Think Healthy Thursday: Balsamic Vinegar vs. Vinaigrette

Today’s Think Healthy tip is a short and simple one, but it could make a big difference in the long run–the difference between balsamic vinegar and balsamic vinaigrette.

You probably know that most salad dressings add tons of unwanted fat, sugar, and overall empty calories to what could otherwise be a healthy meal. The best way to dress your salad is with a little olive oil (healthy fat!) and lemon juice, or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic vinegar contains beneficial antioxidants, no fat, and very few calories. (You can read more about its health benefits here.) It packs a lot of flavor into a small amount, so it goes a long way on salads. But all too often, it gets confused with balsamic vinaigrette. Whenever I request it in a restaurant, I have to double-check that I’m getting the vinegar and not the vinaigrette. A balsamic vinaigrette typically involves adding oil, sugar, and/or mustard to balsamic vinegar, along with seasonings like garlic, salt, and pepper. While it can be made in a way that makes it healthier than several other salad dressing options, it can’t compare to simply using the vinegar and oil. If you are purchasing balsamic vinaigrette, you can check the label for ingredients, calories, and fat and sugar content, but in a restaurant you have no way of knowing how much is going in there.

So the next time you’re dressing a salad, reach for the balsamic vinegar–in the long run, not ingesting that extra fat and sugar makes a big difference!