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Beware Big Salad Dressing

There is a strange study showing up online this week about kids and broccoli. Entitled “Offering “Dip” Promotes Intake of a Moderately-Liked Raw Vegetable among Preschoolers with Genetic Sensitivity to Bitterness”, the study is sourced to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and looks into the problem of getting bitter-sensitive kids to eat broccoli.

Luckily, Hidden Valley Ranch dressing is here to save the day!

Wait, what?

Although the abstract of the study (linked above) doesn’t specify any brands, the press-release causing the study to pop up in Google News alerts is clearly written by someone associated with Hidden Valley. Following a summary of the study’s results (an 80% increase in raw veggie consumption if bitter-sensitive kids were given dressing to dip their broccoli in), the release launches into several “Hey, look at how good ranch dressing is for you!” paragraphs, with links to programs or resources to help you figure out ways to get ranch dressing (Hidden Valley Ranch dressing) into your kids. Oh, and also vegetables.

I understand that a study like this is really good news for Hidden Valley. They can point to an apparently objective study (I don’t know where the funding for the research came from) and start the “Give your kids ranch dressing!” parade. But the difference between truth and spin is this, dear parents: While Hidden Valley will offer this up alongside their “Eat ranch!” marketing, the data of the study are themselves very limited: An 80% increase in veggie consumption for kids with bitterness sensitivity. Not for all kids (and the study claims no change for the kids with no sensitivity.) But because the data shows something a little positive, it will be blown up into “HIDDEN VALLEY RANCH DRESSING IS A SUPER HEALTH FOOD!!!!” Keep your guard up. Learn from statistics what the statistics tell you, not what someone wants you to believe when waving statistics in your face.

Now, I give my kids dips for veggies. I give them ranch dressing. Hell, I probably give them Hidden Valley Ranch dressing if it’s the one that is on sale. But I never do it thinking “This will make my kids healthier, because it promotes eating veggies!” I’m just lazy. (I don’t want to sit there and say “Eat your broccoli. Eat your broccoli. Eat your broccoli” to a kid who isn’t sensitive to bitterness, so I let them have dressing. And then, of course, what they want to eat is the dressing. Ketchup on everything! Ranch on spaghetti!) I don’t beat myself up about it, but I also don’t avoid the food guilt I should feel for giving them that stuff instead of insisting the kids eat their veggies as veggies.

Don’t be fooled by the spin Big Dressing is going to put on this.

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