Interesting article about kids and ranch dressing

ynnejAugust 18, 2012

Are ranch dressing and cheese sauces really the way to get kids to enjoy vegetables or are we just setting kids up to view veggies as tasteless foods that have to be disguised? This article explores this question, along with Jessica Seinfeld's (and often my) method of "sneaking" vegetables into popular kids foods, usually by means of pureeing. I had an interesting experience last week- my friends and their kids came over for a barbecue. They brought a salad, assuming that we would have ranch. I offered a Greek salad dressing or to make a vinaigrette, and they chose to go to the store, saying, "No, we only like ranch." "I want to try the Greek dressing," their 5 year old said. "You won't like it," said their mom. Interesting. Maybe she was worried that he would embarrass her by saying, "yuck," I don't know.

Here is a link that might be useful: kids and ranch

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You can make your own ranch dressing you know....and make it as low fat and low(er) salt as you can get away with.

I say there is no shame no matter how you get the kids to eat the veggies!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 2:32PM
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I do know. But isn't it just a fact that people tend to glob on quite a bit more dressing when it's ranch as opposed to a vinegar based one? And are we setting them up to like veggies, or ranch? I worked at a pizza restaurant where the owner decided to start charging for each additional ranch cup. People went absolutely bonkers.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 2:39PM
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I don't really see much of a distinction between using ranch dressing to cover up a veggie and hiding a pureed vegetable in a brownie. I often use spinach or zucchini in cake and brownies, but I don't keep it a secret. It's just a way to use the zillion zucchini I have grown and a way to keep the cakes moist. But I serve plenty of zucchini billed as - zucchini, and they eat it as well.

I like ranch dressing, but I adore just plain old vinegar and oil too. But I like lots of dressing on my salads, so I tend to go with the vinegar and oil (not a whole lot of oil) most of the time.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 3:34PM
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Are we setting them up to like meat or catsup....are we setting them up to like baked potatoes or sour cream and salt, are we setting them up to like fruit or the sugar on it, milk or the chocolate in it?

Ranch out of a bottle doesn't spread it's hard to get all covered with a little bit....add milk to make it thinner and more garlic powder.

I love asparagus with hollandaise sauce and broccoli with cheese sauce and definitely eat more when it has those things on it.

Trust do outgrow the fixation with all things RANCH! I have one grandson who is into Ceasar dressing...on everything! and another who is into Sweet baby Ray's on everything and another who wants Frank's Hot Sauce on me, when they are 25 they will have outgrown that.

Don't sweat the small stuff....they are eating thankful!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 3:35PM
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Don't sweat the small stuff....they are eating thankful!


The closest thing I can get into my kids in the way of vegetables is V8 Fusion.

I love Jerry, but Jessica's book is an absolute joke. She should be ashamed of herself. Here are some examples of "sneaking in" vegetables.

Beef Stew - Serves 8-10 - Secret Ingredient: 1/2 cup broccoli puree

Lasagne - Serves 8-10 - Secret Ingredient: 1/2 cup potato puree and 1/2 cup cauliflower puree

(Interesting note on this one - Potatoes need to be snuck in but they're a visible ingredient in the Beef Stew. Go figure.)

Burgers - Serves 4 - Secret ingredient: 1/2 cup cauliflower or carrot puree.

Do the math and you'll see she's not adding more than a tablespoon or two of veggies to the meals. That warranted a cookbook?! Worst $24.95 I've spent on a cookbook.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 4:43PM
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I just thought it was worth exploring. This ranch craze is fairly new. It wasn't until a few years ago that fast food chains started to offer ranch as a condiment as opposed to fat free ketchup or mustard, and if you are keeping up with food blogs or Pinterest you will see that it doesn't seem to be something adults are growing out of. It used to be that doctors were advising us to put chocolate syrup in our kids milk- did that really teach any of us to enjoy the taste of milk? It was certainly not my intention to shame anyone, especially when they are merely following the advice of dietitians.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 7:31PM
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Well....I don't do fast food places....but I can for sure tell you that since 2006 when I first cooked a meal for the church kids on a wednesday night....I discovered it's all about Ranch.
Many people believe it is a good thing to add chocolate to kids milk....added calcium not a lot of extra fat and if you put it into skim milk...not an issue and if you add your own rather than buying chocolate milk in the bottle, you can reduce the amount of chocolate you add and so the amount of sugar.
Take away the sugared cereal and let them have all the chocolate milk they want.....better nutrition in the long run. Nix the Captain Crunch and skim milk....give them Cheerios and chocolate milk!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:31PM
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ynney - Sorry, my reaction was pure jealousy of the fact that there are kids out there who eat their veggies, even if totally killed with dressing. Your point is well taken. Comparing the Hidden Valley Light Ranch in my fridge to the bottle of Newman's Light Balsamic, the ranch is about twice as bad. I'd take it in a heartbeat though.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:58PM
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A lot of veggies DO taste bad. Most families don't buy local, fresh, in season and then prepare them well. If I had to eat slimy baby carrots from a bag, I'd drown them in ranch too. You can't appreciate the natural good taste if there isn't any!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 9:27PM
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Lol Foas. I liked the points you made about her book. And ditto on the slimy baby carrots!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 9:50PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Most packaged ranch dressings are heavy on msg which might be why the flavor is so alluring.
When I first had it decades ago, and we made it in a jar with mayo, buttermilk and that distinctive green package, it was such a brand new flavor to me, that for years I loved salads.
I have such weird ideas about food, my best friend gave her kids still frozen mixed vegetables as snacks when they were young. No sugar or at least very rarely. All her kids grew up to not like sugar and become very healthy, athletic adults. I wish my mother had done that to me instead of creating the passion for it!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 10:32PM
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Why on earth was that mother saying "You won't like it?" Nothing like setting your kid up to not like something.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 10:46PM
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Or I wonder if he would have loved it just to spite her. Something I probably would have done :) I don't know. They were definitely on a ranch mission, though. Frozen mixed vegetables- I just can't get behind that one!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:24PM
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BB, I can't get behind the frozen mixed vegetables either. I'd be thinking she was making sure her kids never wanted to eat a vegetable again, not the other way around!

