In Defense Of Ranch Dressing

by Sally on November 6, 2014

In Defense of Ranch DressingThere’s a bottle of ranch dressing in my refrigerator.

It’s not homemade. Its not organic. It has preservatives and added sweetener and artificial flavor.

But because of this dressing, my ten year old eats baby carrots and bell peppers in his lunchbox and digs into green salads several nights a week.

I have mixed feelings about this dressing. There are ingredients in it that I try to avoid. I make the vinaigrette my husband and I eat on our own salads (read: “5 Foods I Don’t Buy Anymore”). And frankly, as a dietitian, I cringe a little bit whenever I see someone at a restaurant dunking wings or French fries into little tubs of ranch.

But my kid likes ranch. And after homemade ranch was rebuffed, and he didn’t like the various brands of natural and organic I bought, I gave in. Because having this particular bottled dressing around means he’ll eat (and enjoy) a lot more veggies.

As much as I’d rather not rely on ranch, I don’t think it’s an enemy. Like ketchup, it can actually be a vehicle for trying new foods or enjoying foods that might otherwise seem bland or bitter. In one study published in the  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, preschoolers who were especially sensitive to bitter flavors ate 80 percent more broccoli at snack time when it was served alongside ranch dressing.

Still, I feel a little guilty every time I pull the bottle out of the fridge. So I asked Katja Rowell, MD, aka The Feeding Doctor, for her take. I love Dr. Rowell’s reasonable, compassionate approach and was relieved that she gives the okay to ranch.

She says:

“I think parents are afraid that if their children don’t learn to like plain foods, they won’t learn to enjoy them, but for many kids it’s the opposite. Condiments and flavor, whether it’s Ranch, ketchup, hot sauce, or a little butter with a pinch of salt, help children learn to like more foods. A big part of feeding kids is creating a supportive environment where kids can learn to tap into good taste and variety, and Ranch can be a small piece of that puzzle. Having an open, positive attitude towards food helps children approach food with positivity and curiosity. You still decide what to serve your kids, but if you observe that Ranch is helping bring a positive attitude and openness to a wider variety of foods at the table, that’s a good thing.

Parents feel like they have to be perfect with nutrition and that can backfire. I see more and more kids with extreme picky eating and food aversions where the parents have tried to have only whole and unprocessed foods. But worry, conflict and anxiety can be toxic, and I believe is far more harmful than allowing Ranch dressing into a balanced intake.”

So yes, I’ll gradually try to broaden my son’s horizons when it comes to dressings and dips. (As a former picky eater myself, I also know that could take a while–and that’s okay.) But right now, for my son, a little bit of bottled ranch goes a long way toward both developing a habit of eating vegetables at meals and snacks and actually enjoying them. In the long run, I think that’s what really matters.

For more from Dr. Rowell, visit her website The Feeding Doctor. She is author of the book Love Me, Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More. Her second book, about extreme picky eating, will be released next May.

Disclosures: This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product through this link, your cost will be the same, but I will receive a small commission to help with operating costs of this blog. Thanks for your support!


5 Foods I Don’t Buy Anymore

by Sally on November 2, 2014

Since starting this blog five years ago, I make a lot more food from scratch. Perhaps it’s because my kids are older and less demanding and no longer require me to be within two feet of them at all times. Perhaps it’s because I started paying much closer attention to ingredient lists. Or because my palate is becoming a bit more refined, preferring the taste of from-scratch to the taste of shelf-stable.

That being said, I also know my limitations. There are plenty of foods I’d like to make from scratch all the time, but I don’t want to spend my whole life in the kitchen (read: From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!). There are many foods I’ll make if I have extra time and energy, like bread or spaghetti sauce. Then there are the foods I always make myself, because compared to the store-bought version, they’re tastier (and usually cheaper) enough to make it worth my while.

Here are my top five:

1. Vinaigrette Dressing: We eat salads almost every night, and I used to buy a lot of bottled dressings. But it only takes minutes to make it ourselves.

Recipe for Quick Vinaigrette

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

2. Taco Seasoning: Tacos are practically a weekly fixture in our house, so we used to be stocked with seasoning packets. But when I started reading the fine print, I found questionable items like preservatives and even hydrogenated oils. Now I make a triple batch of this homemade seasoning and keep it in a jar in the pantry.

Recipe for Taco Potion #19

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

3. Waffles: My kids (and husband) love waffles. Years ago, Eggos were a staple in my grocery cart. Then I upgraded to Van’s. Then I got a waffle iron and everything changed. I make double batches of these on lazy weekend mornings, then squirrel them away in the freezer for weekdays.

Recipe for Yogurt & Flaxseed Waffles

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

4. Barbecue Sauce: My kids, like all little people, love to dip their food into various sauces. Many jarred barbecue sauce contains high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and preservatives. So we started making it ourselves and now prefer the taste.

Recipe for Homemade Barbecue Sauce

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom Nutrition

5. Pizza Dough: I’m a little obsessed with homemade pizza. Ever since tasting a friend’s dead-ringer-for-delivery homemade pizza, I’ve been experimenting with different crusts, techniques, and toppings (current parent favorite: spinach and sausage).

Here are the three pizza doughs in heavy rotation here:

Citizen Mom’s Homemade Pizza Dough
Perfect Pizza Crust from Dinner: A Love Story
Hometown Pizza from my book Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide

5 Foods I Don't Buy Anymore from Real Mom NutritionWhat foods do YOU always make yourself?


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Ever feel a 5pm wave of angst when you realize you have no idea what’s for dinner? I do. It’s a lousy feeling. Batch cooking and freezing is one of the best ways to replace that wave of angst with a wave of relief. Having a set of freezer-friendly recipes and expert instructions helps an […]

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From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!

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I believe that a diet based around whole foods is the way to go. I believe we should know what’s in our food, that we should strive to eat food that isn’t laden with preservatives and artificial flavors. Over the years, my suspicion about ingredients like artificial colors has grown, and I’ve become increasingly annoyed with […]

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