How to Make Healthier Sauces and Dressings

Three Parts:Finding Lower Calorie IngredientsMaking Healthier Versions of Sauces and DressingsAdding Flavor to Foods Without High Calorie Sauces

If you're watching your waistline, you may try to avoid or limit your use of many traditional sauces and dressings. Whether its a creamy salad dressing or cheesy pasta sauce, many of these types of food are not only high in fat and calories, but can also be high in sodium or sugar.[1] However, if you make more of your favorite sauces and dressings at home, you can control the ingredients and how much fat, salt or sugar is added. This way you can enjoy more indulgent sauces without worrying about blowing your diet.

Part 1
Finding Lower Calorie Ingredients

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    Try using lower calorie dairy products. Many high calorie and high fat sauces and dressings are cream-based. Heavy cream, buttermilk, or sour cream can really hike up the calorie count on some of these smooth and creamy sauces.[2]
    • Many dressings and sauces get their delicious flavor from higher fat and higher calorie dairy food. The downside of this, is that these ingredients come with a higher calorie price tag.
    • It can be difficult to replace dairy completely, so try using lower calorie dairy products to help cut down on your overall fat and calorie consumption.
    • For example, you can use fat-free sour cream to make dressings or use low-fat buttermilk to make ranch dressing.
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    Swap nuts in for cream-based sauces. You may be surprised that traditionally higher calorie dairy sauces and dressings can also be made from nuts. This is a great method to improving the overall nutrition on some of your favorite sauces.
    • Nuts are a great way to improve some of those higher calorie sauces. Nuts are high in protein, healthy fats and minerals.
    • Although nuts do contain a good amount of fat, the type of fat found in nuts is a type of heart healthy fat known as omega-3s. This type of fat has been shown to be beneficial to your cardiovascular system.[3]
    • To use nuts as the base of creamy sauces, you'll need to soak them in hot water to help soften them. Then, blend or puree them with your favorite spices or seasonings.
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    Skim off extra fat. Another way to save some extra calories and fat is by removing the actual fat from sauces and seasonings.
    • Some sauces, like meat sauce, can be high in fat since theres no chance for the fat from the meat to be removed or strained.
    • For example, if you're making bolognese sauce, after browning the meat, drain off the extra fat. Or, let the sauce cool in the refrigerator which helps the fat harden and then you can skim it off from the top.
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    Limit the salt content. Fat and overall calories are not the only problem with many sauces and dressings. The salt or sodium content can also be a problem.
    • If you have an excessive salt or sodium intake, this could increase your risk of high blood pressure which could cause a stroke long-term.
    • When making your own homemade sauces, start by limiting how much salt you actually add to your sauce or dressing. Also, always measure the portion size of your salt.[4]
    • Also consider using other ingredients to give your sauce or dressing that pop of flavor typically associated with salt. For example, use vinegar, a spicy pepper or lemon juice.
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    Use natural ingredients to mimic flavors. If you're looking to sweeten a sauce or add in more flavor, try using natural ingredients like fruits and vegetables. These can add a lot of flavor without a lot of added calories or fat.
    • Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories, but high in vitamins in fiber. In addition, they have a lot of great flavor that can be utilized in sauces and dressings.
    • For example, if you want to make a sweet sauce or add a touch of sweetness, try pureeing fruit.
    • You can also blend in roasted vegetables, like roasted red peppers, to add a little bit of smoky sweetness or dressings and sauces as well.

