Salad Dressing: Dip or Sprinkle?

I love salads. LOVE them. Even at my heaviest weight, I ate salad almost every day, especially in summer with fresh veggies at their most abundant. On a hot summer day, nothing tastes better than cool and crispy (and luscious) salad–NOTHING! Not even cupcakes. (Mark it down, I said it.)

The downside is that while I LOVE salad, I don’t LOVE it plain. Enter the potentially ruinous arch enemy: salad dressing. I don’t know if it’s like this everywhere, but if you order dressing “on the side” here in the southern U.S., you’ll likely end up with something like this:

House salad with russian dressing

At at least one local restaurant, you’ll get two little cups of dressing! To be fair, their salad is a LOT bigger, but still. That’s too much dressing!

And I should know, because I used to automatically pour my little cup of creamy Thousand Island all over my salad. Sometimes I’d add some more dressing, sometimes not. It was always a bad idea, especially since in years past, almost all of the dressings were of the creamy variety, not the wide range of vinaigrettes or healthy-fats dressings available today.

In previous attempts to lose weight, I tried different approaches to the salad dressing dilemma, none of which worked for me.

  • I bought  “lite” salad dressings, most of which I didn’t like and would eventually throw out. (I actually prefer Miracle Whip Lite Salad Dressing over the regular for my tuna salad needs, but even then, I use only a tablespoon or so for the whole salad.)
  • I’d get the “full-strength” dressings and dot them over the salad, but that never tasted quite right.
  • In restaurants, I’d seen other people (always women) spear their lettuce onto their forks and then dip it into the little dressing cups. That didn’t seem to accomplish much, other than to coat each and every bite with dressing, so I only gave it one half-hearted attempt.
  • I tried just squeezing a lemon on top. I don’t much care for lemons, unless they have an icebox pie wrapped around them, but I tried it anyway.
  • I’d try to eat the salad plain.

Salads just didn’t taste right with any of those options, so eventually I’d quit eating them, thus eliminating one of the few remotely healthy things I was eating at the time. (Fruit, turkey, grilled chicken, and tuna were the others.)

When I began my tippy-toe approach to losing weight,  I knew that I had to find a workable solution. The difference this time was that I believed that I could!

That’s when I started the tip-dip of the fork into the dressing method, which I was sure I had invented only to discover that other people had been doing that…forever. Where were they when I needed a good example, is what I want to know.

Anyway, I felt kind of silly (but no sillier than the time I tried dipping the fork full of lettuce) dipping just the tips of my fork in the dressing and then spearing the veggies onto my fork.  By the third bite, I was hooked! It’s the perfect amount of dressing in each bite! And even with a ginormous salad, I eat a teaspoon or less of dressing total. (Seriously, wait staff often ask me if I didn’t care for the dressing, there’s so little of it used.)

When I realized how little dressing I was using, I quit worrying about whether it was “lite” dressing or not. I ate the dressing that seemed to best compliment the saladt. These days there are lots of healthier options available (hello, mustard vinaigrette, my new friend!), but if I’m feeling like good old Thousand Island, I’ll have it. Just very little of it. :)

What’s your approach to salad dressing? Skip it? Eat it in small measures? Go for the fat-free or other varieties?

Or do you have a favorite healthy salad dressing recipe you’d care to share? I’ve got a brand new bottle of EVOO, and I’m not afraid to use it!

Hope you’re all looking forward to a fun and healthy weekend! I’m off to my workout. This is my family reunion weekend, so I need to get my metabolism into high gear! :)



20 thoughts on “Salad Dressing: Dip or Sprinkle?

  1. What a great post! I love dipping my fork into my dressing. Other times i just use pepper and sodium fee salt or spicy mustard. I know it’s weird, but I just love the saltiness of the mustard on my salad.

  2. I have been doing the whole dip the tip of the fork for years. Heard about it through WW. Anyway when my dad was here last month he was not convinced that this method would work for him. He is a “Have some salad with your dressing” kinda guy. But after he tried it he was SHOCKED. He loved it.

    For Christmas a few years ago I asked my husband to get me some shot glasses. He was puzzled because we don’t drink. I told him I was tired of wasting the salad dressing and that would save us. Even with the tiny shot glass he doesn’t even believe I used any dressing. But he is wrong I got the perfect amount in every bite. It actually doesn’t even count as 1 point with a fating dressing either. Love it!

  3. The old trick I learned working in restaurants was to mix dressings. So if you want the creamy dressing, mix it with the low fat vinegrette. to cut the calories. I also water them down with, well, water and vinegar. Doing this IN the restaurant (rather than behind the scenes) can dstress your eating companions, but it is an alternative to the dipping the fork with each bite thing which drives my husband crazy for some reason. He just wants me to “EAT for G*d’s sake!”
    .-= Brightside-Susan´s last blog ..SPRING THING UPDATE =-.

  4. What a great idea. I would have NEVER came up with this one on my own. I am going to try this. Lately, I’ve been into the balsmic dressings and I do like Newman’s Own. I would like to learn how to make my own dressings though.
    .-= Anonymous Fat Girl´s last blog ..Prepackaged diets like NutriSystem, Medifast, SlimFast, etc can suck my ass =-.

  5. Great post! I always buy a low-fat balsamic vinegar dressing and still don’t use very much of it. In fact, more and more lately I don’t use any. If I am at a restaurant, I try to order low-fat vinegarette.

    I actually just ate a salad from a local bakery for lunch. It came with two small containers of dressing. It is a raspberry, poppy seed dressing and I’m sure not very low fat. But so yummy!

    I always just sprinkle a little on and end up eating 1/2 of one of the containers. Next time I will try your method.

