I Wonder if Caterpillars Eat Ranch Dressing?

by Jennifer Donovan

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a book that should be in every young child’s library. I particularly like the board book version because I love the sturdiness and “play value” of board books, and just have a thing for them in general for toddlers and preschoolers especially.

If you aren’t familiar with the story (get thee to a library or bookstore now!), the caterpillar begins his day by chewing through one leaf.

Then he works his way through many other things — ice cream, salami, pears — leaving a real hole in the book as you turn the page. This binge leads to a tummy ache, and so he finishes off the day with another nibble from a healthy leaf, and then he uses all that fuel to do what caterpillars are meant to do as he transforms to a beautiful butterfly.

Food is fuel.

We don’t have to make every time we sit down with books a learning opportunity, but having stories like this in our children’s frame of reference are helpful in discussing healthy eating habits with them when they are looking for an after school snack. Food is fuel, and no one likes to get a tummy ache, so maybe seeing the illustration unfold through Eric Carle’s bright and beautiful collage art can help them see the results of their choices.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has teamed up with the American Academy of Pediatrics in an Eating Healthy, Growing Strong campaign, in which specially-created versions of The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Caterpillars might not eat Ranch, but kids do.

I don’t know if a little Hidden Valley Ranch dressing might have enticed that caterpillar to sit down to a bowlful of baby carrots instead of binging on everything else in sight, but it does tend to work that way with kids. Kids love to dip and most of them like the taste of ranch dressing too. Research has shown that kids eat more vegetables when paired with Ranch dressing, and I know that has played out here in my home as well. One day my 6-year-old son, 12-year-old daughter and I were sitting on the front porch together and we had one of the Hidden Valley Ranch cups of light Ranch dressing out with our carrots. Though we all like baby carrots, I know that we ate a lot more of those vitamin-rich carrots with a little dip.

You might think that adding fat to a healthy vegetable is not wise, but did you know that fat actually helps your body absorb vitamins?

Additionally, since our stomachs got full of the carrots, we didn’t end up doing like that little caterpillar did and work our way through the fridge, freezer, and pantry.

Do you have any tips that work in getting YOUR kids to eat their veggies? Let’s talk about it!

Disclosure: I am a sponsored member of the Hidden Valley Ranch Love Your Veggies Mom Panel. As always, my opinions are my own.

Original post by 5 Minutes for Mom contributor and 5 Minutes for Books managing editor Jennifer Donovan



Email Author    |    Website About Jennifer Donovan

Jennifer Donovan has been a part of the 5 Minutes for Mom team since 2007. She writes product reviews, covers events, and manages the 5 Minutes for Books weekly column and website. She lives in Houston and blogs at Snapshot about life with her family.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mom24 March 29, 2011 at 12:13 pm

This is probably going to sound obnoxious, but I promise I do not mean it that way. Learn to cook them right. My mom always prepared over-cooked, mushy veggies. No one really wants to eat that.

My kids love properly sauteed Brussels sprouts, sauteed just until carmalized, with some kosher salt. Grilled asparagus, with a tiny bit of olive oil and kosher salt is a favorite. Szechwan green beans they love. Sauteed green beans with garlic and salt. Broccolini sauteed with garlic is something they literally fight over. My hubby and I love roasted carrots, unfortunately my youngest two still only like them raw. They love salads, especially caesar. Steamed broccoli with lemon or ranch dressing, but cooked just until done, not mush. Pan sauteed yellow squash and zucchini. Grilled veggies of all kinds.

I do not believe in hiding vegetables or tricking kids. Doesn’t that just set up the idea that veggies are something to be not liked? Respect the veggie, respect the kids, offer them up but don’t make a big deal about it, and make sure they truly are yummy and, I believe, kids will naturally learn to enjoy them.

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2 Susan March 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm

It’s very true that how the veggies are prepared makes a huge difference. It sounds like you are a fabulous cook… can we come over for dinner? LOL

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3 Jennifer March 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Mom 24 — it doesn’t sound bad at all! My kids always ate veggies fairly well at home, but they won’t touch them at school where they are overcooked and underseasoned. Fortunately, they serve a lot more raw veggies at school now, and Kyle will pick those up.

Like yours, my kids eat a lot of veggies raw — carrots, bell peppers, snap peas. If I’m making a stir fry, I do put some on their plates, but I also leave some raw, because I know they’ll eat those.

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4 Kate March 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm

My kids love them some ranch! Our 3 toddlers just the other day ate a 1-lb bag of baby carrots with ranch…before dinner. I considered stopping them…but it’s carrots! Hello :)

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5 Jennifer March 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm

That’s what I figure, Kate!

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6 Janice March 29, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I can’t even begin to imagine the tons of Ranch dressing we go through in our house! It is the magic that makes the veggies go down! :)
My kids LOVE to dip their raw veggies and I usually serve them a plate of raw veggies with Ranch dressing before their main course.

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7 Erica March 29, 2011 at 3:10 pm

What a great idea for them to snack on raw veggies with ranch before the main course. I need to try this with my kids.

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8 Jennifer March 29, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Erica and Janice — I don’t even make my kids wait until an “appetizer” to the main course. Kyle (6) comes into the kitchen while I’m prepping and grabs all my raw veggies — carrots, peppers, even onions! I used to sort of stop him, but if he’s hungry, and it’s veggies, I’m okay with that.

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9 Erica March 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Funny story….I never ate ranch dressing as a kid. My parents only ever used Italian and they told me that they hated ranch. So I never tried it. When I was 17, I was working at a day care center over the summer in the 3-year-old classroom. One day they were given carrots and ranch for snack. I was hungry and made myself a plate and decided, although scared, to try them dipped in ranch. I could not believe how delicious it was and how neglected I had been for the past 17 years. So yes, my kids and I LOVE Ranch. I still think my parents refuse to eat it though. They don’t know what they’re missing.

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10 Jennifer March 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Ha! My husband is a Ranch-hater as well. He doesn’t like any sort of dip (sour creamy type stuff). But the kids and I like it.

We also like hummus, which has the added bonus of some protein.

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11 Susan March 29, 2011 at 4:07 pm

So far my girls ages 3 and 5 haven’t really taken to ranch dressing. Janice’s kids love it, but mine only sometimes will go for it.

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12 Jennifer March 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm

As I just mentioned to Erica, hummus is another thing we like, although it has even a stronger flavor than Ranch. It’s a pretty strong flavor, so I can understand some little ones not liking it.

There are some sweeter dressings, like a Creamy French, that might work to make them enjoy dipping veggies more.

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