If you’re trying to eat healthier or lose some weight, adding salads to your diet may be the key in helping you achieve either goal. There’s no denying the nutritional benefits you get from upping your daily fresh greens and vegetables intake; greens like arugula are high in vitamins A and K as well as vitamin C, while cruciferous vegetables like kale are great sources of minerals, including calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.

You have to, however, be wary of the salad dressings you use. Some store-bought dressings often claim to be “low-carb” salad dressings, but the information is sometimes misleading. They can be laden with artificial colors and flavorings and have higher sodium and sugar content than what is normally required.

How to Make the Lowest Calorie Salad Dressings

Marketing department often use the term “0 calorie salad dressing,” but that’s just a slogan to sell their product to weight loss communities. If the serving size of a calorie-free dressing recipe is less than 5 calories a serving, it’s legal for companies to round down, thus stating on the nutritional label that their low-carb salad dressing is 0 calories, which fulfills the claim of a no-calorie salad dressing.

Using this model, you can make a calorie-free dressing recipe using vinegar, lemon juice, salt and a 0 calorie sweetener. The calorie count in all those ingredients is very low, resulting in a 0-calorie salad dressing. Salad dressing made this way, however, can be rather runny. You can thicken it by using mustard (a grainy mustard works well and adds texture) or xanthan gum, which is a common food additive that works by stabilizing and thickening any sauce or liquid it’s added to.

Oil-Free and Low-Carb Salad Dressings

If you’re on a weight loss diet, the best salad dressing for your salads is one that is oil free. A tablespoon of olive oil has approximately 120 calories, which adds to the dressing’s overall calorie count, taking it from a low-carb salad dressing to one that is high-carb relatively quickly.

You can make low-carb salad dressings with no oil; this creamy Italian Vinaigrette makes use of cooked white beans to replace the egg and oil to create a dressing that’s low in calories but still tangy and reminiscent of traditional tangy Italian dressings.

Making your “calorie free” dressing recipe at home is affordable and something you can easily whip up in small quantities. Mixing and matching your ingredients will help create a variety of low carb salad dressings, ensuring that you actually look forward to making and eating your daily salads.

Oil-Free Citrusy Salad Dressing

Total Time: 10 minutes | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed 
  • 1/4 cup orange juice, no sugar added 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • ½-inch ginger, peeled and minced 
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground 
  • Salt, to taste 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

Directions

  1. In a blender or food processor, add in all the ingredients except the Dijon mustard. Blend until smooth.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. If too tart, add more water. 
  3. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Add in the Dijon mustard and stir to combine until thickened.
  5. Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container; cover and refrigerate. This dressing will keep for up to a week in the fridge. 

Tip

  • Stirring in the Dijon mustard rather than adding it to the blender will help the dressing emulsify to a certain degree and thicken. 

  • For heat, increase the amount of ginger from 1/2 inch to 1 inch. Alternatively, add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. 

  • Replace the maple syrup with stevia for a no-sugar, calorie-free dressing recipe. 

About the Author

Christabel Lobo

Christabel Lobo is a freelance writer focusing on all-things food, travel, and wellness. Her writing has appeared in Tenderly, SilverKris, Byrdie, Trivago, Open Skies, Fodor’s, London’s Evening Standard, Silkwinds, HuffPost, Barclays Travel, Pint Size Gourmets, and on her personal yoga & travel blog, Where’s Bel. Feel free to check out her design and writing portfolio: christabel.co