Bolthouse Farms Salad Dressing – When Low Fat Just isn’t Worth it

Bolthouse dressing

This is a guest blog post by Carol Harvey, Director of food/nutrition labeling and product development at Palate Works.

People are generally of two camps regarding salad dressings – homemade or store-bought/bottled.  Making your own requires just a few simple ingredients (for a vinaigrette), or there’s the total convenience (and boundless selection) of buying something in a bottle/jar.

Manufactured versions tend to be full of ingredients you wouldn’t normally use at home (stabilizers, gums, preservatives, etc.) and run about 110 or more calories and 10 or more grams of fat per 2 Tbsp serving. Some take the lower-fat (or non-fat) route by using little or no oil/fatty ingredients, but bumping up the thickeners/gums and sugars to compensate for higher acidity and lower viscosity.

Bolthouse Farms has a line of eight dressings that are low-fat (3 g fat or less per 2 Tbsp serving) and low-calorie (40 kcal or less) or reduced-calorie (45 kcal here). Four are vinaigrette-style and four are creamy yogurt-based versions. All use fruit juices as a source of sugar/sweetening.


Bolthouse Dressings

While I can appreciate the work that went into creating these dressings with little or no fat and fewer nasty ingredients than would normally be used, I just can’t wrap my palate around them. A dressing should accentuate and complement the true stars of a salad – the fresh veggies. I have yet to taste anything that does that better than good quality oils and vinegars (seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and maybe some garlic, shallots and/or mustard).

Adding sugar (from fruit or not) and gums to a dressing in order to save 10 grams of fat and 60-100 calories (only about 5% of daily calories) just doesn’t seem worth the sacrifice. Both ingredients contribute to a too-sweet and cloying dressing that doesn’t do much for the salad. The only exception might be the Ranch flavors (Classic and Salsa), which are less sweet than the vinaigrettes and would make good veggie dips. The extra sodium and spices/herbs (typical in ranch dressings) seem to cover up any weirdness due to the ingredient swaps (see photo below).

Bolthouse Ingredients

The Blue Cheese doesn’t hit the flavor or texture marks, and even with only 1 g sugars it seems somewhat sweet and not very cheesy. The vinaigrettes are too sweet (5-6 g sugars) and have little resemblance to a true vinaigrette.

The Classic Balsamic in particular is a disappointment, especially with “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” prominent on the front label. It contains 0 grams of fat, according to the nutrition panel (<0.5 g), meaning the amount of olive oil is extremely small (there’s more salt than olive oil!). They also  chose to point out the omega-3 fatty acid content (actually ALA content – the “weaker” omega-3) on the front: “40 mg Omega-3.” Ostensibly that is coming from the flax seed oil, of which there is even less than olive oil. And 40 mg of Omega 3 is a fairly insignificant amount anyway; nowhere near a “good source,” even if there were an established Daily Value (DV) for it. (Note:  There is something called a “daily value,” not to be confused (ha) with Daily Value. It is more of a high median intake level for adults, and for ALA it is 1300 mg; 40 mg is a measly 3% of that).

Back to Camp A (oil & vinegar): For 130 calories and 13.5 g fat, you can dress a medium salad with the finest quality olive oil and a flavorful balsamic vinegar (dark or white). The slight natural sweetness of balsamic vinegar allows for a little more volume of dressing without using more oil: 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil + 2 tsp balsamic vinegar + dash of salt + freshly ground pepper = salad heaven.

The point? You will eat more salad if it tastes good.

Homemade Dressing

Carol Harvey has been a nutrition labeling and product development consultant for over 15 years. She can be reached at palatemail [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.

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  • nicole

    Salad dressing is disgusting. I still don’t get why people want to cover the taste of vegetables with thick goopy nastiness. Olive oil, sesame oil, good balsamic, mashed avocado, guacamole, or a little hummus are much much more delicious ways to add a HEALTHY topping to a salad. My coworkers are always very envious of my salads.

  • Diane Lopez

    Love the dressing! :)

  • Deniseselah

    Tried this brand and was really disappointed. I would rather (and do) use 1/2 serving size regular dressing than use Bolthouse.

  • Zoila Ashley Paes

    it got me very sick my suger went very low

  • Laura

    Put a spout on the mouth of the bottle!

    • Trisha

      lol, agreed. Portion control will be way easier, but maybe that’s their point! :p

  • Trisha

    For my salad, I agree with good old fashion olive oil, sometimes balsamic, but often just olive oil and pinch of salt. However, i usually make small side of assorted raw veggies that I dip separately in a dressing and Bolthouse has been a savior. I LOVE broccoli, cauliflower or carrots dipped in blue cheese, but its absolutely horrible. Therefore, I drizzle a little Bolthouse on my side veggies and it wraps up my meal nicely. I usually sprinkle blue cheese crumbles on my salad so this is a nice compliment to that.

  • Jat Nuyt

    I am in love with the avocado cilantro . also the salsa ranch is acceptable and the mango chipotle is amazing. I also was not over enthused about the blue cheese . I couldnt even eat it . I have yet to find an acceptable blue cheese that is low fat . Overall i give this product 10 stars ! Its a healthier alternative and is low in fat and carbs !