that Ken's provides 140 calories and 15 grams of fat per serving with 2.5 grams being the artery-clogging saturated kind—which is 13% of the recommended daily max. The sodium is also 13% of the daily recommended max—just for a bit of salad dressing. You can surely find many other options with a better nutrition breakdown (many of which are listed above).
The Worst Offender: Brianna's Classic Buttermilk Ranch
Although Brianna's has some great dressing choices, their Classic Buttermilk Ranch isn't the healthiest choice. Per 2-tablespoon serving this dressing contains 170 calories, 17 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 320 milligrams of sodium. It's just increasing the calories and saturated fat of a healthy salad which can sabotage a perfectly healthy meal. Opt for Brianna's healthier and tasty options like their Blush Wine Vinaigrette and Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.
The Worst Offender: Marie's Thousand Island Dressing
Besides containing just too many calories, this dressing provides 15% of the recommended daily max of saturated fat. Opt instead for their raspberry or balsamic vinaigrette with a fraction of the calories and less saturated fat.
Worst: Olive Garden
The Worst Offender: Olive Garden Parmesan Ranch Dressing
This creamy option from the popular restaurant provides 13% of the recommended daily amount of saturated fat and 11% of the recommended daily max of sodium. There are certainly better options available—even from the Olive Garden line including the signature Italian and light Italian dressings.