It’s no secret that salad is one of the best possible meal choices you can make while trying to lose weight. But experts say it’s what you put on your salad that counts—and certain dressings can rack up the calories quick. According to Johna Burdeos, RD, homemade dressings tend to be your best bet because you get to control how much oil, salt, and sugar goes into them. That said, when you’re looking for convenience, there are plenty of store-bought salad dressings that can be just as effective for weight loss.
As a general rule, dressings containing mayo, buttermilk, sour cream, or egg yolk, tend to be higher in fat and calories (think: ranch and creamy Caesar).
“It’s also best to avoid brands with long lists of preservatives since highly-processed foods have been associated with weight gain and other chronic diseases,” says Sara Chatfield, MPH, RDN at Health Canal. “Instead, look for oil-based vinaigrettes made with oils high in healthy mono-unsaturated fatty acids and limited added sugars or preservatives.”
By the way—while fat-free dressings may seem like an ideal choice, Sheri Kasper, RDN, CEO and co-founder of FRESH Communications, doesn’t recommend them. Often, these dressings are loaded with sodium, sugar, and artificial ingredients to compensate for the lack of fat and flavor.
With all that in mind, here are some low-cal, healthy salad dressings you can feel good about pouring. And while you’re at it, avoid these Worst Salad Dressings on Store Shelves.
PER 2 TABLESPOONS: 35 calories, 3.5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (1 g sugar), 1 g protein
“Cleveland Kitchen’s salad dressings are phenomenal for weight loss because they are uniquely made with fermented veggies, so they pack a gut-healthy punch,” says Kasper. “Emerging research suggests that gut health is linked to weight loss, so the fact that these dressings can offer gut support gives them a leg-up in the weight loss department.”
This miso jalapeño dressing is loaded with flavor, which means a little goes a long way. That makes it even more remarkable that it only contains 35 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and 3.5 grams of fat per serving. It’s also surprisingly versatile: try it in grain bowls, sandwiches, and even stir-fries.
PER 2 TABLESPOONS: 120 calories, 12 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium, <1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein
This salad dressing is Whole30-approved, Paleo-friendly, and keto-certified—but that’s not all. Jillian O’Neil, RD and founder of Eat.Train.Love.NYC, notes that she loves Primal Kitchen’s dressings because they also double as marinades.
Made with wholesome ingredients like heart-healthy avocado oil, coconut aminos, spicy tarragon, and Dijon mustard, this dressing is as good for you as it tastes. It also contains no sugar, gluten, dairy, or soy.
PER 1 TABLESPOON: 80 calories, 9 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 65 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein
This dressing gets O’Neil’s seal of approval—not only because it contains just six ingredients, but also because it’s all organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, and dairy-free. It happens to be vegan, Whole-30 approved, and keto-friendly, too.
But make no mistake—this lemon garlic dressing is super flavorful, thanks to the addition of mustard seed and spices. Light, citrusy, and refreshing, it’s perfect for backyard barbecues and summer picnics.
PER 2 TABLESPOONS: 50 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein
With red bell peppers, sweet basil, and a dash of Romano cheese, this vinaigrette is bursting with authentic Northern Italian flavor—it’s perfect for drizzling onto pasta salads, wraps, and grilled vegetables alike.
“You can easily find this one at major grocery stores,” says Burdeos. “And it only contains 50 calories and no sugar per serving.”
Did we mention there’s also only 1 gram of carbs and 4.5 grams of fat per serving, too?
PER 2 TABLESPOONS: 100 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 60 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein
While this dressing may contain 10 grams of fat per serving (13% of your DV), Chatfield still names it a top pick since it’s extremely low in saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates.
The main ingredients in this vinaigrette are simple: balsamic vinegar, expeller-pressed canola oil, honey, stone-ground mustard, and sea salt. Still, it boasts a surprisingly pungent taste and creamy texture, which means you don’t need to use much to liven up your salad.
PER 2 TABLESPOONS: 70 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 20 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (2 g sugar), 0 g protein
This particular vinaigrette promises a range of health benefits, thanks to the addition of heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil, gut-friendly apple cider vinegar, and other nutritious ingredients like coconut liquid aminos and organic garlic.
One 2014 review in the European Journal of Nutrition even found that olive oil consumption may help to promote weight loss.
“It’s low in added sugar, saturated fat, sodium, and preservatives, and only has 70 calories per serving,” adds Chatfield.