Homemade Salad Dressings 101

Homemade Salad Dressings 101

Growing up, I looked forward to making our own Italian dressing with a packet of zesty herb mix, oil and vinegar and shaking it up in a plastic-lidded glass cruet from Good Seasons. Easy enough for a kindergartener to do! Now, I still prefer the taste of my own dressings to the store-bought ones, either refrigerated or on the shelf. 

Fresh is also healthier, not to mention cheaper. No chemical preservatives, artificial colors or flavors, excessive sodium or sugar. Make your own salad dressing so tasty, you’ll want to take it everywhere! …okay, so maybe just to restaurants and potlucks. Still, a custom dressing that only has in it what you want sounds good enough for every salad venue. 

Creating your own basic blend takes little time and effort, even for beginners. Moving on to crafting more unique flavored dressings means following established recipes rather than trial-and-error. Here, we give you the rundown of what it takes to make a simple vinaigrette, with two additional dressing styles, plus tips for the best results. 

Base Ingredients 

oil – extra virgin olive, avocado, flaxseed, grapeseed, safflower, soybean, etc. (coconut oil solidifies) 

acid – vinegar (apple cider, red wine, white wine, balsamic, etc.) or lemon juice 

sweet – agave syrup or honey 

savory – garlic, onion, mustard or Worcestershire 

spice – salt & pepper  

Optional Ingredientssesame oil, lime, orange juice, ginger, dried herbs (basil, dill, tarragon), buttermilk, grated Parmesan cheese, horseradish, avocado, cilantro, parsley, and so much more 

Equipment needed: measuring cup, measuring spoons, bowl, whisk, wide-mouth cruet, or sealed jar/bottle. Optional ingredients may require knife & cutting board or food processor. 

Time needed: Just 5 minutes for a basic recipe with dried herbs, 10-15 minutes for those with 10+ ingredients or fresh herbs to chop. 

Awesome 8-ingredient DIY Dressings

Staple Vinaigrette best with spinach, arugula, or mesclun 

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil 

1/4 cup red wine vinegar 

1 tablespoon lemon juice 

1 tablespoon agave syrup  

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil 

1 teaspoon minced garlic 

pinch of salt & pepper, to taste 

  • Whisk together in bowl 
  • Suggested additions: tarragon; lemon-thyme

Creamy Ranchbest with iceberg, romaine or radicchio lettuce

1/3 cup buttermilk 

1/2 cup nonfat sour cream or plain yogurt 

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley 

1 teaspoon dried dill weed 

1 teaspoon onion powder  

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 

pinch of salt & cracked pepper, to taste 

  • Whisk together in bowl 
  • Suggested additions: dried chives; Worcestershire 

Vegan Green Goddess best with leaf lettuce, endive or kale; also good on bowl meals 

1 avocado 

3 tablespoonsextra virgin olive oil 

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 

1/4 cup water 

3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves 

1/2 cup chopped green onion 

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 

2 garlic cloves 

  • Blend all in food processor 
  • Suggested additions: lime & cilantro together; cayenne pepper

1 cup of dressing yields about eight 2-tablespoon servings. 

For peak flavor, allow blends to sit at least 30 minutes for ingredients to meld. 

Keep refrigerated in airtight container for up to 5 days. 

Do’s and Don’ts 

Don’t: Counteract tartness by adding more agave syrup or honey – it’s extra sugar. 

Don’t: Overseason your dressing without tasting it first, as that could ruin the finished product. 

Don’t: Pre-dress your leafy salad more than ½ hour before you’ll serve it or the oil (& vinegar) may wilt the delicate tender greens.  

Don’t: Store mixed vinaigrette at room temperature as the oils can turn rancid over time.  

Do: Enhance your salad with natural sweetness from cranberries, mandarin slices or strawberries.  

Do: Add salt (up to 1/4 tsp.) and pepper (up to 1/8 tsp.) bit by bit until desired flavor is reached.  

