For example, salad dressing. Today at work I decided to go to the grocery store and get all the ingredients for a healthy paleo-friendly salad instead of risking it with a chain joint. I succeeded!
But since I didn't have a container in which to make my own dressing, I decided to find one that was paleo-friendly in the salad dressing aisle. Wow! It took me about 10 minutes to find one that was even remotely ok, and even then it wasn't 100% perfect.
I had to decide between Newman's Own and Kraft (imagine that!!) and the deciding factor was Newman's Own had a much shorter ingredients list, even though it still contained some sugar (not corn syrup) and vegetable oils. The kraft had soybean oil much higher on the list, sugar as well, but many other ingredients near the end that were "chemical" in nature.
So I went with the one with more "natural" ingredients.
How do you decide between two sub-par foods, when you have to choose? (Please don't say "I don't pick either" as that doesn't really contribute to discussion) :)
I would have to do the same thing you did by reading the ingredients. I would avoid garbage that I can't pronounce, then look out for sugar and grains, then worry about the type of oil.
BTW, you can drizzle a salad with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice without having to mix the two first.
I would have also done what you did. Compare labels and choose the lesser of 2 evils.
In the case of salad dressing, the ones kept in the refrigerated case near the produce have fewer additives (no preservatives). Fresh salsa is also a great alternative to salad dressing if you can find it.
I would have read all the bottles and been disgusted with the choices and picked something else like fresh fruit or lemon/lime juice or something from the deli to use as a topping.
You have to think outside the box sometimes. Not buying a packaged dressing does not mean that you have to choose "no dressing". I just find other items to use to give the salad a little kick.
If I were forced to choose between two poor choices, I'd pick the sub-par food with no grain or. rancid PUFAs. In reality, I'd have gone to the produce department, picked up an avocado and a citrus fruit and called it good.
First of all you should be commended for your critical thinking skills as well as your willingness to follow-up here asking for feedback and ideas on the subject. Just learning to really think about your choices and learning the best method of making a good evaluation is more than half the battle. I think you did a great job!
I know you didn't want to hear "neither" as an answer but see that you are getting that and I would probably have to say that would be my answer as well. I disagree that this answer doesn't further the conversation though. I hope you are able to see that. Given only those two choices of dressings with no other options I would have gone without and going without is a perfectly fine option if you allow it to be. It may be that you aren't in a place yet where that is a viable option but I hope you can see that for some it is a great solution to this problem.
I also think the idea of thinking outside the box is a great one. Learning to see options you might not normally see is a learned skill. Given I'm in a grocery store with a couple of bucks to spend I imagine I would have bought a lemon but the guac and salsa ideas are great ideas. Learning to expand our ideas to solve our problem without compromising our convictions is a skill honed by time and experience.
I prefer my salad sans-dressing however I usually have salad and small can of tuna (in olive oil) for lunch and I pour a little of the oil over the salad. You could get the salad stuff and a small can of tuna in olive oil & a bottle of vinegar which are usually cheap and splash a dah of that on your salad, some lemon or lime juice are good options.
I keep some basics in my drawer (or locker) at work, salt/pepper, small cans of tuna and if you buy those trvael size (empty) shampoo containors you can fill them up @ home with a little oil or vinergar, or even make a dressing mix and keep it at work also.
I understand those options only work if you have prepared them in advance, but I also know that at least one day a week I will have left home without lunch packed due to timme constraints or no leftovers. In these instances I pop down to the local lunch place and buy a salad pack (lettuce & greek sald, no fetta cheese) and then pop back to work, grab seasonings & a can of tuna and utensils from my drawer and enjoy!
I really avoid buying a salad, for no other reason than the cost (AU$7.00) which drives me nuts when I think about what kind of gormet salad I could make with that much money if I went to the supermarket and made my own salad at home.
As a rule I think it's best to go with something high in sugar (or hfcs or other such carb) rather than high vegetable oil. The carbohydrate will just be turned relatively undestructively into fat, whereas the vegetable oil, in even relatively small quantities, will make quite an impact on your omega3:omega6 balance (e.g. a tablespoon of soybean oil is around 7g omega 6). Obviously hydrogenated oils are all the more worth avoiding and similarly, going for the product that doesn't contain (or contains least of) completely toxic substances like gluten should probably be the main priority.