How to Find a Healthy Mayo + 5 Ways to Use it This Summer
By Teresa Wagner, RD, LD
July 14, 2020
Light and refreshing salads are perfect in the summer. They’re full of nutrients, fiber and even a fair amount of water. They feel cool when we are hot. However, salads can sometimes leave us wanting more, typically because they can be low in fat. Adding fat to a salad will slow digestion and leave you feeling satisfied, not looking to fill the void that comes after eating a low-fat meal. Mayonnaise-based dressings are a great way to add some healthy fats to salads.
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness we explain that healthy fats are important for maintaining and healing our cells and bodies. We say things like, “Eat fat to lose weight,” and “Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.” One fat we include in the list of healthy fats is mayonnaise, but not all mayos are the same or have the same benefits.
So how do we find a healthy, satiety-maintaining mayo? First, read the label.
While the front of the mayo jar may give you an idea of what is in it, you really need to turn the jar around and read the ingredient list. Recently my colleague Mel summed this up well when she said, “The front of the package is meant to sell; the back of the package is meant to inform.” I’ve had many clients get excited about the olive oil mayo they found only to realize later the “olive oil” mayo actually contains one or more refined, unhealthy oils, which is something we don’t want on the label, as you’ll read below.
What to Look for in a Mayo & What to Avoid
Look for these fats: This is pretty simple because there are only a couple fats used in mayos that are healthy. My favorite option is avocado oil based mayos. Avocados are naturally fatty so it’s easy to extract the oil from them just by pressing and squeezing out the oil. This process is called “expeller-pressed” or “cold-pressed”. I also will use an expeller-pressed safflower oil based mayo. In a pinch or if I’m buying a pre-made salad from a co-op or deli that sells higher quality foods, expeller-pressed canola is okay; however, I wouldn’t buy a jar of it to use regularly.
Skip these fats: We want to avoid refined oils as the source of fat in mayo. Unfortunately they aren’t always labeled as refined oils, so you have to be a bit of a detective to finding them. The refining process makes oils from foods that are difficult to extract oils from, mainly vegetables and seeds. So if you see an oil that is made from a vegetable like corn or soybeans, or an oil made from a seed like canola (rapeseed) or cottonseed, you know it’s gone through the refining process unless it specifically states that it is expeller or cold pressed. Refined oils are damaged oils, and eating damaged oils damages our health because they promote inflammation, may increase cholesterol numbers, and slow metabolism.
Skip these sugars: If there is sugar or high fructose corn syrup in the mayo I put it back on the shelf. Mayo’s not sweet, so why would sugar be added? To create brand loyalty. Our brains can pick up on the sweet that maybe our tongue would not. It’s also responsible for that “tangy zip” in, well, you know the one.
Skip these “other” ingredients: There are many other added ingredients that I don’t care for. Yes, they are generally recognized as safe (GRAS), but that still leaves a lot of room for error. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to drive a GRAS car, or fly in a GRAS airplane with a GRAS pilot, or have a surgery with a GRAS surgeon. I want food that is safe, period.
- calcium disodium EDTA
- natural flavors (this can be hundreds of different things)
- potassium sorbate
- modified cornstarch
- phosphoric acid
Best mayo ingredients: My favorite mayo ingredient list reads like this list. Simple. All ingredients I recognize and could keep in my refrigerator or pantry.
- Avocado oil
- Cage-free eggs or Cage-free egg yolks
- Sea Salt
- Rosemary extract
Which leads me to another point, mayo is easy to make! Here’s our favorite mayo recipe. I’m told (disclaimer, I choose to buy my mayo!) that the key to making great homemade mayo is to have your egg yolk at room temp before mixing the ingredients together.
During these hot summer months, mayo-based salads can also be a popular dish to bring to your poolside or lakeside barbeques. Just be careful not to leave them out in the warm temps for too long. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, "Stick to the 'two-hour rule' for leaving items needing refrigeration out at room temperature.” However, if the outside temperature is too hot, they add that it makes a difference. “If the air temperature is above 90 degrees F, the 'two-hour rule' becomes 'one-hour." Another option is to keep your mayo-based salad in a cooler or on a bowl of ice.
Feeling inspired? Here are a few fun summer options:
If a salad isn’t what you’re craving, perhaps you’d prefer a healthy mayo-based dip option like our ever-popular Lil’ Dipper recipe (or the dairy-free Green Veggie Dip) for those raw veggies you eat while out putzing around on the pontoon. You are eating veggies, right?! Not chips, cheese balls or crunchy onion- flavored rings. You’re body (and your boatmates) will thank you for the healthy alternative.