That said, I grew up in a family where we ate a lot of vegetables, very few sweets and little sugar. Soft drinks were nearly unheard of, a treat reserved for birthdays when Grandma would split a can of root beer between the three of us kids. Desserts invariably contained fruit. we were allowed tea but it was served without anything added so no sugar. Still, I grew up to like sugar and desserts.

Both of my girls were raised in the same household and ate the same things. Amanda still passes up desserts, cookies, etc., in favor of fresh fruits or veggies from the garden. Ashley eats junk on a constant basis. They are both slim but Ashley is far more healthy.

So, I'm not sure that you can teach your kids not to like sweets by not giving them any. Plus, it would end the minute they start school.

Both of my grandkids despise ranch dressing. Makayla won't eat a food that's dunked into anything, not even a cookie dunked in milk. She likes broccoli but wants it without any sauce and even pasta gets eaten without sauce unless it's macaroni and cheese. No BBQ sauce on grilled meats, no catsup for french fries. Everything is eaten plain. Bud wants Heinz catsup, I think because he sees his Dad put it on everything but he also likes BBQ sauce.

Ashley loves ranch and dunks everything in it, even pizza.

I don't like ranch at all, so I don't keep it but I've been known to dunk a biscotti in coffee!


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:41PM
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I'm allergic to msg, ranch is loaded with it. I think that msg might have some addictive qualities. So does cheese. You can teach kids to be familiar with certain foods and to have an open mind and to be polite when eating. But the rest is mostly luck. My mom thought she was such a good mom because I ate everything, and then my uber picky brother came along. He has food sensitivities though. But he is concerned about eating healthy and does eat vegetables, but like Makalya, he is adament about eating things "plain." He even eats salad with just salt and pepper! But one of his food sensitivities is vinegar, and another is soy, so that explains his salad dressing aversion.

Mom plied us with fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks when we were kids. Sugary stuff was limited. These are good habits for all folks to pick up and it does help kids I think to become familiar with a variety of foods. But my dad is a junk food junkie so she had to accomodate him and we got exposed to it. Still, my brother and I don't do junk foods because we want to avoid all the health problems my folks got in their old age. We'll probably get other ones though! :)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 8:04AM
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Hunger is the best appetizer.

From what I have seen, people in areas where children are not overfed, they tend to be less picky about food as they are growing up.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 8:34AM
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You can make your own ranch dresssing without MSG....and I believe the commercial stuff doesn't contain MSG any more.
I also am allergic to MSG...and for years had miserable head aches. Finally figured it was the Ranch dressing, cheetoes and the canned soups and powdered mixes for salad dressings and onion soup. People made dips from sour cream and a package of dry soup mix....ugh!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 9:27AM
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Am I the only one who hates ranch dressing? There's something about the flavor that doesn't work for me. I dislike most gloppy (i.e. creamy) dressings though in a pinch I can deal with blue cheese dressing as long as it's not too much. Generally, I'd rather have my salad or vegetable stick bare if I can't get a good vinaigrette. My kids were never into ranch or other creamy dressings. One of them still prefers no dressing.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 1:18PM
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Nope...I really really love creamy dressings....Blue Cheese, 1000 Island, Green Goddess (be still my heart!) Green peppercorn, creamy garlic....
Lettuce is just a carrier for the dressing!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 1:30PM
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cloud swift,

We hate ranch dressing in this house too. In Canada, there is a much greater variety of salad dressings available. We actually take a small bottle of our favourite dressing in our checked luggage when we go to Hawaii every year.

I can only speak about my experience, but children can be really stupid about food. Mine would rather starve than eat something they "think" they won't like, and they will often go without if it means they have to prepare it themselves.

