Give Yourself an Oil Change

“Experiment with some new oils to add flavor to your salads, veggies and other dishes

By Sidra Forman, Best Life chef

Here’s some tasty news: You need a little bit of fat in your diet, even if you’re watching your weight. The key is to choose the right fat—a healthy unsaturated fat, such as oil, that can protect your heart and help you stay satisfied. But not all oils are the same; some are better for dressing salads or cold dishes, while others are best for cooking. Check out the guide below to find out which oils to use for:

To shake up your salad bowl, try whipping up a new dressing. The oils below (available at some supermarkets and gourmet food stores), mixed with vinegar or citrus, will give your greens new life. One tip: Look for expeller pressed on the label; it’s an indication that most of the healthful properties of the oil have been preserved during processing.

Olive oil. This is a standard salad fixture, but you can up the taste by buying a high-quality olive oil; make sure to look for “extra virgin” and “cold-pressed” on the label. Also, opt for darker colored oils; they often have more flavor. But note that flavor starts to deteriorate as soon as you open the bottle, so try to use it within six months, if possible. (Storing it in a cool, dark place can help preserve the flavor.) And remember, a little bit goes a long way. Just ½ tablespoon of oil combined with ½ tablespoon of vinegar (or a generous squeeze of lemon) is enough for 1½ to 2 cups of greens.

Nut oils. Go a little nutty with your dressing by using nut oils, such as walnut, hazelnut, macadamia and almond. The nut flavor, which is prevalent, complements all salad greens as a stand-alone dressing or with a little vinegar.

Avocado oil. This also has a slightly nutty flavor, and can be used in place of olive oil on salads. You can also use it for cooking because it has a high smoke point (this refers to the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke, become discolored or decompose). Try it for roasting carrots or other vegetables.

Flaxseed oil. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids—which can help protect your heart—this oil has a mild, earthy, rich flavor. Again, you can use it to dress salads or to finish off warm dishes, like wilted greens. (Don’t use it for cooking because it has a low smoke point and the heat can destroy the omega-3s.)

Sesame oil. For a unique-tasting salad dressing, mix sesame oil with rice vinegar and a drop of orange juice. You can also drizzle some sesame oil on top of sautéed vegetables or cold pasta dishes.

Try the salad recipe below to jazz up your standard rotisserie chicken.

Chopped Salad with Rotisserie Chicken

Makes 4 Servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes

2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 cups organic, free-range rotisserie chicken (skin removed), sliced
2 cups fennel, thinly sliced
2 cups celery, thinly sliced
4 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (such as basil, chives, parsley and Italian parsley)

1. Combine olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper to taste and red onion to make dressing. Set aside.

2. Combine chicken, fennel, celery, lettuce and herbs.

3. Gently combine dressing and salad, and serve.

Nutritional Information
1 serving
Calories: 299
Protein: 34.2 g
Carbohydrate: 8.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.4 g
Total Fat: 14.1 g
Saturated Fat: 2.9 g
Cholesterol: 100.6 mg
Sodium:/strong> 282.5 mg
Calcium: 106.1 mg

All of the oils below have a high smoke point, which means you'll be less likely to burn your food or compromise the taste. They're all great for sautéing veggies, making a stir fry and roasting meat or fish. You can also try oil sprays. They allow you to lightly coat your food so it conducts the heat evenly without adding extra calories or a heavy taste. I’ve seen sprays for olive oil, grapeseed oil and canola oil.

Grapeseed oil. It has a light, clean flavor. I like to use it for almost everything—cooking vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and tofu. It’s the most versatile oil and adds only a little flavor, allowing the food you’re cooking to really stand out.

Olive oil. You’ll want to choose a lighter olive oil or pomace olive oil for cooking (extra virgin is best for salads) because they have a higher smoke point and lighter, cleaner flavor. You can use it to roast chicken or vegetables.

Canola.This oil is lower in heart-harming saturated fat than any other oil, and contains omega-3 fatty acids. I like to use it for baking and sautéing.

Sunflower – Though this delicate flavored oil has a low smoke point, it’s still used for cooking. They key is to use it to roast meat, fish or veggies in the oven, instead of over a high flame.

Safflower – Flavorless safflower oil is higher in polyunsaturated fat than any other oil. Use it to cook food that has a strong flavor, like fish; the oil allows you to cook the food evenly, without overpowering its natural taste. You can also use it for frying or for salad dressings (thought it has a high smoke point, it doesn’t solidify when chilled).

The recipe below is a tasty way to use grapeseed oil.


Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

4 medium beets, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Toss vegetables with grapeseed oil, salt and pepper to taste.

3. Place vegetables on a sheet pan and roast until onions are browned and beets are soft, about 20 minutes.

4. While hot, toss with thyme and serve.

Nutritional Information
1 serving
Calories: 62
Protein: 1.6 g
Carbohydrate: 10.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g
Total Fat: 1.9 g
Saturated Fat: 0.2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 137.5 mg
Calcium: 20.3 mg