Salads Aren't Always Healthy: Here are tips (and a dressing) to ensure yours is!

August 31, 2017

Garlic Dijon vinaigrette recipe by Providence Healthy Living

By Kay MacInnis, Registered Dieitian

Are salads really a healthy way to go?

They can be! But making sure of that requires more thought than it used to.

Decades ago, salads were just iceberg lettuce with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. Today, we have salad bars with cheese, bacon, meat and everything else – which means more fat and salt than we may realize. We’re eating salads because we were think they’re healthier, yet some have more calories and salt than a steak and baked potato.

It is nice to see salads with colorful vegetables making an appearance on menus. They can be low-calorie and offer lots of anti-inflammatory properties. The more color in your fruits and vegetables the better, and the fiber can help you feel full.

Adding a little lean protein can give sticking power to your salad. You’ll be satisfied, and won’t crave additional calories.

Start with a base of dark, deep-colored greens, perhaps baby kale or spinach. Include other colorful vegetables that you like. Nuts and seeds can add crunch and flavor – but the Calories can add up quickly, so be mindful of the serving size. Fruits add a twist, and increase fiber at the same time.

Salad dressings can be a problem, adding the bulk of Calories and sodium. Oil and vinegar is usually the best choice – with more vinegar than oil. Skip the mayonnaise-based salad dressings, with their excess fat and sodium.

Try this salad dressing recipe from EatingWell.

Garlic Dijon Vinaigrette


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 4 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste


  • Combine oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard and garlic in a blender, a jar with a tight-fitting lid or a medium bowl.
  • Blend, shake or whisk until smooth.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition information (1 tbsp): 38 Calories, 4 grams fat, 0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams protein, 70 mg. sodium.


This is another in a weekly series of healthy recipes from Kay MacInnis, registered dietitian at Providence Health in Columbia, S.C.

Kay promotes health and wellness, helping cardiac and diabetes patients eat their way to healthier lives. She works in consultation with the trained chefs at Providence, combining her nutrition knowledge with their food prep know-how to create delicious, healthy dishes for patients and the public. She also conducts a number of health and wellness events for the public, including the monthly Providence Cooks! classes – our next one is on Sept. 6.

"She doesn't just give you the fish, she teaches you how to cook it."

 – a Kay MacInnis fan and Providence Cooks! regular