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Dress your salad lightly

December 08, 1998

Whether served as the first course or the main course, green salads are considered healthful fare. This healthful fare can contain less than 50 calories or more than 400, depending on the dressing you choose.

[cont. from lifestyle]

The lettuce is what gives salads their low-calorie image. Whether you select iceberg, Romaine or arugula, lettuce contains between five and 10 calories per cup. Shredded cabbage and spinach also are good choices; they provide more vitamin C than lettuce for only 10 to 15 calories per cup.

Most other plain, raw vegetables also are low in calories. Six to eight cucumber or celery slices contain only five calories, as do cherry tomatoes and green onions. Cauliflower florets, green pepper strips or raw, sliced mushrooms add 10 calories per half-cup. A half-cup of carrot slices or bean sprouts provides around 15 calories. These vegetables are low in calories, high in fiber and are nutrient-dense sources of vitamins A and C.

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A two-cup salad bowl filled with a combination of the above ingredients is a good source of vitamins and minerals for approximately 30 calories. Adding a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese and garbanzo beans adds another 35 calories, but also provides us with a little protein and calcium.

The real calorie booster is the dressing you choose. Four tablespoons of dressing, a typical restaurant serving, can add from five to 360 calories, along with up to 1,000 milligrams of sodium.

Here are some tips to help you dress your salad lightly:

* Request that dressing be served on the side when dining out; serve it this way at home also. You'll have a crispier salad and the ability to choose how much dressing you want to add. When dressing your salad, use the "fork-dip" method rather than the "drown-your-greens" method.

* Choose fat-free or low-fat dressings over regular dressings. Fat-free dressings must, by law, contain less than 1/2 gram of fat per 2 tablespoon serving; low-fat dressing may only contain 3 grams of fat per serving.

* Choose light or lite dressings over reduced-fat dressings. In salad dressings, light means 50 percent less fat and reduced-fat means 25 percent less fat.

* Create your own dressing. Salsas and gourmet vinegars make interesting dressings and can be served with or without a touch of oil. Use your favorite fat-free Italian dressing and add ONE of the following ingredients to make some new, tasty ways to lightly dress your salad: To 1/2 cup fat-free Italian dressing add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil, 2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red pepper or 2 tablespoons grated purple onion with 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Use a wire whisk to mix the selected ingredient with the fat-free Italian dressing before serving.

* Try the following salad dressings as a light dressing for your salad:

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1/2 cup firm, silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons grated onion with juice
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika


In a food processor or blender, blend ingredients until creamy. Serve with fresh fruit or assorted greens.

Yield: 2 cups.

Serving size: 1 tablespoon.

Approximate values per serving: 38 calories, 0.45 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat (0.3 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 70 milligrams sodium.

Buttermilk-Dillweed Dressing

  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dried dillweed
  • 1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper


Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Store in refrigerator. Serve with tossed salad greens, tuna or vegetable salads.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Serving size: 1 tablespoon.

Approximate values per serving: 7 calories, 0 grams fat, 0.7 grams protein, 0.9 grams carbohydrates, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 59 milligrams sodium.




Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer science extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County.

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