If you’ve quit sugar, you’re likely dreading the loss of some of your favourite salad dressings, from caesar to honey mustard. But fear not – there’s no reason you have to miss out on the classics, in fact, salad dressings can be nutritious, satiating and delicious. Here’s how.
As nutrition is one of the major contributing factors to your health, we'd always encourage you to make your own dressing, as this gives you full control over the ingredients. However, we know you're not always going to have the luxury of cooking all your meals from scratch, so we've put together a few tips and tricks to help you make sure your dressing is sugar-free, whether it’s homemade or bought in-store.
Here’s your guide to enjoying a tasty salad dressing – without the sugar crash.
First, you'll want to avoid products with sugar, excess sugar alternatives, trans fats and, in general, any highly-processed products – you'll want your store-bought products to have a short and simple ingredient list. Now for the good stuff - let’s unpack the ingredients you’ll want to incorporate into a delicious dressing.
The elements of a good salad dressing
Healthy fats: This is essential to bring the flavours together and bind all your ingredients – not to mention it’ll ensure your salad keeps you fuller for longer, after all, studies have found these fats help balance blood-sugar levels, along with decreasing appetite and sugar cravings throughout the day. They’re essential for maintaining regulated hunger cues – so, goodbye afternoon slumps! Try these ingredients for your next dressing:
- Olive oil
- Hemp oil
- Avocado oil
- Chilli oil
- Nut butters like almond, cashew and peanut butter
- Yoghurt – this is for those creamy, restaurant-style dressings you’ve been craving – try Greek yoghurt for an indulgent health boost!
Vinegar and acidic elements: For that kick that all the best salads have, you’ll want to include those zesty, sharp flavours. Lemon, lime and even orange can make for a refreshing twist to light up your salad. When it comes down to vinegar, apple cider vinegar makes for a good option – it has a little natural sweetness, while also packing some antiviral and antibacterial health benefits. Regular white vinegar will do, though red wine vinegar is a popular choice for its rich flavour and it doesn't hurt that it packs a dose of antioxidants. So, here are the foods to choose from for your acidic elements:
- Lemon, lime or finger lime
- Orange or blood orange
- White vinegar, apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar
- Red wine vinegar – this one’s sugar-free and is loaded with antioxidants!
Mustard: What would a salad dressing be without mustard? This potent condiment brings even the most boring foods to life – and there are countless types to choose from. But, when you’re picking up a jar of mustard, always take a look at the ingredients list to make sure they haven’t slipped a bunch of unnecessary sugars and preservatives in.
- French or Dijon mustard – yes, both are French, but Dijon has a richer, bitier taste than the comparably mild and somewhat sweet French mustard.
- Seeded mustard
- Hot mustard
- Yellow mustard
Extras: You don’t have to stop at liquids and spreads, why not add up some chopped-up spring onions to your Asian slaw dressing.
Don’t forget your herbs – the fat element of your salad will help infuse the fragrant, potent flavours of your favourite herbs into your dressing. Seeds add a bit of crunch and texture, and they also happen to be loaded with fibre. Here are a few extras to add into your next salad dressing:
- Spring onions
- Pine nuts
- Herbs like parsley, mint, thyme, rosemary and basil
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds – these pair well with chilli or sesame oil in your Asian-style salad!
Something sweet: Although some of the above vinegars, seeds and mustards have a natural sweetness – meaning you don’t even have to include this part if you’re satisfied with a milder sweetness – but if you’re after a bit more of a boost, here are a few sweeteners to include, in moderation, of course!
- Maple syrup
- Rice malt syrup
- Date paste
- Monk fruit sweetener
Salad dressings and ingredients to watch out for
If you choose to buy a pre-made dressing instead of whipping one up yourself, it's important to remember that not all dressings are made alike. Here are a few of the big offenders when it comes to slipping in added sugars, trans fats and inflammatory additives. You'll often find unhealthy sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup in these overly-processed dressings, so make sure to check the ingredient list twice when you see the following commercial products:
- Thousand Island dressing: Commercial varieties of this popular American salad dressing are often packed with sugar, salt and a number of additives we can't even pronounce.
- Ranch dressing: Extra sugar, salt and preservatives are par for the course with store-bought ranch dressing.
- Catalina dressing: This tasty, tomato-y dressing can easily be made at home with healthy, whole ingredients, but its commercial counterparts are brimming with added sugars which go straight to your liver. So, if you're going store-bought, give this one a miss.
- Balsamic vinegar: This popular dressing ingredient may have been reported to help lower cholesterol levels, but with a whopping 15% sugar content, this dressing ingredient is one to avoid or at least keep to a minimum.
- Mayonnaise: Store-bought mayo tends to be loaded with sugar, trans fats and excess salt. Be sure to look out for options with fewer, less heavily-processed ingredients. For a cheaper option, make it at home, since a basic mayo really only requires eggs, an oil of your choice and an acid of your choice.
Restaurants and cafes are complicated territory when it comes to eating sugar-free, but it is possible. Here are a few easy tips to keep your dressing as healthy, wholesome and nutritious as possible, even when you're far from home.
- Order your dressing on the side: This way you can decide exactly how much dressing you'll put on your salad, especially if it's a little higher in sugar than you'd like.
- Keep it simple: Try asking for olive oil and lemon, this is your fail-safe solution to getting a sugar-free dressing when you're out and about – and it's pretty tasty too.
- BYO salad dressing: This one involves a bit of extra dedication for those salad-enthusiasts out there. If you're keen to enjoy your salad with a top-notch, sugar-free dressing, you could make your own at home and then order a salad, sans the dressing, and sneakily drizzle your own concoction on top.
Now for a free recipe – you didn’t think we’d leave you hanging, did you? This classic recipe comes straight from the Healthy Breakfast Cookbook eBook
Box-grater Breakfast Salad with Mustardy Dressing
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 1 cup grated zucchini
- 4 spring onions, roots removed and finely sliced
- ½ head broccoli, grated
- 1 cup grated purple cabbage
- 2 boiled eggs, cut in half to serve
- 20 grams roasted almonds, roughly chopped
- ½ lime or lemon, to serve
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- To make the dressing, add all the ingredients to a jar and shake to combine – set aside.
- Place grated carrot, zucchini, onions, broccoli and purple cabbage separately around two plates or bowls in whatever colourful order you like. Serve each with one boiled egg and a sprinkling of almonds. Drizzle over dressing to serve.
During our 8-Week Program you’ll have access to countless healthy recipes to get your fix of all your favourite salads – minus all the health issues that come with sugar. Plus, you’ll enjoy the ongoing support, craving-management techniques and exclusive access to meal plans and exciting content. There’s no better way to ditch the sweet stuff and transform your life!
I Quit Sugar
March 13, 2023
Hi Eli, we’re so glad it helped! All the best for you and your wife’s healthy journey!