When I have clients who are ready to organize their diet around real food, one of the very first things I encourage them to do is eat a salad every day and skip the store-bought salad dressing in favor of homemade.
The beauty of a salad every day is that it adds a significant amount of nutrient dense food to your diet. Nutrient dense describes food that is high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, and moderate-to-low in calories and unhealthy fat. When you replace a fast food lunch with a homemade salad including greens, veggies, protein and healthy fat, you’ve gone a long way in improving how you nourish your body.
Throwing together a salad is pretty easy but, when you add a store-bought salad dressing, you’ve just brought the perfect lunch down a notch or two.
The first reason for this is because salad dressings often have preservatives or stabilizers to keep them fresh and palatable while they sit in your fridge for weeks at a time. Unfortunately, your gut doesn’t appreciate that kind of add-on.
If you were to use a low fat or non-fat dressing you may be wasting your time with a salad because, in order to absorb many of the nutrients from the vegetables, you need healthy fat to transport the vitamins where they are needed.
For example, let’s say you put carrots in your salad because we all know that beta-carotene is really good for us. If you used a no-fat or low-fat salad dressing, your body would absorb virtually no beta-carotene. If you use canola oil, you would absorb a little more.
When you use a healthy fat like olive oil, you are much more likely to get the full impact of all the fat soluble vitamins you tossed into your salad, such as A, D, E and K.
Homemade salad dressing is very easy to make when you have the ingredients on hand, and I bet you already have most of them right now. It takes less than five minutes to put together once you do. A knife, a cutting board and a glass jar are all you need to get started. I’ll share with you the basic salad dressing recipe and some ideas to “fancy” it up. Once you have the hang of it, your imagination is your only limit.
Basic salad dressing includes a healthy oil, such as a cold pressed olive oil, along with lemon or some kind of vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.
I am a huge fan of Julia Child and am offering you my version of her basic salad dressing to get you started on this journey. You can modify it from there if you’re feeling adventurous. Many salad dressings add sugar to smooth out the vinegar. I prefer not to but, if you feel like sugar is necessary, use sugar or stevia rather than a “fake” sugar like aspartame which makes your gut bacteria very unhappy.
Lemon Salad Dressing
Lemon zest from one lemon
¼ tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup good quality olive oil
Add all the ingredients to a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until the oil is emulsified and ingredients well combined.
With a clean spoon, take a taste, add more lemon juice or salt if needed. This can sit in the fridge for days so feel free to double or triple the recipe.
In less than five minutes you can have a healthy, tasty, inexpensive addition to your diet that will support your healthy eating goals.
You can add minced garlic if you want more of a kick or flavored mustard for a variation. Herbs are a lovely addition, including basil, mint, or tarragon for example. You can replace the lemon zest and juice with good quality vinegar such as balsamic or wine vinegar (one or two tablespoons).
I challenge you to play in your kitchen and see what you come up with and then share with the rest of us.
And in the style of the fabulous Julia Child, “Bon appetite!”