Is Thousand Island dressing good for diet?

Thousand Island dressing is a popular condiment made with a base of mayonnaise or other salad dressing and a blend of ingredients like ketchup, relish, onions, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar. It has a creamy, tangy flavor and is commonly used on salads, burgers, sandwiches and as a dipping sauce. But is Thousand Island dressing actually a healthy choice for people trying to watch their weight and improve their diet?

What is Thousand Island dressing?

Thousand Island dressing was reportedly created in the early 1900s at the Thousand Islands House hotel in Clayton, New York. The exact origins are debated, but it’s said that the dressing was first made by blending leftover salad dressing ingredients like mayonnaise, cream, chili sauce, and chopped pickles. The creamy pink dressing was so well-liked by guests it became known as Thousand Island dressing.

Today there are many variations of Thousand Island dressing, but the base usually includes:

  • Mayonnaise or salad dressing – A creamy base, usually reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise.
  • Ketchup or chili sauce – Adds a tangy, tomatoey flavor.
  • Relish – Finely chopped pickles provide crunchy texture.
  • Onions – Minced onions add more flavor.
  • Paprika – For color and smoky pepper flavor.
  • Worcestershire sauce – Provides depth of flavor.
  • Vinegar – Helps balance and brighten the creamy dressing.
  • Sugar – A small amount of sugar balances acidity.
  • Salt and pepper – Seasons the dressing.

The ingredients are combined thoroughly so the chunks of relish and onions are dispersed throughout the creamy base. The dressing has a smooth texture with little bursts of flavor from the pickles, onions, and spices.

Nutrition Facts for Thousand Island Dressing

The nutrition of Thousand Island dressing can vary widely depending on the specific recipe and ingredients used. However, in general a 2-tablespoon serving (30g) contains approximately:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 80
Total Fat 8g
Saturated Fat 1g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 5mg
Sodium 125mg
Total Carbohydrate 2g
Protein 0g

As you can see, a 2-tablespoon serving of Thousand Island dressing delivers 80 calories, with 8g of that coming from fat. It’s relatively low in protein, carbs, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.

The main nutrients in Thousand Island dressing are:


With 8g of fat per serving, roughly 89% of the calories in Thousand Island dressing come from fat. Using reduced-fat mayonnaise can lower the fat and calorie content.


At 125mg of sodium per serving, Thousand Island dressing is moderately high in sodium. The recommended daily intake of sodium is less than 2,300mg, so the sodium in just 2 tablespoons of dressing makes up over 5% of that amount.

Added Sugars

Many Thousand Island dressing recipes call for 1-2 teaspoons of sugar per 1 cup of dressing. Added sugars should be limited to less than 10% of daily calories. The small amount of sugar helps balance the acidity but does add empty calories.

Is Thousand Island Dressing Healthy?

Looking at the nutrition facts, Thousand Island dressing doesn’t seem too bad at first glance. But is it actually a healthy choice, especially for people watching their weight or calories? Here are some key considerations:

It’s high in fat and calories for the serving size

With 80 calories and 8g of fat in just 2 tablespoons, Thousand Island dressing packs a lot of fat and calories into a small serving. Using more than the recommended serving size can cause the calories and fat to add up quickly.

It provides almost no protein, fiber, vitamins or minerals

Since Thousand Island dressing is mostly made up of mayonnaise or salad dressing, it provides very little nutritional value other than fat and calories. There are minimal amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

It’s easy to over-pour the recommended serving size

Many people don’t accurately measure out 2-tablespoon servings of dressing. Drizzling dressing directly on a salad makes it easy to overdo it and take in excess fat and calories without realizing it.

It contains added sugars

The added sugars, usually in the form of white sugar, contribute empty calories and no nutrition. People trying to manage blood sugar levels need to be mindful of sources of added sugar like salad dressings.

Sodium content adds up fast

While 125mg in one serving doesn’t seem too high, sodium can quickly accumulate throughout the day from multiple sources. The recommended limit for sodium is 2,300mg per day, so the sodium in dressing should be accounted for.

Healthier homemade versions can be made

Making Thousand Island dressing from scratch allows you to control the ingredients and flavors. Swapping out mayonnaise for plain Greek yogurt significantly cuts the fat and calories. Adding more vegetable content like relish, onions, or tomatoes increases the fiber and nutrients.

Is Thousand Island Dressing Keto and Low Carb?

The keto diet and other low-carb eating patterns limit daily carb intake, usually to less than 50g per day. How does Thousand Island dressing fit into a low-carb meal plan?

It’s very low in carbs naturally

With just 2g of carbohydrates per serving, Thousand Island dressing can fit into a keto, low-carb or diabetic diet. The small amount of carbs comes mostly from the added sugars or ketchup.

You still need to watch serving sizes

While the carb counts are low, be mindful of portion control. Sticking to 2-tablespoon servings prevents overdoing it on the fat and calories. Drizzling directly onto salads makes it harder to control serving sizes.

Homemade versions can further reduce carbs

Making your own Thousand Island dressing allows you to leave out ingredients like ketchup or sugar to create an even lower-carb version. Replacing mayo with Greek yogurt eliminates more carbs.

It provides almost no other nutrients

Even though Thousand Island dressing is low in carbs, it supplies minimal amounts of other beneficial nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s mostly added fat and calories.