Do: Consider adding an emulsifier (like prepared mustard, honey, or tomato paste) to vinaigrettes, which helps keep  oil from directly coating leaves. 

Do: Refrigerate any unused dressing (all kinds) and allow to come to room temperature, then shake up before reuse. 

Are Egg Substitutes Better Than Real Eggs?

Are Egg Substitutes Better Than Real Eggs?

Question:

Hi – Could you please give me your thoughts on Low Cholesterol Egg Substitutes (like egg beaters)? Are they better than regular eggs or should they be avoided because they are artificial? Thanks for your help. 

John E. 

Answer:

I’d usually say that the whole food is best. If you are following a saturated fat + cholesterol-restricted diet, then my recommendation would be to switch to egg whites. Two egg whites can be used to replace a whole egg.

If the appearance of what you’re cooking necessitates that golden yellow color of scrambled eggs, then a product like Egg Beaters® works because of the natural beta-carotene colorant. The binders (xanthan gum and guar gum) aren’t native to eggs, of course, but are natural ingredients.

Better’n Eggs® also includes the additive sodium hexametaphosphate, which I don’t believe is found in nature but is created by processing. So, either stick to egg whites and add turmeric for color or use a quality replacement occasionally. 

Sources: 

  1. http://www.allwhiteseggwhites.com/products/ Accessed 10/7/2019.
  2. https://www.eggbeaters.com/products/egg-beaters-original Accessed 10/7/2019.
  3. R Link. Is Guar Gum Healthy or Unhealthy? The Surprising Truth. Healthline September 27, 2019. Accessed 10/7/2019. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Recommended Reading - Q+A

Daylight Savings 2019: How to Survive Changes to Circadian Rhythm

Daylight Savings 2019: How to Survive Changes to Circadian Rhythm

Daylight Savings ends on Sunday, November 3rd. The clock will turn back 1 hour and, theoretically, you should be gaining an hour of sleep. However, many people end up struggling more as a result of this time change. 

The body’s circadian rhythm is the regulator of many important biological processes. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) explains it as a “24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain and [that] cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals.”1 It functions best when your sleep and wake habits are kept consistent.1 

Generally, this rhythm is what causes sleepiness in the evening as natural light decreases and alertness in the morning when there is plenty of light. Depending on your habits and your environment, you may be accustomed to waking or sleeping in very different light conditions. This is why flights into different time zones, daylight savings adjustments, and latenight events can wreak havoc on your system, your focus, and your memory. Your body must work to alter its entire biological routine. 


Another common problem that crops up around the same time as Daylight Savings, is Seasonal Depression.

Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, this is a type of depression that begins and ends around the same time every year, usually in the darker and cloudier fall and winter months. This is partly due to reduced sunlight. Less light affects your circadian rhythm, your serotonin levels (which affect your mood) and your melatonin levels (which affect your sleep patterns).2 

If you’re not sure whether this is something you are experiencing, you can read through the symptoms on the Mayo Clinic website. A more complete and accurate picture, however, should be sought from a professional with the skills to officially diagnose this disorder. 

How To Adjust Your Sleep Habits for a More Restful Night 

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol in the Late Afternoon and Evening 

We are all very well-aware of the effects of caffeine on our ability to sleep. The effects of alcohol on sleep, however, are perhaps not as known.  

For a long time, the concept of an alcoholic “nightcap” before bed was popular and promoted as a way to improve your ability to sleep. In an article on alcohol and its relationship to sleep, a quote by researcher Irshaad Ebrahim explains why this is not the case.  

Ebrahim states that, while alcohol may help induce sleep, it disrupts the second half of our sleep cycle, particularly the quality of REM sleep.3 

REM sleep is important for the storage of memories, for learning, and for balancing our mood.4 A later comment by sleep Specialist Dr. Michael Breus explains that using alcohol as a sleep aid will actually increase the likelihood that you will “sleepwalk, sleep talk, and have problems with your memory.”3 

The ultimate takeaway is that caffeine and alcohol are both great disrupters of sleep. 

