Salads seem like the perfect meal for weight loss: they’re chock-full of vegetables, you can add filling and protein-packed lean meat, and with some hearty toppings like nuts or avocado, you get your fill of heart-healthy fats.
But you can totally ruin this perfectly waist-friendly meal when you reach for a bottle of dressing. You would never dump several packets of sugar or a glop of high fructose corn syrup on your lunch, yet that’s what you’re getting with some of these grocery store favorites. And while heart-healthy oils like olive oil can help you absorb the vitamins from your salad veggies, many of these are made with cheap and inflammatory vegetable oils, which can be worse for you than sugar.
So when you’re thinking about building your healthy salad, steer clear of these bottled dressings. And be sure to watch out for The 20 Worst Restaurant Salads in America.
FROM BEST TO WORST…
WALDEN FARMS SUGAR-FREE THOUSAND ISLAND
Nutrition (2 tbsp):** 0 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 190 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 0 g protein
Thanks to The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, you'll find this label on the first item of our list: California Proposition 65 Warning: This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm." Don't be fooled by the calorie and fat-free nutrition, this dressing is far from harmless. While it may not derail your diet, it could have detrimental effects on your health.
GIRARD'S LIGHT CHAMPAGNE DRESSING
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 60 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 470 mg sodium, 2 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 0 g protein
One serving of this dressing has nearly one-fourth of your daily sodium intake—and that's if you stick to two tablespoons. Excess salt intake is linked to elevated blood pressure, heart disease risk and sabotaging weight loss. It also causes bloating, so cutting down on sodium is one of the fastest ways to flatten your belly. Not sure how much salt you're actually consuming? Check out these 10 Saltest Foods in America.
KRAFT CLASSIC CATALINA DRESSING
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 90 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 390 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 0 g protein
Along with a high sodium count, this dressing contains 8 grams of sugar and color dyes. In fact, Canadian researchers found Red 40, found in this dressing, to be contaminated with known carcinogens (substances capable of causing cancer).
WISH-BONE BUFFALO RANCH
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 120 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated), 300 mg sodium, 2 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 0 g protein
If you're an avid Eat This fan, you know that cayenne pepper can boost your metabolism and even prevent overeating. However, its waist-whittling effects are canceled out by the sodium and fat content in this dressing.
MARZETTI SWEET AND SOUR FAT FREE
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 45 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 290 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 10 g sugar, 0 g protein
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the second ingredient in this dressing—hence the 10-gram sugar count. Not to mention it contains artificial coloring, including yellow 5, which a Journal of Pediatrics study linked to hyperactivity in children. This one is definitely a “Not That!”
KEN'S THOUSAND ISLAND
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 140 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated), 300 mg sodium, 4 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 0 g protein
What do you get when you glop 13 grams of fat, corn syrup and chemical preservatives over your salad? A fattening, cancer-causing, flat belly nightmare. If we haven't scared you yet, check out these 40 Habits That Make You Sick and Fat.
KRAFT HONEY MUSTARD
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 110 calories, 8 g fat (1 g saturated), 270 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 0 g protein
Unlike actual mustard, which contains cancer-fighting phytochemicals, honey mustard doesn't do a thing for your health (or waistline). It's hard to find one that's actually made with just honey and not HFCS—making Kraft's an exception. Nonetheless, it's still got 270 milligrams of sodium and 8 grams of sugar. Next!
NEWMAN'S OWN LOW FAT SESAME GINGER
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 35 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 390 mg sodium, 5 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 0 g protein
This dressing doesn't offer much aside from a seriously salty aftertaste. While it won't leave you with bulging love handles, it's not going to be your flat belly solution either.
BRIANNA'S CLASSIC BUTTERMILK RANCH
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 160 calories, 17 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 280 mg sodium, 2 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 1 g protein
You fill your plate with a plethora of superfoods like kale, cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, and even chickpeas. You top it with a piece of lean grilled chicken and a glopping mound of Brianna's Classic Buttermilk Ranch. You think you're doing your body a favor, but you forget that 17 grams of fat are 17 grams of fat, no matter what you place beneath it.
NEWMAN'S OWN RANCH
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 150 calories, 16 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 310 mg sodium, 2 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 0 g protein
Coming in just behind Brianna's Classic Buttermilk Ranch with 25 percent of its calories coming from fat and 310 milligrams of sodium, Newman's Own is just a smidge guiltier. But when it comes to nutrition, every smidge counts.
