Salads seem like the perfect meal for weight loss. They’re chock-full of vegetables, you can add protein-packed lean meat, and with some hearty toppings like nuts or avocado, you get your fill of heart-healthy fats, too.
But you can ruin this waist-friendly meal if 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 unhealthy salad dressings, ranked from best to absolute worst. And be sure to watch out for The 17 Worst Restaurant Salads in America.
Walden Farms Sugar-Free Thousand Island
Per 2 Tbsp (30 mL): 0 calories, 0 g fat, 290 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. The California Proposition 65 Warning states, “This product contains a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
Girard’s Champagne 60-Calorie Vinaigrette
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, a higher risk of heart disease, and sabotaged weight-loss goals. 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 Saltiest Restaurant Foods in America.
Kraft Classic Catalina Dressing
Along with a high sodium count, this dressing contains eight grams of sugar. Yikes!
Wish-Bone Buffalo Ranch
Marzetti Fat-Free Sweet&Sour Dressing
Per 2 Tbsp (35 g): 45 calories, 0 g fat, 300 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. This dressing is a “Not That!”
For some better-for-you options, check out these 10 Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes to Make.
Ken’s Thousand Island
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
Unlike actual mustard, which contains cancer-fighting phytochemicals, honey mustard doesn’t do a thing for your health (or your waistline). It’s hard to find one that’s made with just honey and not HFCS, making Kraft’s an exception. Nonetheless, it’s still got 270 milligrams of sodium and eight grams of sugar. Next!
For some better dressing choices, check out these 10 Healthy Salad Dressing Brands to Buy.
Newman’s Own Sesame Ginger Dressing
This dressing doesn’t offer much, other than a 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
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 is 17 grams of fat, no matter what you place beneath it.
Instead of using store-bought ranch, try our Healthy Homemade Ranch Dressing Recipe.
Newman’s Own Ranch
Like Brianna’s Classic Buttermilk Ranch, Newman’s Own ranch is loaded with fat and sodium.
Ken’s Fat-Free Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette
Per 2 Tbsp (36 g): 70 calories, 0 g fat, 270 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g fiber, 14 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. As Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of the New York Nutrition Group, previously told Eat This, Not That!, “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 Cheesy Jalapeño Ranch
One word: Velveeta. You don’t need to be a health expert to know that topping your salad with this chemical cheese sauce is a major no-no. It’s fatty, salty, and it probably tastes like a straight-up heart attack.
Newman’s Own Family Recipe Italian Dressing
Italian dressing sounds like it should be healthy—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 a dressing that’s anything but healthy.
Ken’s Chunky Blue Cheese
Chunky is what you’ll be if this is your go-to salad dressing. Blue cheese dressings, like ranch dressings, are typically calorie bombs, especially because each two-tablespoon serving 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 a “Not That!”
Brianna’s Creamy Balsamic
While the ingredient list is far from the worst one on this list, this dressing has a nutritional profile that’s 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.
And if you love balsamic, don’t miss our Grilled Strawberry Shortcake with Balsamic Recipe.
Marie’s Creamy Italian Garlic Dressing&Dip
Garlic is 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
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 320 calories, 36 grams of fat, and 680 milligrams of sodium from the dressing alone. No, thank you! And for the salads to steer clear of, check out these 25 Unhealthiest Restaurant Salads in America.
Wish-Bone Creamy Caesar
If you’re still craving that Caesar salad, know that Wish-Bone’s version of the dressing is 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 ingredient list that’s the most unappetizing here. The main ingredient is inflammatory soybean oil, and the dressing uses not just sugar as an ingredient, but also corn syrup—yuck!
“Buttermilk ranch” is usually code for “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 19 grams of fat, three of which are saturated.
With ingredients like inflammatory soybean oil and “natural flavor,” this dressing is a no-go. These are just some of our 12 Tips to Make Healthy Salad Dressings.
For more, check out these 108 most popular sodas ranked by how toxic they are.