Stick to a Sleep and Wake Schedule 

Have you ever noticed that your body will naturally wake up around the time your alarm is supposed to go off, even on the weekends? This is because the body likes to have a rhythm in the way in operates.  

You can teach your body to follow a certain schedule by sticking to your sleep and wake times even on days when you don’t have anything-in-particular on your agenda. This will make it easier to adjust as needed.  

Dr. Rafael Pelayo recommends changing sleep schedules in 15-minute increments every 2 to 3 days.4 Following this system, you would need about 8 to 12 days to adjust your sleep schedule by one hour. It seems like a long time, but gradually making changes will help your body ease into the new schedule more smoothly than if you attempt to make the switch overnight. 

Use a Nightlight 

If you wake up at night to use the restroom, having a nightlight will make it easier for you to find your way without having to turn on bright lights or walk into any walls. 

Also, if you know you tend to wake up at night feeling thirsty, keep water at your bedside to avoid a walk to the kitchen that can also cause your body to slip into morning-mode. 
 

Try Artificial Light to Assist You with Waking Up 

Certain Wi-Fi capable light bulbs can be set to turn on, or gradually get brighter, around the time you want to wake up. Some lights are really good at mimicking the gradual increase of light that tricks your body into thinking the sun has risen.  

As the light filters through your closed eyelids, your body will naturally ease you out of sleep. If you don’t want to invest in a Wi-Fi capable light bulb, turning on the lights as soon as your alarm rings is another way to help kick the sleepiness and help you rise.  

To hear from Dr. Bob Davari about the importance of sleep and to get more tips on how to improve your rest, listen to Episode 33 of our Podcast. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

 

SOURCES: 

 

  1.  “What Is Circadian Rhythm?” National Sleep Foundation, 2019, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-circadian-rhythm.

     

  2. “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 Oct. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651.

     

  3. Mann, Denise. “Alcohol and a Good Night’s Sleep Don’t Mix.” WebMD, WebMD, 22 Jan. 2013, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20130118/alcohol-sleep#1.

     

  4. Stewart, Kristen. “How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, 6 Feb. 2018, www.everydayhealth.com/sleep/insomnia/resetting-your-clock.aspx. 

Is it Possible to Lose Weight While Gaining Muscle?

Is it Possible to Lose Weight While Gaining Muscle?

Question:

Can you give me some help and suggestions to reach my goal? I’m 6’0 and around 220 to 230lbs. I’m honest with myself and have given up the dream of being a rippedup monster; I just want to live a healthy lifestyle. Losing weight is probably my number one goal and if I can gain muscle at the same time, that’s great. I work overnight so it’s difficult to be consistent at the gym, but I can be consistent with what I eat. So, I’d love to hear back from you and hear your views.

-Erik L. 

Answer:

Your realism is admirable, Erik. Yes, it’s possible to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously with the proper exercise. One diet can help you with both. You’ll need to moderately reduce calories by reducing portions slightly and cutting out alcohol, added sugars and excess fat. Meanwhile, switch the bulk of your consumption to whole nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, beans, poultry, fish, grains, nuts & seeds, fruit and low-fat dairy that are minimally processed. 

Take a look at these two menus/plans to see the kind of changes to make: 

2600 Calories (Before)

2200 Calories (After)

111 gm Protein; 46%Carb/17%Pro/34%Fat 

123 gm Protein; 47%Carb/22%Prot/31%Fat 

 

 

16 fl. oz. fruit smoothie  

6 oz. plain nonfat yogurt 

½ cups strawberries 

2 Tbsp. granola 

 

 

2 cups spaghetti & meat sauce 

2 cups spaghetti & meat sauce 

3 pieces garlic bread 

1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese 

Caesar salad 

2 Tbsp. regular dressing 

2 cups spinach 

½ cup white beans 

2 Tbsp. low fat dressing 

 

 

Egg, sausage, potato, cheese burrito 

Vegetable frittata: 2 scrambled eggs + ½ Cup zucchini/tomato/onion cooked in 1 tsp. oil 

Whole wheat pita 

 

 

1.5 oz. chocolate covered peanut butter energy bar 

Small banana 

1 oz. almonds (about 12) 

 

 

6 oz. grilled salmon 

6 oz. grilled salmon 

1 cup white rice 

1 cup brown rice 

½ cup broccoli 

1 cup broccoli 

 

* Calculated by Registered Dietitian Nutritionist using www.NutritionData.Self.com’s MyTracking function. Findings were used along with RDN’s professional judgment. 

