The Magic of Dip

Guacamole Light

 Who doesn’t like to dip?  Bring out a dip and you bring on a party.  Dipping seems to transcend all age and demographic groups, from kids to grandparents. And from a “healthy diet” point of view, dipping can be good, or not so, depending on your choices.

My kids were raised with vegetables for dippers and light, nutrient-rich dips that don’t steal your appetite for your main meal.  It was our everyday appetizer of choice and worked to make them veggie-lovers. Recently, the results of a research study testing this notion (of dip helping kids eat vegetables) came to my front porch.

At my front door were samples of single-serve (2.5-ounce) Hidden Valley® Ranch Dressing in regular and light varieties along with a press release, “Kids Won’t Eat Broccoli, Study Suggests Dip Can Soothe Bitter-Sensitive Taste Buds.”

I went straight to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to read the study for myself (See #1 below). The purpose of the study was to see if offering a familiar dip (Hidden Valley® Ranch) would influence liking and intake of raw broccoli among bitter-sensitive and bitter-insensitive children.  

Habits start early and there can be short- and long-term health benefits to getting kids to enjoy adequate amounts of produce.  Current intake is lacking:  Fewer than half of 1 to 5 year-olds and 5% to 10% of 4 to 8-year olds eat the recommended number of servings of produce each day.  Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, which are particularly high in nutrients and phytochemicals, are especially under-consumed and it’s theorized that bitterness in some of these vegetables may be a factor in the under-consumption. 

Some children are especially sensitive to bitter tastes.  In this study of preschoolers, 70% were sensitive to the bitter taste 6-n-propylthiouracil (PROP), considered a surrogate for the bitterness of glucosinolates that are found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.  With the dip, bitter-sensitive children ate a whopping 80% more broccoli than without it and effects didn’t vary significantly if the dressing was regular, light or mixed into the broccoli as a sauce. Interestingly, the dip did not increase broccoli consumption among children who did not test as sensitive to the bitterness of PROP.

There’s a lot more to know about why kids do or don’t eat vegetables. Other factors influence food preference and consumption besides biological taste sensitivity including experience and what’s called “social facilitation.”  Taste preferences evolve.  What if they had done the research with older children or teens?  While it may take numerous taste exposures, research has shown that kids do learn to like new foods. Salt is known to inhibit bitterness and of course the dip contained salt. Plus, sensitivity to PROP, linked to a variation in a particular gene, is only one of over 24 types of bitter taste receptor genes, the article notes.  

What happened to the samples of Ranch I received?  My 18-year-old daughter was delighted to appropriate them for her own consumption. She loved the single-serve packaging and loves Ranch dressing. To me, one of the  mysteries of modern civilization is the popularity of Ranch dressing among kids – I’ve seen it ladled over all manner of foods. 

Of course, I dare to suggest an alternative, homemade dip that I whirled up in my food processor recently.  It is a lightened guacamole, made better with green peas. Avocados are a healthful food, rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals (including vitamins C, E K, folate and other B’s and minerals such as magnesium, and potassium).  The addition of green peas, which also offer fiber, vitamins A, C, K, folate, cuts the calories and richness so you can enjoy the dip without spoiling you appetite for the rest of your meal.

My Guacomole Light  contains less sodium, fat and calories than a similar portion of light or regular Hidden Valley ® Ranch. As pictured, I suggest vegetable dippers to carry out the light theme.

Disclosure: I don’t know how I got on the mailing list for the press release and samples. I receive no compensation from thethe makers of Hidden Valley® Ranch,  a subsidiary of the Clorox Co.

1.  Fisher JO, Mennella JA, Hughes SO, Kuym, Liu Y, Mendoza PM, Patrick, H. Offering “Dip” Promotes Intake of a Moderately-Liked Raw Vegetable among Preschoolers with Genetic Sensitivity to Bitterness.  J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012; 112: 235-245.

Guacamole Light

Shhhhh!  Unless you tell, it is unlikely tasters will know you’ve lightened up the Guacamole by using half frozen, blanched green peas with the avocado.  

8 ounces (2 cups) frozen green peas

1 medium (8-ounce) ripe avocado

1/2 to 1 fresh jalapeno or Serrano pepper, chopped (optional)

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion

Tabasco sauce (optional)

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil; add peas, return to a simmer and simmer for 30 seconds.  Drain.  Spread peas on clean towel to cool and absorb excess liquid.  Meanwhile, peel avocado, discard pit and place in food processor.  Add peas, lime juice, salt and cumin.  Whirl until smooth, stopping and scraping sides of container a couple of times.  Remove to a bowl and stir in red onion and, if desired, a dash or two of Tabasco sauce.  Chill for 30 to 60 minutes before serving to allow flavors to develop.  Makes about 1 3/4 cups (six 1/4 cup servings).

Per serving (about 1/4 cup)  Calories 78; Fat 4 g; (0 trans fat; 0.6 g saturated fat); 4 g dietary fiber; 2.5  g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; sodium 408 mg; 4% Daily Value (DV) iron; 15% DV Vitamin A; 15% DV vitamin C.

Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


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  1. […] I’m including this Smoky Sun-Dried Tomato and Bean Dip in my super bowl spread.  It satisfies meat eaters and vegetarians and is a perfect accompaniment to another favorite, guacamole.  Avocados are rich and can be filling.  Super Bowl is a long event so if you don’t want to fill up before half-time try my Guacamole Light. […]

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