Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Great Debate- Is Ranch Dressing Healthy?

It is an honest question, and last week it was honestly posed by an intuitive student- is ranch dressing healthy?  Sadly, the answer is- yes and no- or, it depends. Let me explain.

First let's tackle the answer 'yes'.

If we are asking whether dressing that is ranch seasoned is healthy, then, yes it is. Such a dressing is made with a general base of oil and vinegar. A cream is added in the form of buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt. Finally we add the ranch style seasonings- parsley, garlic, onion, dill, chives and salt/pepper. This dressing itself is naturally lower in fat, sodium, and calories (not to mention chemical additives) than it's shelf companion.

Then let's tackle the likely answer 'no'.

Common ranch dressing found of the store shelves is, in general, not a healthy choice. Let's look at the nutrition label, bearing in mind that a serving is two tablespoons.

Hidden Valley Ranch
- 140 calories
- 14 grams fat
- 260 mg sodium
Kraft Ranch
- 130 calories
- 13 grams fat
- 370 mg sodium
Hidden Valley Ranch Light
- 80 calories
- 7 grams fat
- 290 mg sodium
Kraft Light Ranch
- 80 calories
- 6 grams fat
- 440 mg sodium

Home made ranch made with Greek yogurt and very little salt- this recipe is from Slender Kitchen:
Homemade Ranch Seasoning Mix
Servings: 8
Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Nutritional Information: under 20 calories

Finally, let us look at the answer 'it depends'.

Is ranch dressing the only way vegetables are going to be consumed? Can you limit yourself to the serving size and/or opt for one that has a bit healthier ingredient list?
Sometimes nutrition is relative to the situation and to the person. A ten year old who has never eaten vegetables, who tries veggies with ranch and likes them will benefit from the ranch dressing- in moderation, of course. Hopefully, the child's tastes will improve with age and/or will adjust to a healthier ranch dressing.

As for myself, I am not a ranch dressing eater- never have been. Two of my children love it, leading me to make home made ranch dressing for several years. I have purchased various brands that use yogurt and less chemical additives- they were fine.

So, you ask, how did I answer the student? Knowing the student and their nutrition profile, my response was to keep an eye on the portion and read the label because there is always room for improvement.

The recipe for Slender Kitchen's home made ranch:
  • 1/2 cup dry buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley, crushed
  • 2 tsp dried dill weed
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried onion flakes
  • 2 tsp dried chives
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  1. Mix all of the spices together and store in an airtight container.
  2. To make a quick and easy ranch dressing, mix 3/4 cup non fat Greek yogurt or sour cream and 1 tbsp of homemade ranch seasoning. If you want a thinner dressing, mix in 1/8-1/4 cup skim milk.

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