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For kids, two of the most dreaded words you can utter are "healthy snack." But this doesn't have to be the case if you take advantage of the magic of dipping.

Kids love to dip and it's easy to turn this playing with food into a fun way to get them to eat more of what's healthy, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and low-fat dairy products.

There are plenty of dips you can purchase that work, including all-natural peanut butter (avoid brands with added sugar or hydrogenated fats). Offer dippers such as apple or pear slices, vegetable sticks, or low-fat, whole-grain breadsticks and pretzels.

Applesauce also makes a great fruity dip for breadsticks and pretzels. Opt for all-natural varieties with no added sugar or other fillers. If you like, you can doctor it up by adding a bit of ground cinnamon or even apple pie spices.

Savory hummus is made with fiber- and nutrient-rich chickpeas blended with healthy oils, such as olive and canola. It's an excellent dip for crunchy fresh veggies, pretzels or whole-grain pita chips.

Jarred tomato-based pasta sauces, especially those made with other added vegetables, can be a concentrated source of good nutrition. Serve with whole-grain breadsticks, low-fat string cheese or fresh cut vegetables.

If you want to offer a tomato sauce that's a bit more exciting, you can make this easy pepperoni pizza dip in about 5 minutes. The recipe calls for canned tomato sauce and reduced-fat pepperoni. It goes well with part-skim cheese sticks or whole-grain breadsticks.

For a sweeter take, tangy yogurt is used as a base for a banana-peanut butter dip that can be whipped up in your blender in just a few minutes and served with fresh apple or pear slices.

pepperoni pizza dip with mozzarella sticks

Start to finish: 5 minutes

8-ounce can no-salt tomato sauce

1/4 cup chopped reduced-fat pepperoni (about 16 slices)

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

4 part-skim mozzarella or string cheese sticks

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomato sauce, pepperoni, oregano and basil. Blend until smooth. Divide the mixture among 4 small dishes and serve with mozzarella sticks for dipping.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 119 calories (63 from fat), 7g fat (4g saturated, 0g trans fats), 24mg cholesterol, 6g carbohydrates, 11g protein, 1g fiber, 378mg sodium.

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Start to finish: 10 minutes

2 medium bananas, peeled and cut into 4 pieces each

2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1/3 cup nonfat vanilla yogurt (3 ounces)

4 apples, cored and cut into wedges

In a blender or food processor, combine the bananas, peanut butter and yogurt. Blend until smooth. Divide the mixture among 4 small dishes and serve with apple wedges for dipping.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 189 calories (40 from fat), 4g fat (1g saturated, 0g trans fats), 1mg cholesterol, 37g carbohydrates, 4g protein, 5g fiber, 48mg sodium.