While you are on a diet to lose weight and you are restricting your food intake, some of your favorite foods may not fit into your current eating plan. Instead, low-calorie, low-fat or low-carbohydrate alternatives may help you satisfy your cravings without going over your limits. Fat-free salad dressing is a common choice for individuals who are trying to restrict calories, but it may have some drawbacks, so use it in moderation.
Fat-free salad dressing contains calories, so it can cause you to gain weight if you eat more of it than you realize. Each tablespoon of fat-free dressing only provides about 20 calories, but the calories can add up quickly if you eat several servings in a large salad. However, fat-free salad dressing is lower in calories than full-fat versions, which may have up to 100 calories per tablespoon, and they promote healthy eating by adding flavor to vegetable salads.
Fat-free salad dressing can be bad for you because it is high in sodium, which leads to high blood pressure and an increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Each tablespoon of fat-free dressing may have more than 100 mg sodium, and healthy adults should not have more than 2,300 mg per day, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services To limit your sodium intake, choose a low-sodium dressing, or make your own fat-free, low-sodium dressing using vinegar and fresh herbs.
Fat-free salad dressing is bad for you if you do not have another source of vitamin E, which is an essential vitamin and antioxidant. An important role of healthy oils, such as from full-fat salad dressing, is to provide vitamin E. Heart-healthy unsaturated fats are also lacking in fat-free salad dressing, but you can get vitamin E and good fats from other sources, such as nuts and seeds instead.
Fat-free salad dressings may contain added sugars to increase the flavor, instead of flavor from oils in regular salad dressing. This is especially bad for you if you are on a low-carbohydrate diet or if you have diabetes and are trying to avoid sugar. Fat-free dressings may also have added starches as thickeners. Added sugars and starches are sources of empty calories because they do not add nutrients to food. However, the amount is low, and you may be able to fit fat-free dressings into your meal plan.