  6. When eating out I sometimes use the fork method dipped in the dressing. Always order the dressing on the side. At home I like the Paul Newman light dressings, or some homemade with olive oil, vinegar, Dijon mustard salt and pepper.

  7. Hey Cammy! When I’m at home I use what I like and measure it out. It’s worth the points/calories to me. : )

  8. At home where I have control, I pour on what I want. But I have been ordering on the side in restaurants for as long as I can remember. I either do what you do or am one who spears the veggies then dips them barely into the dressing.

    I have to disagree about summer yum – on a hot summer day the best think IMO is ripe summer fruit:)

  9. I love salads, too. Depending on what’s in the salad, sometimes I’m good with no dressing. Usuallly, in a restaurant, I order lite dressing and pour a smattering of it.

    At home, I put the salad into a big bowl, pour a small amount of dressing (my fav is a sweet, fat-free vinagrette from a local Italian restaurant), then I toss it thoroughly. That good old-fashioned tossing really makes the dressing go farther. Although it’s an extra dish to wash, I transfer it to an appropriately sized bowl or plate. The best!

    I also like to add “hot” foods to cold salad. Like shredded pieces of pork tenderloin or roast beef. Then, I really don’t need dressing. A little like eating a sandwich without the bread and with lots of lettuce.

    OK, not really a sandwich…. but still good!

    Have a fun family reunion! Thanks for the kind remarks about my job dilemma. You had mentioned being unemployed, but I didn’t know the details. It sucks!!! Tell me what your “plan” is sometime, OK?

  10. I used to eat a lot of salads when I was younger.. and like you Cammy, I loved the dressing as much if not more! But as I got older, I decided for me, it was more about the dressing. I am not the biggest lettuce fan so I just don’t eat salads that much any more & just eat the other stuff I added into the lettuce separately. I know lots of people that use the dipping the fork in the dressing thing though & find that works bets for them.

    Great post Cammy!
    .-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..Cinnamon & Sugar Puff Cookies with Protein =-.

  11. I’ve never done the dip, but thinking about it as I was reading along, this would be a good way to pace the eating, especially when dining out. One thing I hate is having to wait between courses…that’s when I’m tempted to go for the bread or chips & salsa the most. Now, if I ate my salad slower, that would occupy my time until the main meal arrived.
    .-= Camevil´s last blog ..Best Friggin’ Contest. Ever. =-.

  12. I’m not much of a salad person, and I hate salad dressing, but ever since I started putting cottage cheese on top…man is it delicious! I LOVE cottage cheese anyways though. :)

  13. I’m a fork dipper, or was when I did Weight Watchers. I haven’t been going out much lately, so when I do, I splurge by ordering thousand on the side and using most of it.

    At home I use Champagne Pear Gorgonzola Vinagrette dressing from Trader Joe’s. It’s low fat, low sugar and low calorie, but tastes like it was loaded with all three!!!! I’m so thrilled with it that I rarely use anything else.
    .-= Peacefulbird´s last blog ..Dance ~ Part 2 =-.

  14. You, my friend, are the rainbow after my salad shower of sadness. I LOVE salads. I have always tried the shoving-the-fork-full-of-food-into-the-tiny-cup method of dressing application. The fact that I was putting the cart before the horse never occurred to me. I have gone from dressing-impaired to dressing-empowered in one fell swoop. Bravo!!Bravo!!
    .-= Kirsten (Results Not Typical Girl)

  15. I have been known to dip and then when I get to the last few bites of salad, I will drop a blob of dressing on there so it is swimming and really enjoy those last few bites. I am not a big fan of lettuce salad unless it has meat, cheese and eggs in it.

    Yesterday I made potato salad with no potatoes. I used chopped hard boiled eggs, sauteed bacon (ham bacon), onions and celery, chopped celery, chopped dill pickle, full fat olive oil mayo, a dab of Dijon, garlic powder, sea salt and ground pepper. It was good and I didn’t miss the potatoes at all.
    .-= Kimberley´s last blog ..My Week Update # 12 and Week #23 Goals =-.

  16. What a great idea! How come I never heard of it before?! The only salad dressing I’ve been using lately is my own homemade dressing: Olive oil with minced fresh garlic, a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt pepper and dried oregano to taste. It’s soooo good, and you don’t need a lot. I also believe in having a smaller amount of a full fat item rather than eating low fat versions of things that never quite taste right.

  17. Fantastic ‘tip’! (Carla, I make the same salad dressing at home as well!)
    And look at you go as well – I was just flipping through your gallery, you’ve come such a long way, congratulations!

    Thank you for stopping by my site :)
    .-= Bry Jensen´s last blog ..Eating Healthy, Creatively: Fried Rice! =-.

  18. I’m not wild about dressing in general (in fact, it isn’t unusual for me to eat a salad with a little garlic salt and pepper only) so I’m a dipping girl myself but I don’t dip the fork into the dressing. When I use dressing I dip each bite of salad on the fork into the dressing. I do that with other foods that one normally eats with a sauce, too. It satisfies my taste buds and keeps me from overdoing on some things. :)

  19. As I was reading this, I thought “WOW there are other ways besides put your fork in the dressing first”. I thought I was really going to get to tell you something. I should have known better. My husband only eats Thousand Island and gets ill when a rest. doesn’t have it. It amazes me that some don’t. As for me, I love them all but my favorite is plain old oil and vinegar. Always EVOO and whatever vinegar you can think of. There are so many out there like Terregon and garlic and white wine, etc you get the point. 1 part oil; 2 parts vinegar. Joe would rather just have the vinegar and does when TI is not available. Now you know know more than you wanted. Have a great evening.

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