10 Unhealthiest Salad Dressings on Grocery Shelves, According to RDs
While anything can technically be called a salad, dishes loaded with leafy greens, fresh vegetables, lean protein, and a dressing with plenty of healthy fats can pack a lot of nutrition into one dish. The salad dressing you choose to drizzle on your salad can either add a lot of calories, sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats and can be considered an unhealthy salad dressing, or it can be a healthier option and help keep you full and satisfied.
Including a healthy salad dressing can help you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins found in vegetables and greens, including vitamins A, D, E, and K. Leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich in carotenoids, which are converted into vitamin A in the body. At least 3 to 5 grams of fat need to be eaten with the leafy greens to absorb these nutrients, so a little fat can actually make your salad healthier.
To reap all the nutritional benefits of salad dressing without sabotaging your salad with sodium, unhealthy fat, sugars, and loads of calories, we asked dietitians to share the unhealthiest salad dressings to steer clear from on grocery store shelves.
How we chose the unhealthiest salad dressings
When looking for salad dressings you'll want to limit or avoid, dietitians recommend being aware of these deciding factors:
- Types of fat: Dressings made with olive oil or avocado oil are higher in monounsaturated fats, which have been found to help reduce the risk of heart disease. Salad dressings that include low-oleic oils or vegetable oils are high in Omega 6 fatty acids and are more likely to oxidize and cause free radicals leading to inflammation, explains Lara Clevenger MSH, RDN, CPT. Saturated fat is often found in oils that use dairy or cream as a base, which is okay in moderation, but should be limited to less than 10% of the daily value (DV) per serving.
- Added sugars: The average American eats 17 teaspoons of added sugars per day, which is more than double what we should be eating. It's recommended to limit added sugar to only 10% of our daily calories, or less than 50 grams per day. Even dressings that don't seem "sweet" can have sneaky sugars.
- Sodium: The serving size of salad dressing is small, usually around two tablespoons, and just a small amount can pack a lot of sodium. When choosing a salad dressing, limit sodium to less than 10% of your DV to avoid eating too much, which is associated with a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
- Calories: While it's good for a salad dressing to add energy to your salad (we want to be full and satisfied, after all), some dressings can add 180 calories or more from just a small, two-tablespoon serving, making it easy to add unnecessary, extra calories to your day.
Read on for what dietitians say are the unhealthiest salad dressings to buy, and for more healthy grocery tips, check out the 6 Healthiest Potato Chips—and 4 to Avoid.
The Top Unhealthiest Salad Dressings to Buy
Dietitians say you may want to steer clear of the following salad dressings when you're looking for your next salad topping.
Marie's Chunky Blue Cheese
In just two tablespoons of Marie's Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing, you get 3.5 grams of saturated fat (18% of your daily value). "What makes this particularly unhealthy is that due to its chunky nature, it is easy to use more than two tablespoons on your salad," says Amy Beney MS RD CDCES.
Adding extra could add a third of your total saturated fat recommendations, just from your salad dressing.
Olive Garden's Classic Caesar Dressing
With 340 milligrams of sodium in each serving, you're adding 15% of your daily value from just the dressing alone.
Ken's Steakhouse Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
"Ken's Steakhouse Buttermilk Ranch Dressing is made predominately from soybean oil, which is high in omega-6 fatty acids," says Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness. "Excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, without a balanced intake of omega-3 fatty acids, can lead to inflammation, which is associated with various health conditions," Chun adds.
One serving also adds 15% DV for saturated fat and 11% DV for sodium—two nutrients that should be limited for heart health.
Walden Farms Chipotle Ranch
While zero calories might sound like a good thing, the lack of fat will prevent your body from absorbing essential fat-soluble vitamins in greens and vegetables. And while there's no fat or calories, this dressing does add 350 milligrams of sodium (15% of the daily value) to your diet.
Wishbone Thousand Island Dressing
While we're not concerned about the saturated fat in Wishbone Thousand Island Dressing, the four grams of added sugars and 15% DV of sodium per serving make it less than ideal.
Ken's Steakhouse Country French with Orange Blossom Honey
Ken's Steakhouse Country French with Orange Blossom Honey is as sweet as it sounds with 9 grams of added sugar in each serving. While it does fall within 10% of the DV for saturated fat and sodium, the high amount of added sugar (18% of the recommended daily value in one serving) in this dressing makes it a dressing you should limit.
If you like a little sweetness, add fresh fruit to your salad instead.
Wishbone Western Salad Dressing
While we're talking about added sugars, Wishbone Western Salad Dressing is one of the worst. Just one serving has 24% of the recommended daily limit of added sugars, all from high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
While HFCS hasn't been found to be worse for our health than table sugar, it should be limited in the diet just the same, as it's associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Hidden Valley Buffalo Ranch
Testing the limits of just how much sodium can be packed into two small tablespoons, Hidden Valley Buffalo Ranch succeeded with a massive 18% in each serving. And if you don't limit yourself to just two tablespoons? It only goes up from there.
Brianna's Blush Wine Vinaigrette
Vinaigrettes have often been thought to be the healthier of the salad dressings, as they're lower in saturated fat and often in total fat, as vinegar makes up a larger proportion than most dressings.
But, the first ingredient in Brianna's Blush Wine Vinaigrette is sugar, and each serving adds 9 grams, or 18% DV, of added sugars.
Maple Grove Farms Fat-Free Honey Dijon Dressing
Low in calories and with zero grams of fat, Maple Grove Farms Fat-Free Honey Dijon Dressing may seem like a healthier salad dressing choice. But while it won't add unnecessary calories to your diet, it will add unnecessary sugar and sodium.
Each serving has 9 grams of added sugar and 10% DV of sodium. Plus, you'll miss out on the nutrient boost from adding fat to your greens, leaving valuable vitamins unabsorbed.
- Source: α-Carotene, β-Carotene, β-Cryptoxanthin, Lycopene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin
- Source: Monounsaturated fats from plant and animal sources in relation to risk of coronary heart disease among US men and women
- Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025
- Source: Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health, Salt and Sodium
- Source: A dose-response study of consuming high-fructose corn syrup–sweetened beverages on lipid/lipoprotein risk factors for cardiovascular disease in young adults
- Source: The Role of Fructose, Sucrose and High-fructose Corn Syrup in Diabetes
- Source: How high fructose intake may trigger fatty liver disease