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Salad Solutions and Label Confusion!
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Salad Solutions and Label Confusion!

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02.29.12
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Hey, Hungry Girl!

I love your books, your website, and your show. And I've got a question. I'm looking for a light salad dressing to use on leafy greens to add flavor without a lot of calories. Got any suggestions? Thank you!

Dressed for Success

Hi Dressed,

Great question! So many people automatically think salad is a smart choice, but if you pick the wrong dressing (and use too much of it), you could unintentionally add hundreds of calories to your meal. I've got some picks and tips to keep that calorie count low...

Puttin' on the spritz - Spray dressings are great because they give you maximum salad coverage for the least amount of calories. Unfortunately, they've been slowly disappearing over the past year or two, but you can still find Wish-Bone's line of Salad Spritzers in stores. A 10-spray serving has just 10 - 15 calories and 0.5 - 1g fat (PointsPlus® value 0*). They're also purse friendly, and I've been known to sneak 'em into restaurants.

Traditional bottled salad dressings - Stick with products that say "light," "low-fat," or "fat-free." But even then, definitely turn the bottle around and check the nutrition info 'cuz the calorie counts can still vary a lot. My absolute favorite bottled dressing is Newman's Own Lite Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing. Other winners? Wish-Bone Light, Girard's Light, Bolthouse Farms, and low-calorie options from Litehouse.

Think outside the bottle - Salsa is an awesome low-calorie dressing alternative. It adds a nice zesty kick, and it's typically fat-free. Other options? BBQ sauce (especially on Southwestern salads), a squeeze of fresh citrus juice (like lemon, orange, or grapefruit), and seasoned rice vinegar (sweet 'n tangy).

Creamy dressing swaps
- To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of most fat-free creamy salad dressings, and the light versions can be somewhat high in calories. That's why I'll sometimes make my own creamy dressing. Try stirring some dry ranch dressing/dip mix into fat-free plain Greek yogurt or fat-free sour cream. Way better than bottled fat-free ranch.

A general dressing tip: Always have your dressing on the side, and then dip your fork into it (don't pour it all over your greens). You'll use way less dressing that way. So just remember: Dip, don't pour. Enjoy!

Hi HG,

I read my nutrition labels carefully, and I've noticed some conflicting info on certain products. I thought that every gram of carbs or protein is equal to 4 calories, and every gram of fat is equal to 9 calories. But sometimes the total amount of calories with this formula adds up to more than the given calorie count. What gives?

Puzzled Paula

Hi Paula,

Very observant! It's a bit confusing, but there's a logical explanation for the discrepancy. Here's the deal: Some sources of carbs -- specifically, certain sugar alcohols and fiber -- don't contain digestible calories, meaning your body doesn't convert them into energy or fat. Many sugar-free and low-sugar products contain a natural sugar alcohol called erythritol. It's technically a carbohydrate, so it's included in the total carbs on a nutrition label. But since it isn't digestible, it contributes no calories. Fiber is another carbohydrate that can't be broken down by the body, so it doesn't contribute to the calorie count. That's why high-fiber products are sometimes lower in calories than their less fiber-ific counterparts (which have more calories from other carbs). Hope that answers your question and you're no longer puzzled. But on that note, don't stop questioning nutrition labels when something seems a bit off! You'd be surprised by how many times they're not right...

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*The PointsPlus® values for these products and/or recipes were calculated by Hungry Girl and are not an endorsement or approval of the product, recipe or its manufacturer or developer by Weight Watchers International, Inc., the owner of the PointsPlus® registered trademark.

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