Pair it with low-carb foods like salads and veggies

Thousand Island dressing makes a flavorful, low-carb topping for salads containing greens, chicken, eggs, cheese, and other keto-friendly ingredients. It can also dress coleslaw, steamed vegetables, and other low-carb sides.

Healthier Substitutes for Thousand Island Dressing

To lighten up Thousand Island dressing, you can tweak the classic recipe in several healthy ways:

Use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise

Substituting light, plain Greek yogurt for all or part of the mayonnaise significantly reduces the fat and calories while adding protein. The tanginess of the yogurt also balances well with the other ingredients.

Skip added sugar or use zero-calorie sweetener

Eliminating the added white sugar cuts empty calories and carbs. If needed, add small amounts of a zero-calorie sweetener like stevia or monk fruit to balance the acidity.

Load up on extra vegetables

Adding more diced tomatoes, minced onions, chopped pickles, shredded carrots and other vegetables boosts the fiber content while adding nutrients and flavor.

Use low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise

Choosing a low-fat or fat-free mayonnaise option cuts some of the fat and calories compared to regular, full-fat mayo. You may need to drain excess water first for the right texture.

Reduce or omit sodium-heavy ingredients

Leave out worcestershire and soy sauce to cut sodium, or look for low-sodium versions. Rinsing canned tuna also removes excess salt.

Swap in olive oil for a healthy fat

Some recipes use a small drizzle of olive oil instead of mayo. While this cuts calories, you miss out on the creamy texture.

Flavor with herbs and spices instead of salt

Boost flavor without adding sodium by seasoning with fresh or dried herbs like dill, basil, parsley or chives. Black pepper, garlic powder and paprika add flavor too.

Make your own dressing from scratch

Homemade dressing allows total control over the ingredients. You can achieve the creamy, tangy Thousand Island flavor using healthier additions like yogurt, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, etc.

Healthy Thousand Island Dressing Recipe

This lightened-up Thousand Island dressing recipe cuts over half the calories by using Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. It keeps the flavor of the classic with a healthy twist:


  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, ketchup, relish, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Whisk thoroughly until well blended.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  5. Store homemade dressing in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving (2 tablespoons)

Calories 35
Fat 0g
Carbs 4g
Protein 2g
Sodium 110mg

This Greek yogurt Thousand Island dressing has all the tangy, creamy flavor you love, but in a lighter, more nutritious recipe. Enjoy it as a dip or dressing for salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps, veggie sticks and more.

Healthiest Ways to Enjoy Thousand Island Dressing

While Thousand Island dressing isn’t the most nutritious choice, there are some healthy ways to enjoy it in moderation:

On a salad

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of dressing over a big green salad packed with veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and peppers. The small amount of dressing coats the salad instead of drowning it.

As a veggie dip

Use Thousand Island dressing for dipping raw vegetables like celery sticks, baby carrots, radish slices, broccoli and cauliflower florets.

On a wrap or sandwich

Spread a thin layer on a whole grain wrap or sprouted grain sandwich instead of saturated fat-laden spreads. Fill it with veggies as well as lean proteins like turkey, chicken or tuna.

On a turkey or bison burger

Top a lean turkey or bison burger patty with lettuce, tomato, avocado and a drizzle of Thousand Island dressing for added flavor and moisture. Serve on a whole wheat bun.

On grilled chicken

Brush the dressing on chicken breasts before grilling to add moisture and flavor. Pair the grilled chicken with roasted vegetables or a fresh salad.

In a grain bowl

Drizzle a minimal amount over a healthy grain bowl containing ingredients like quinoa, brown rice, chickpeas, cucumbers, avocado and hard boiled eggs.

As a marinade or sauce

Mix a few tablespoons into Greek yogurt to make a marinade for chicken or fish. Toss with cooked rice noodles or spiralized veggies instead of eating it straight as a dressing.

Potential Health Risks of Thousand Island Dressing

While using Thousand Island dressing moderately doesn’t pose major health risks, there are a few potential downsides of eating it regularly:

High in fat and calories

The high amounts of fat and calories in Thousand Island dressing can lead to weight gain over time when consumed in large amounts. This increases risks for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

May contain trans fats

Some brands made with hydrogenated oils contain artificial trans fats, which have been linked to higher “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increased cardiovascular disease risk.

Blood sugar effects

The added sugars mean Thousand Island dressing has a moderate glycemic index. Consuming large amounts frequently may cause unstable blood sugar levels for people with diabetes or prediabetes.

High sodium

The 125mg of sodium per serving seems low at first glance but can add up over the course of a day, increasing risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems in salt-sensitive individuals.

Lack of nutrients

With minimal amounts of protein, fiber and micronutrients, regularly choosing Thousand Island dressing means missing out on nutrients from healthier foods that could be eaten instead.

Acidic and irritating for some

The vinegar and lemon juice give Thousand Island dressing an acidic pH, which may worsen symptoms for people with digestive issues like heartburn, GERD or ulcers.


Thousand Island dressing can be part of a healthy diet for most people when used in moderation, but it does come with some potential downsides. To get the flavor without the unwanted effects, the healthiest options include making homemade dressing so you control the ingredients, accurately measuring serving sizes, and pairing it with low-calorie foods like salads and vegetables. Limiting intake to a few times a week prevents overdoing it on the fat, sodium and calories. While Thousand Island dressing tastes great with some dishes, relying on healthier alternatives like vinaigrettes, Greek yogurt dressing, tahini dressing or oil and vinegar ensures you get more nutritional bang for your buck.

Leave a Comment