KEN'S FAT FREE SUN-DRIED TOMATO VINAIGRETTE
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 260 mg sodium, 17 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 0 g protein
With 12 grams of sugar and the first ingredient being HFCS, you might as well top your salad with artificial sugar. Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group, says, "High fructose corn syrup has been shown to increase appetite and lead to health problems such as obesity and diabetes." Yeah, yeah, you knew it was bad, but hear us again: HFCS is bad! Don't believe us? Check out What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Sugar.
KRAFT VELVEETA CHEESY JALAPENO RANCH
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 120 calories, 12 g fat (2 g saturated), 350 mg sodium, 2 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 0 g protein
One word: Velveeta. You don't need to be a health foodie to know that topping your salad with this chemical cheese sauce is a major no-no. It's fatty, salty and probably tastes like a straight up heart attack.
Newman’s Own Family Recipe Italian
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 130 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated), 320 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 1 g protein
Italian dressing sounds like it should be healthy since it’s usually just a mix of oil, vinegar, and herbs. But Newman’s Own adds a ton of questionable ingredients including corn syrup, caramel color, and the elusive “natural flavor.” Add to that the 13 grams of fat coming from the bad-for-you vegetable oil, and you have anything but healthy.
Ken’s Chunky Blue Cheese
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 150 calories, 16 g fat (2.5 g saturated), 290 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 0 g protein
Chunky is what you’ll be if this is your go-to salad dressing. Blue cheese dressings, like ranch, are typically a fattening calorie bomb, especially since two tablespoons is easy to bypass if you’re pouring straight from the bottle. And 16 grams of fat per serving is nothing to scoff at; this soybean oil-based dressing is definitely a “Not That!”
BRIANNA'S CREAMY BALSAMIC
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 160 calories, 17 g fat (1 g saturated), 290 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 0 g protein
While the ingredient list is far from the worst one on here, the nutritional profile is less than impressive. Instead, top your greens with calorie and fat-free balsamic vinegar and heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil. When it comes to nutrition, simplicity is everything. P.S. 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 a salad.
MARIE'S CREAMY ITALIAN GARLIC
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 180 calories, 19 g fat (3 g saturated), 135 mg sodium, 1 g carb, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 0 g protein
Aside from completely derailing any of your body goals, this salad will have your coworkers dodging you at every corner. Garlic may be great for the body, but when it's soaked in saturated fats, it's not doing you or your social life any favors. That's not the real reason it ranks so low on our list (it's the poor nutritional profile!) but maybe you needed the extra motivation to step away from this salad dressing.
NEWMAN'S OWN CREAMY CAESAR
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 170 calories, 18 g fat (3 g saturated), 340 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 0 g protein
The Caesar salad has doubled in size and calories over the last two decades—and with dressings like this one, it's no surprise. For starters, Caesar salad is drenched in dressing. Imagine you use four tablespoons (as opposed to the advertised serving size of two): you're looking at 340 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 680 mg of sodium from the dressing alone…no thank you! And for salads to steer clear of, check out these 19 Salads Worse Than a Whopper.
Wishbone Creamy Caesar
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 180 calories, 18 g fat (3 g saturated), 290 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, <1 g sugar, <1 g protein
If you’re still craving that Caesar salad, Wishbone’s version of the dressing is actually worse for you than the already-bad Newman’s Own. It packs more calories and just a little bit more sugar. But it’s the ingredients list that’s unappetizing: the main ingredient is inflammatory soybean oil, and the dressing uses not just sugar as an ingredient, but also corn syrup — yuck!
MARIE'S CREAMY GARLIC CAESAR
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 170 calories, 19 g fat (3.5 g saturated), 160 mg sodium, 1 g carb, 0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 1 g protein
Any dressing with the word “creamy” in it is already a red flag, and this dressing by Marie’s is no exception. With a whopping 19 grams of fat, 3.5 of which are saturated, and 170 calories, you’re basically ruining your salad if you opt for this fattening monstrosity.
Ken’s Steakhouse Buttermilk Ranch
Nutrition (2 tbsp): 180 calories, 20 g fat (3 g saturated), 260 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 0 g protein
Buttermilk ranch is usually code for an insanely caloric and fattening dressing, and Ken’s version certainly fits the bill. There’s a reason it’s the worst bottled salad dressing on this list. It has nearly 200 calories in just two tablespoons, and an astounding 20 grams of fat (3 of which are saturated). With ingredients like inflammatory soybean oil and “natural flavor,” you’re better off sticking to olive oil and vinegar with a little salt and pepper. These are just some of our 12 Tips to Make Healthy Salad Dressings.