By Cara Rosenbloom, RD
Posted: September 2013
A tasty dip is great way to make the veggies go down. Here’s how to choose dips that add nutrition – not just fat and salt.
Cara Rosenbloom, RD
A tasty dip can make the veggies go down. But it’s important to choose one that adds healthy nutrition, not just fat and salt.
The research is in: Kids really will eat more vegetables if they are paired with dip.
In one study, researchers gave plain vegetables, as well as veggies with different dips, to preschool children. The children were three times more likely to reject the vegetable alone, compared with the vegetable-dip combo. In a different study, children who were sensitive to the bitter taste of vegetables ate 80 per cent more broccoli when it was paired with a dip or dressing. I haven’t found a similar study on adult palates, but the concept is certainly worth a try!
However, some dips are high in fat and salt, and add little nutritional value to meals and snacks. There are better options!
Healthiest store-bought choices
Whether you are buying a container of dip or a bottled dressing, it’s important to read the ingredient list and the Nutrition Facts panel to look for options that are low in saturated fat, sodium and sugar, but high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.
For example, hummus is a source of fibre from chickpeas; nut-based dips such as peanut butter (yes it tastes great with celery or green pepper) contain heart-healthy magnesium; and dips made from yogurt contain calcium and protein.
On the other hand, ranch dip or dressing offers only fat and sodium, while mustard contains sodium and nothing else.
Pick a dip that lists one of these healthy options as the first ingredient:
White, black or pinto beans
Yogurt or Greek yogurt
Fresh produce: tomato, avocado, spinach, roasted red peppers, pumpkin, etc.
Cottage or light ricotta cheese
Edamame, tofu or soynuts
Nuts or seeds (such as almond or sunflower seed butter)
If the first ingredient is sour cream, cream cheese or mayonnaise, keep shopping. These dips will be high in fat, but lower in protein and other valuable nutrients. If your recipe calls for these ingredients, try using low-fat Greek yogurt instead. It’s thick, creamy and plain-tasting, so it marries nicely with dip-friendly flavours such as dill, garlic, chili flakes, pepper and cumin.
Some dips are high in sodium, so a little goes a long way. If you are a big dipper, choose options with less sodium. Here’s how some popular dips compare in terms of sodium content.
Dip (2 tbsp)
Processed cheese sauce
Low-fat ranch dressing
Cream cheese onion dip
Original ranch dressing
Nut/seed butter (salt added)
Nut/seed butter (no salt added)
You can see that the whole food-based dips near the bottom have the least amount of sodium. They also have more protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fat! It’s win-win.
Make your own
I like to experiment with my own dip recipes, as does Heart and Stroke Foundation recipe developer Emily Richards. Try her delicious Navy bean hummus and Greek yogurt ranch dip.
My kids love dipping carrots and peppers into pureed chickpeas with cumin and lemon juice (it’s like hummus without the garlic), or almond butter blended with Greek yogurt and a touch of cinnamon. I love watching them eat their vegetables – and knowing the dip is giving them a little extra nutrition in every bite.
This article comes from the heart and stroke foundation Canada. A great resource.