Ditch the Hummus: Three Nutrient-Dense Dips your Kids will Love and so will You!

Hummus has become a favorite snack food for kids and adults alike...it is touted as a health food because it is low fat. That alone should send up warning flags and caution nutrition-savvy moms not to buy it often. Or at least prompt them to add a bunch more EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) to it before serving. Every time I see kids digging into hummus--in their lunch box, at snack time, or served as a "healthy snack" for kids at school--preschools especially--it gives me pause. This is not to say that hummus every once in a while is not a good thing.  Once a week, twice a week, maybe. But every day? As "the" go-to snack? I think not.  Let's talk about why all this hummus eating gives me pause, and then I'll offer three kid-tested tried and true delicious, nutrient-dense dips to serve in your home. First of all, our bodies thrive when they are given a variety of foods and a variety of tastes...And also, I would bet that most of the hummus served is store-bought, which means that the garbanzo beans or chickpeas that make it up have probably not been soaked in a way to neutralize the anti-nutrients in them. (All legumes, grains, nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients which must be neutralized prior to cooking in order to make them digestible to humans. More on that and how to soak beans and whole grains may be found here and here and here.) So all that hummus you and the children are eating is full of anti-nutrients. Doesn't sound like something I would like to be serving my child every day. Not to mention the gastric distress of improperly soaked beans. (Once again, folks, flatulence IS NOT normal. It is a signal that the body is having a hard time digesting what you are eating.) While garbanzos are very high in calcium, phosphorus,  potassium, iron and vitamin C, making them almost a super-bean, they are also high in omega 6 fatty acids...yes, the fatty acids you don't want to consume a lot of.

If you are going to eat or serve hummus, soak your garbanzos well and long...1 cup dried in warm filtered water to cover along with 2 T of lemon juice or whey..for 24-48 hours. It is best to rinse them 2 or 3 times during the 24-48 hours, replacing the lemon juice or whey each time. I always say, "soak long!" Then drain, rinse, put in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and skim and discard any scum. Cover, and simmer for about 6 hours. If all that isn't enough, (yes, this is a labor of love, folks!) be sure to take off the skins of each bean before you eat them or puree them into hummus. Your body just does not need all that fiber. I like to kid people and say that they need to pick off the skin of each individual bean one by one; a very mindful exercise. ;) Remove skins easily by placing them in a large bowl, covering them with cold water, and rubbing handfuls together. Then pour off the water and the skins into the sink, taking care not to lose the beans down the drain. Do this several times until all the skins have been removed. :)garbanzos

So........here are my healthy, nutrient-dense dip alternatives. Kids can't get enough. And neither will you. These dips satisfy our need for healthy fats: extra virgin olive oil provides oleic acid, a stable monounsaturated fat and antioxidants.  Flax oil provides much needed omega 3s (especially if you eat out a lot or consume prepared foods often). Remember, growing children need fat--for brain and nervous system function, for endocrine system development (read hormones), for every  cell of their body. So don't skimp on the healthy fats! The dips are enzyme rich, and work synergistically with the other foods you are eating so that you feel satisfied after your meal. Raw egg yolks (please purchase only eggs from pastured hens!) provide the cholesterol needed for mental development, carotenoids, EFAs, vitamins A, E, D and K, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and more. Talk about a super food!!! (For a great analysis of the nutrients in egg yolks, see Chris Masterjohn's The Incredible, Edible Egg Yolk.) Anchovies are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as calcium, selenium and niacin. And they are low in mercury toxicity. Roquefort contains immune system boosting lauric acid, also found in buttermilk, breast milk and coconut oil. All of these ingredients will contribute to a more focused, calm and robust child. And a more focused, calm and robust you. Try them and see!

What shall they dip in the dips? Organic carrots, celery sticks, romaine lettuce leaves, cut up bell peppers-all colors, radish coins, slices of apple (skin on), baby spinach leaves, raw broccoli and cauliflower...skip the pita bread and chips! (Don't get me started on the anti-nutrients in grains and grain products...or the fact that almost all whole grain products available in stores have not been prepared in a way that they are even digestible...or the allergies connected to them, etc etc etc!) Children--and you--just don't need the grains that are store bought. Veggies are full of live enzymes, vitamins, and antioxidants. And they have plenty of fiber, too!

Fave Dip No. 1: Anchovy Dip! Don't let the name scare you off. Name it something else if you need to, like "my favorite dip" or "yummy dip". (You can't even taste the anchovies, honest!)

Makes about 1 cup

1 jar or can of anchovies (I like to use the ones rolled in capers for extra zing)

3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (expeller or cold-pressed and in a dark bottle--remember, oils go rancid in light--and heat and air!)

1 tablespoon flax oil--expeller pressed (Barleans is a good brand)

1 tablespoon lemon juice, from an organic lemon

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, raw

1 or 2 egg yolks (pastured, please)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (best salt I know due to high trace mineral content: Celtic Sea Salt by the Grain and Salt Society)

(Options: feel free to do 2 T of lemon juice and drop the acv, or 2 T acv and drop the lemon juice. Also, can substitute red wine vinegar for either the lemon juice or acv. )

Place all ingredients in a wide-mouth glass jar. Use immersion blender to emulsify--this will become as thick as a dip. Deeeeeelicious!!

Fave Dip No. 2: Blue Cheese Dip

Yes, the children will love this!

Makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (see note above)

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, raw (see notes about switching out all or some acv with lemon juice or red wine vinegar--all delicious)

1 tablespoon flax oil, expeller pressed (see note above)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons Roquefort cheese plus additional for chunks (all "blues" are not the same; Roquefort provides immune boosting lauric acid as it is made from sheep's milk. Other blue cheeses do not.)

Place all ingredients in a wide-mouth glass jar. Use immersion blender to emulsify--this will become as thick as a dip. Add more chunks of Roquefort after you have blended it.

Fave Dip No. 3: Caesar Dip! Yes, just like the salad dressing only thicker! Feel free to thin out with additional olive oil or lemon juice (or water if need be) to use as salad dressing

Makes about 1 cup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice (see note above re: substitutions)

1 tablespoon flax oil (see note above)

2 egg yolks, pastured

1 jar anchovies (see note above)

2 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a wide-mouth glass jar. Use immersion blender to emulsify--it will become as thick as a dip. Taste and add more Parmesan or garlic if desired.

And yes, these dips travel well in lunch boxes. Just add a cold pack, or place in a thermos when you take them out of the refrigerator.

Note: when refrigerated, these dips will solidify. Simply take them out of the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using, stir well with a fork, or run the jar under warm water for a few minutes. (Take care not to go over 118 F or you will lose the valuable enzymes!)