Super Bowl Sunday has got to be the biggest day for veggie platters. I’m sure graduation party season and the Fourth of July come close, but there’s no major day quite as synonymous with ranch dressing. It’s like a little logic puzzle: When people watch football, they eat wings. When they eat wings, they eat ranch dressing. When people eat ranch dressing, they eat raw vegetables.
So really, Super Bowl Sunday is actually just a very big day for ranch. Ranch seems like it’s just a little extra pizazz, some razzle-dazzle, some jazz hands for your overall meal. But nutritionally, ranch can end up playing a leading role in the whole production. A single serving of Hidden Valley bottled ranch dressing — just two measly tablespoons, about the size of a golfball — alone contains 15 grams of fat, or 22 percent of your daily recommended allowance. There are also light and fat-free versions out there, but gag. If you’re fancy, the Hidden Valley ranch seasoning packets, which call for straight milk and mayo, are actually a bit better than the bottled stuff and take up around 18 percent of your daily fat. For the record, the mixed-at-home variety Ranch tastes way better, too.
Regardless, you know damn well you’re going to consume more than a golf-ball-size portion of ranch. Between wings, carrot sticks and God’s Ranch Vehicle, celery, you’re probably going to consume a bucket of golf balls by the end of the game. Now, veggies are good for you and all, but does consuming a fuck-ton of ranch negate those benefits?
According to Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and a media spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the answer, thankfully, is no. “Only 1 out of 10 Americans are getting enough fruits and vegetables,” he says. “So the calories and fat in the ranch do not [emphasis mine] negate the nutritional benefits received from vegetables. I see it as a way to enhance the eating experience. I’d rather people do that than not eat any vegetables at all.”
He’s right about their importance: Vegetables contain all kinds of micronutrients that can be challenging to source elsewhere. Even if you’re loading up on fat and calories from ranch, your body still benefits from, say, the massive dose of vitamin A in a serving of carrots.
On a regular day, one where you might be more conscious about serving sizes, one can get the best of both worlds by simply being careful to measure out two tablespoons of dressing, or trying other moderation techniques. “If someone is worried about the calories, they can choose to dip a fork in a bowl of dressing and eat each bite of salad in that fashion,” says Valdez, who also recommends switching from traditional bottled dressing to yogurt-based ones, which tend to be much lower in fat and calories without sacrificing flavor in the way fat-free versions might.
It’s no biggie to let loose on a special occasion like Super Bowl Sunday, though, if that makes you happy. Have all the ranch you want, then return to your life the next day, hungover and content with your choices.