February 27, 2024

Mayonnaise is a staple of summer. It’s the glue that holds together the potato salad, coleslaw, deviled eggs, and the classic BLT. But you may have asked yourself, “should I use mayonnaise or salad dressing, and what’s the difference, anyway?”

Mayonnaise is a mixture of eggs, oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and spices. While liquid and oil typically don’t mix, they will with a little help. The lecithin in the eggs acts as an emulsifier and allows the fat in the oil to bond with the liquid creating a creamy texture. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), mayonnaise must contain at least 65% vegetable oil by weight to be labeled as “mayonnaise.” This takes us to the difference between mayonnaise and salad dressing.

Salad dressing is made with the same basic ingredients as mayonnaise. However, it has more water by weight than oil. It is also sweeter than mayonnaise, usually with high fructose corn syrup. Comparing the same 2-Tablespoon serving, regular mayonnaise has 180 calories, 3 grams saturated fat and 0 grams carbohydrate while salad dressing has 80 calories, 1 gram saturated fat and 4 grams carbohydrate. So which should you choose? That depends on whether or not you’d rather have lower saturated fats or lower carbs. You might look for the “light” versions for a happy medium. To make things even more complicated, you can now buy olive oil and avocado oil mayonnaise. It’s worthwhile to note that these are often mixed with other oils to mask any strong flavoring. The type of oil doesn’t necessarily make them any healthier but make sure to compare the labels when shopping. You can make your own mayonnaise at home, but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says to buy pasteurized eggs or egg product and store the mayonnaise in the refrigerator for no longer than four days.

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1 Tablespoon mayonnaise or salad dressing

4 teaspoons sugar (or 2 packets of favorite sugar substitute)

1 large sweet apple, diced

In bottom of mixing bowl, blend mayonnaise, lemon juice and sugar with a spatula. Add apples, mixing them with dressing as they are cut to prevent browning. Stir in celery, raisins and walnuts. Cover and refrigerate.

Yield: 4 (1/2 cup servings)

Nutrition Facts (per serving using mayo and sugar): 100 calories, 5 grams fat, 25 milligrams sodium, 14 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 1 gram protein

Source: FDA CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21

Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.

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