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Recommended Reading - Q+A

Are There Benefits to Getting Scared?

Are There Benefits to Getting Scared?

What Happens in the Brain When You’re Afraid? 

On a biological level, we know that, when you’re afraid, certain hormones are released in the body to prepare you for a fightorflight response. The primary hormones involved in this process include adrenaline (also known as epinephrine), norepinephrine, and cortisol.  

These three hormones give your body a boost of energy, channel your focus, and divert blood flow to your major muscle groups. Once this happens, your body is primed to respond to the perceived danger. 

If you don’t enjoy the heart-pounding startles, you might wonder why anyone in their right mind would put themselves through this experience on purpose. Yes, the body gets a surge of anxious energy, but you also experience the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine.  

Dopamine is what is commonly associated with the brain’s “pleasure center.” It’s a source of the excitement and relief that comes after a scare and when your brain realizes you were never in any real danger. For spook-seekers, this is the experience that makes the scare worthwhile. 

What Exactly are the Benefits? 


Dr.
Margee Kerr, the staff sociologist at ScareHouse, tells The Atlantic all about the reasons why some brains enjoy fear. In the interview, she reminds us that the enjoyment of scaring and being scared goes back to the telling of ghost stories around a campfire, gothic writings of the 19th century, and tales of creatures like the Chupacabra or the Loch Ness Monster. As human beings, we have had this interest for a long time. 

Social connections, she explains, are part of the reason we love to be frightened. Happiness and fear both initiate the release of oxytocin (the love hormone), and help us bond with the people we are experiencing these emotions with. Kerr shares an article by Shelley Taylor, Tend and Befriend: Biobehavioral Bases of Affiliation Under Stress, that demonstrates how a special closeness is developed with those who are with us when we are in an excited state. More importantly, it stresses how this can be a very good thing! 

When you tend to or receive care from someone in a moment of fear or anxiety, the chance that you will befriend them increases. According to Dr. Kerr, this is because human beings need each other during periods of stress, so the body responds chemically in ways that help form a bond with others who are in the experience with us. Of course, this is limited to the experience being a positive one that does not actually harm you in any way. 

This is why you see people huddled together as they tread through a darkened maze or haunted exhibit, and why popcorn-flinging horror movie nights are also enjoyed worldwide.

The Best Place to Enjoy a Good Scare 

The best place to get your chills and thrills is someplace that poses no real threat to your safety. You brain needs to know that your body is not in any real danger after your automatic fight-or-flight response kicks in. Dr. Kerr reflects on how many times she’s seen a person scream and jump at the ScareHouse and immediately after start smiling and laughing. It really is interesting to consider how quickly the brain can process our situation and let the rest of our body know if the fear was just a false alarm. 

Are There Drawbacks? 


As nearly every suspense movie has proven, anything can have a dark side. Maybe don’t drag your friends to a fright-filled attraction if they really don’t want to go. Sometimes the aversion has roots in trauma, PTSD, or phobia. Being conscious of what is age
appropriate is also important. This is because children are often unable to differentiate between feigned danger and what’s real. What you intended to be a fun experience may end up being traumatic for a child. Sometimes, you just have to make a judgment call, but doing so can help ensure that everyone has a good time and is able to enjoy the spooky excitement.  

For some tips from our dietitian on how to treat yourself this Halloween without all the guilt, read her post on Tricks and Treats for Halloween Cheats. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

Sources: 

Ringo, Allegra. “Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 31 Oct. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/why-do-some-brains-enjoy-fear/280938/. 

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