The Hidden Danger Ranch

I love that TV commercial for ranch-style salad dressing, the one where kids are gobbling up plates of veggies as if they were funnel cakes at the fair. Read the ingredients, and you will see why that dressing has no place in the Stealthy Kitchen: it contains Monosodium Glutamate.  MSG may be a carcinogen, triggers migraines for some people, and is a source of sodium. (Go ahead and argue with me that you think it is harmless, naturally occurs in seaweed, has been eaten since the beginning of time.... You can try but I won't be buying it. The chemical listed in most commercially packaged food came from a lab.)

As appealing as it seems as a veggie-sneaking tool, ranch is not as "innocent" as the marketing suggests. A couple tablespoons of ranch dressing contains 14 grams of fat and 260mg of sodium. The "lite" version cuts the fat to 7g but ups the sodium to 290mg. That's a lot of sodium to make a vegetable appealing to kids.

While most vegetables are perfect just as they are, kids do sometimes need a little push to get them to snack from the crisper. Try these ideas:

"Candied" carrots. Put a couple cups of either carrot sticks or "baby" carrots into a pyrex bowl. Dot a tablespoon of butter onto the top of the carrots and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Stir, then microwave again, two minutes at a time until they are cooked just right. Toddlers will need them soft, while preschoolers will want a crunch. (Since we have a toddler and a preschooler, I take half of them out at this point and cook the rest a little more.) Sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar and stir again. (1/2 tablespoon of butter has 7g of fat and about 50mg of sodium. Butter gets a bad rap, but it sure beats ranch dressing!)

Hummus If you take your favorite hummus recipe and make it with unsalted chick peas, you have a low-sodium veggies dip. Two tablespoons will have about 6g of fat and very little salt if you make your own.

Mascarpone cheese. Two tablespoons has about 12g of fat and 10g of sodium. You can stir in a bit of maple syrup or some sugar and cinnamon to make a creamy, cheesy sweet dip. Also try garlic powder and basil. 

Fun shapes. I don’t know why, but G-man will try anything if it is cut into triangles. Maybe it is because he can bite off the tip to see if he likes it. Japanese cucumbers are sweet and crunchy and have tiny seeds. Peeled and sliced, the slices are easy to cut into triangles. He also approves of carrot sticks cut into match-stick sizes. Rutabaga, summer squash, and the hearts of broccoli stems can be cut into fun shapes.

Homemade Ranch dressing. Take a cup of plain yogurt, and stir in a teaspoon of onion powder and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper. A quarter cup of parmesan cheese will thicken the dip and make it cheesy, and you can add garlic or tomato powder. Two tablespoons, including the parm, has about 60mg of sodium and a gram of fat.


  1. Commercials directed to children make me SO angry. I don't understand why they want to fill our kids with, well - crap - instead of starting out with REAL stuff, while their taste buds are forming.
    Raaar! Mama Bear!

  2. We watch mostly PBS. Even so, our kids pay attention to the "sponsored by," segments of each show. We've never been to a Chuck E Cheese, but the rugrats know the jingle by heart. Wow.


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