I let them use the dressing quite liberally in their salads because it is difficult getting them to eat vegetables without some sort of sauce or dressing. My youngest son told me a few months ago that he would give me some of his allowance IF I would stop cooking with onions! Good luck hiding vegetables in cooked food in this house....mine have been known to pick off every minute fleck of green or orange.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 2:35PM
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Cloud, I hate Ranch dressing too :(
I would rather eat my vegetables w/o any dressing at all or with lemon juiceand olive oil (my preffered way), My husband is the same way, but our daughter likes most types of dressings, creamy or not. Never had issues with her not loving vegetables. I guess I am lucky. She loves all types of vegetables fresh or cooked as far as they are not overcooked (me too).

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 3:43PM
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Personally, I love veggies and have served them to my kids all of their lives. When my son was 6, he informed me seriously, "Mom, I'm a carnivore!". Still, he would eat his broccoli, so I didn't complain. He's never been a 'dipper'. My daughter loves ranch and Caesar dressing and will dip cauliflower or carrots as a snack. They've grown up with veggies unsneaked and served straight up--or with minimal dressing up. They through and out of picky stages, and now as teens they're fairly adventurous eaters. They love my roasted vegetable samosas, and will almost always try just about anything served to them. Meat on the side, of course--the hubs likes his meat so I've reached a balance. I have never nagged them much about sugar or sweets, and I took a lot of heat for that from certain family members who are a lot more strict than I was. While both went through stages where they'd overdo it, as teenagers they are more conservative and do self-limit. Both are label readers and have become conscious of serving sizes, calories, fat and carbs. They are both of healthy weights, though my son was chubby in his early years and I worried a little. I now breathe a huge sigh of relief. :-)

I have a sister in law that was very strict about what her children must eat during each meal, and extremely limiting of sugary items and anything 'fattening'. While her children are all thin as rails and healthy in their teens, when mom isn't around they do not self limit sugar or fat consumption at all. I've seen two of them demolish an entire bag of Oreos in less than 15 minutes. (the big pack!) Still, every child responds to parental controls in their own way--what works for one may not work for another. I try not to criticize, but I do feel that not making a huge deal out of food is more conducive to developing a healthy attitude towards it.

Just my $.02 and sorry for the ramble...


    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 4:16PM
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"From what I have seen, people in areas where children are not overfed, they tend to be less picky about food as they are growing up."

I'm not sure I agree with that statement. If it were true then why does our government drop regional MREs into refugee areas? Because people won't eat food that is strange, to them. Adults & kids alike. If MREs filled with crispy crickets and, oh I don't know, say poi to go along with those crickets were dropped into St. Louis after a natural disaster I'm betting that there would be folks who chose to go hungry. It's human nature to be suspicious of the unfamilar.

Personally, even as an adult I still struggle with vegetables. I am not fond of bitter flavors and find many veggies difficult on my stomach, especially greens. So, I find other ways of picking up those vitamins, fiber, etc. in my diet instead of brussel sprouts, kale, cauliflower, etc. My DH thanks me for my thoughtfulness. :)


    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 4:37PM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Cj, I do so agree with not making a big deal about food. My friends kids did get desserts, usually when company frequently came, or ice cream out, but it was never a big deal. Just something enjoyable. She has a terrific, upbeat personality and her enthusiasm for life applied to vegetables too.
My mother, however, regularly bought me candy bars.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 5:21PM
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I don't really understand how this turned into a conversation about food restriction, and I think we can all point to instances we know of personally where that has both failed and worked, sometimes even in the same family, as has been pointed out. I don't think there is anything wrong with ranch dressing once in a while, and if it's homemade, all the better. I'm just not convinced that it teaches anyone to enjoy veggies, and think it may be more effective to highlight flavors rather than drown them.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 7:51PM
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I've never believed in hiding vegetables if the idea behind the hiding was to trick someone in to eating something they did not like.

And when Matthew decided he liked the ranch dip that accompanied take out pizza and wanted me to buy a bottle, I showed him how to make his own. He learned to make a black pepper and parmesan ranch and season it to suit his own taste with garlic. I've never bought bottled dressings. Homemade are so much better.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 6:03PM
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There were some freebies in my grocery sack the other envelope of dry gravy mix ( just stir into water and zap in the micro! EWWW!) one of an Italian dressing powdered mix and one of Ranch, to mix with milk and mayo.....and the 2nd ingredient on the list was the commercial stuff does have MSG in it.
Joel prefers his salads with just balsamic vinegar....the $15 a bottle kind....but likes ranch on other those envelopes will go to college next month.

Interesting I know someone for whom Thanksgiving is a grilled turkey brought by someone else, mashed potato flakes, a jar of gravy, canned green beans with canned soup, a box of stuffing mixed with a can of chicken broth and a can of cranberries and a pie from the grocery store bakery. But her family just loves it when I cook the real thing....go figure!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 3:22PM
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I'm not sure I agree either. In countries where kids are truly starving, it may be mostly true, and it certainly helps if the parents aren't trying to shove it down their throats, but pickiness seems to have a strong innate component, and all animals with adequate brainpower are prone to strong, persistent, conditioned aversions around food to keep them safe from poisoning.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 4:19PM
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