Part 2
Making Healthier Versions of Sauces and Dressings

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    Make healthier blue cheese dressing. Enjoy this creamy classic dressing, but with a lot fewer calories. Greek yogurt helps keep the creaminess without the added fat.[5]
    • In a small bowl mash up about 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese and 6 oz of plain fat-free greek yogurt. The blue cheese doesn't have to be completely smooth - it can be as chunky or smooth as you'd like.
    • Add 1 tablespoon each of mayonnaise, lemon juice and white wine vinegar to the blue cheese mixture. Also stir in a pinch of garlic powder.
    • Taste your dressing and add salt and pepper as needed. Chill for at least 30 minutes and serve over your favorite salad.
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    Whip up a vegan alfredo sauce. If you love alfredo sauce, you'll love this vegan nut-based alfredo sauce. There's no dairy at all - just pureed nuts which lends a wonderful creamy texture.[6]
    • To start, soak a heaping 1/2 cup of raw cashews in water. Allow to soak for at least 8 hours if you can.
    • Add 1 teaspoon of garlic to a blender in addition to the soaked cashews. Add in about 3/4 cup of vegetable broth and puree until almost smooth.
    • Also add in salt and pepper to taste plus 1 tablespoon (14.8 ml) of lemon juice and 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast (or more or less according to your tastes).
    • Blend again until completely smooth. Taste and adjust for seasonings. Also, if sauce is too thick, add a little more broth.
    • Serve sauce over your favorite pasta with a little extra nutritional yeast and chopped basil.
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    Make a lower calorie cheese sauce. There's nothing better to make plain steamed broccoli or cauliflower a little more tasty by adding a cheese sauce. Save on calories with this great recipe.[7]
    • In a small bowl, whisk together 5 tablespoons (73.9 ml) of flour with 1/4 cup of low-fat milk until smooth.
    • Add another 1 cup of milk and the flour mixture to a sauce pan and heat over medium high until just beginning to simmer.
    • Make sure to whisk the milk mixture constantly to prevent it from burning or getting clumpy. Cook until it gets thick which will take about 4 minutes.
    • Remove from heat and stir in 2/3 cup of shredded cheddar, 1 teaspoon of dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika and salt and pepper to taste.
    • Drizzle your cheese sauce over blanched vegetables or drizzled over homemade nachos.
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    Try greek yogurt ranch dip. If you love raw vegetables and dip, try making your own homemade ranch dip at home. Again, greek yogurt helps lower the calories on this tasty dip.[8]
    • Start by spooning about 1 cup of plain, non-fat greek yogurt into a small bowl.
    • Then, mix in the following: 2 tablespoon (29.6 ml) of dried parsley, 2 teaspoons of garlic powder, 2 teaspoons of onion powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried dill, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of dried chives and 1 teaspoon of salt.
    • Mix everything together until all the spices are mixed throughout the yogurt. Taste and adjust for seasonings.
    • Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite raw vegetables as the perfect snack.

Part 3
Adding Flavor to Foods Without High Calorie Sauces

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    Try herbs and spices. Although many foods do taste great with the addition of some sauces and dressings, there's ways to add flavor to foods that have little to no added calories.
    • Both herbs and spices (dried or fresh), can add a whole bunch of flavor to foods without any calories or fat.
    • Whether you add fresh herbs to a tomato-based pasta sauce or rub a steak with a flavorful spice blend, you can learn to enjoy foods with minimal added sauces or dressings.
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    Use in-season produce. Some foods may taste a little bland if they're not in-season or fresh. This may be why you want to add a sauce or dressing to pump up their flavor. Try using in-season items to reduce the need to add additional flavorings.[9]
    • Each season there will be a variety of different fruits and vegetables that are in season. For example, strawberries and blackberries come into season during the summer. Kale and butternut squash are more available in the fall and winter.
    • When you're using fresh ingredients, they have more of a significant and bright flavor. You may not feel the need to add a high calorie sauce or dressing to boost their flavor.
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    Try flavor-packed cooking methods. Some cooking methods impart a ton of flavor to foods, while other's leave them a little bland. Try using cooking techniques that can help increase the flavor of your foods.
    • Some cooking methods, like steaming, don't impart a lot of great flavor to foods. That's why drizzling cheese sauce over plain steamed broccoli is so appealing.
    • Steaming, sauteing, boiling or poaching don't always add a lot of flavor to foods. To help get you used to using less of those higher calorie sauces or dressings, skip these cooking methods and opt for something a little more flavorful.
    • Grilling is a great cooking method that's not only healthy, but imparts a huge amount of flavor to foods. When foods (like proteins, vegetables or even fruits) are grilled, they get a wonderful sear on the outside. This gives flavors a great smoky, charred flavor without any added dressings.[10]
    • Roasting is another great technique - especially for vegetables. Roasting uses the high temperature of the oven to slowly caramelize and brown the outside of foods. They become soft, nutty and sweet. No need for added dressings or sauces here either.
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    Use higher calorie sauces and dressings in moderation. Although there are a variety of lower calorie recipes and tricks to impart more flavors to foods, you can still occasionally use your favorite dressings or sauces.
    • Using a higher calorie or higher fat sauce on a regular basis is typically not recommended. Even in smaller quantities these can spike your overall calorie consumption.
    • If you use them in moderation and measure out the appropriate portion size, you can still include some of your favorite items.
    • Check on the nutrition label for the serving size. For dressings and sauces, it's usually about 1-2 tablespoons per serving. If you use more, you'll need to account for the extra calories and fat.
    • Also be mindful of those store bought low-fat or fat-free items. Many times, the fat content is lower, but the sodium and/or sugar content is higher. Plus, the reduction in total calories usually isn't worth the extra additives.
    • The best is to make a healthier version at home to use the majority of the time and occasionally indulge in the "real deal" in moderation.


  • Experiment with a few different recipes to make your favorite sauces and dressings healthier. It might take a few tries to find something you like.
  • If you don't like the flavor of the healthier dressings, use smaller amounts of the regular or full-fat versions.

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Categories: Meal Planning | Diet & Lifestyle