Beware Nutritional Trap of Salad Dressings

Posted August 25th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in health, nutrition, weight loss

This week, a little 411 on salad dressings (and share this with any friends in the restaurant business).

Ahhh, salad. Low calorie roughage, healthy veggies … sounds healthy. Intentions are great, but guess what? If you add “regular” salad dressing, you might as well skip the salad and just eat the burger you really wanted. Salad dressings are a real nutritional trap.

Let’s look at restaurants. A typical salad dressing ladle holds 2 ounces, or 4 tablespoons of dressing. The average restaurant uses two ladles, or eight tablespoons of dressing on your salad.

I normally recommend only 2 tablespoons of dressing, which would be one half of one ladle. Remember, a typical restaurant is giving you FOUR TIMES as much. You’ll see, by the chart below, that the low-cal or fat-free dressings make a measurable difference in how your week stacks up, nutritionally.

Keep in mind that an average woman needs to hold her daily fat intake to less than 60 grams of fat, and a man, to less than 80 grams.

    2 tablespoons of salad dressing (my recommended portion)

Ranch Regular -148 calories, 15.6 g fat (4x = over 60 g of fat in 2 ladles)

Ranch Lite (low-fat) – 80 calories, 6 g fat

Ranch Fat-Free – 48 calories, 0.3 g fat

Creamy Italian – 110 calories, 12 g fat (4x = 48 g of fat in 2 ladles)

Lite Italian – 50 calories, 5g fat

Fat-free Italian – 20 calories, 0.3 g fat

Balsamic Vinaigrette – 90 calories, 8 g fat (a better choice)

Lite Balsamic Vinaigrette – 45 calories, 3.5 g fat

Bottom line: one salad, with two ladles of dressing, once a week, can easily be the equivalent of a whole day’s worth of fat intake. Ingest a little fat at breakfast and from your other meal, and that salad dressing can take you over your daily allotment – the exact opposite of your intentions.

Instead, ask for salad dressings “on the side” and order the “low-fat” version. Then either dip your fork or salad in the dressing rather than pouring it on. You’ll save hundreds – or thousands – of fat grams in a year.

How can you guesstimate the 2-tablespoon serving size I’m recommending? The top of your thumb is equal to about 1 tablespoon. A ping-pong ball or shot glass or an Oreo cookie is about 2 tablespoons. At that quantity, even the biggest offender – regular ranch – is only one fourth or less of your daily recommended fat allotment.

Restaurants average 10 cents in cost per 2 tablespoons of regular dressing. Two ladles is thus .40 cents worth; a 2-tablespoon serving on the side would save .30 per salad (and 45 g of fat, per salad, per customer).

If, for example, 94 restaurants implemented salad dressing awareness they could save customers 38,070,000 grams of FAT and $296,100.00 in just 30 days. One restaurant has potential quarterly savings of $9,450 (and saves its customers 1,215,000 grams of fat).

I declare August, not only back to school month, but Salad Dressing Awareness month!

Check out my latest News Article on fast food. Good tips for busy lifestyles!

Posted August 18th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in The News-Press Column

Nutrition: Good food can be had at drive-through window of fast-food joint

Are you always on the go? Do you frequent the drive-through, resigned to make unhealthy eating choices?

What if I told you that some simple planning can go a long way in building healthier eating habits into a busy lifestyle? It really doesn’t have to be complicated or require you to spend long hours preparing meals in your kitchen.

When you know that you are going to be in a car most of the day, you can pack some essentials into a cooler ahead of time, avoiding the need for that fast food fix. Select healthy snacks that will give you an energy boost during the day and prevent you from overeating at meals. A few suggestions are frozen grapes, protein bars, hard-boiled eggs, orange slices, walnuts, sunflower seeds or sliced apples.

For an easy lunch, pack one cup of yogurt, 1 to 2 ounces of low-fat string cheese, a small cucumber, one cup of strawberries and about 40 pretzel sticks.

Don’t forget to bring plenty of water. If you drink water throughout the day instead of soda, you will cut out many empty calories.

What if you forgot to pack lunch (or didn’t have time to grocery shop) and fast food is your only option? Luckily, thanks to an increasing demand from health-conscious customers, more restaurants are offering healthier choices. If you are going to a drive-through, always avoid deep-fried foods and high-calorie sauces.

Here are some better choices that will fill you up without packing on the pounds:

McDonald’s – Asian Salad with grilled chicken, Newman’s Own low-fat balsamic vinaigrette, Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait (no granola) 470 calories, 36 grams protein, 52 grams carbs, 15 grams fat and 5 grams fiber.

Wendy’s – Mandarin Chicken Salad, low-fat honey mustard dressing, low-fat strawberry yogurt (no granola) 420 calories, 29 grams protein, 66 grams carbs, 6.5 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Arby’s – Chicken Fillet Sandwich (grilled, hold the mayo), fruit cup. 344 calories, 31 grams protein, 45 grams carbs, 5.5 grams fat and 3 grams fiber.

Burger King – BK Veggie Burger (hold the mayo and cheese) and Mott’s strawberry flavored apple sauce. 430 calories, 23 grams protein, 69 grams carbs, 8 grams fat and 7 grams fiber.

Pizza Hut – 2 slices 12″ Fit ‘N Delicious Pizza-diced chicken, red onion and green pepper. 340 calories, 18 grams protein, 46 grams carbs, 10 grams fat and 2 grams fiber.

Subway – Turkey Breast 6-inch Sandwich, Veggie Delite Salad, fat-free dressing. 375 calories, 22 grams protein, 65 grams carbs, 5.5 grams fat and 7 grams fiber.

Chick-fil-A – Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich, large fruit cup – 370 calories, 29 grams protein, 59 grams carbs, 3.5 grams fat and 6 grams fiber.

All of the sandwiches at Chick-fil-A come in below the 500-calorie mark, but the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich is the lowest in calories at 270.

Elaine Hastings is a registered dietitian of Associates in Nutrition Therapy in Fort Myers. She has been practicing for 18 years and was recently named president of the Southwest Florida Dietetic Association. Continue to read her series Tuesdays.

Contact her at AssociatesinNutrition .com,, or call 275-2132.