The fatty, sugary truth about those ‘healthy’ dips

Hummus, olive tapenade and guacamole may seem equally healthy choices, but not all dips are equal in calories and fat.

‘They can vary tenfold in their calorie content,’ says registered dietitian Helen Bond. 

‘A typical tomato salsa has 50 calories per 100g, while taramasalata could be 500 calories or more per 100g. Serve it using a tablespoon — roughly 20g — and have no more than a couple.’

What you eat with them matters, too. 

‘A handful of vegetable sticks adds around ten calories and can turn a dip into one of your five-a-day — but crisps can add 125 calories,’ says Helen, who assesses 12 popular dips here. We then rated each of them out of ten. 

OCADO GOLD KALAMATA BLACK OLIVE TAPENADE

Fact: Olives and olive oil make up more than 85 per cent of this, providing healthy monounsaturated fats that lower cholesterol

Fact: Olives and olive oil make up more than 85 per cent of this, providing healthy monounsaturated fats that lower cholesterol

150g, £1.77

Per 100g: calories, 221; saturated fat, 2.7g; protein, 1.7g; sugar, trace; salt, 3.9g

Olives and olive oil make up more than 85 per cent of this, providing healthy monounsaturated fats that lower cholesterol, and vitamin E that protects cells against damage. 

If you stick with 20g, providing an eighth of your daily salt limit, and eat with celery or carrot sticks, it’s a good choice; any more, and the salt mounts up.

Taste: Rich, salty olive flavour.

RATING: 7/10 

TRACKLEMENTS SMOKED CHIPOTLE SALSA 

Sweet and smoky: There's roughly half a teaspoon of added sugar in a 20g serving

Sweet and smoky: There’s roughly half a teaspoon of added sugar in a 20g serving

220g, £2.89 Per 100g: calories, 98; saturated fat, 0.5g; protein, 1.4g; sugar, 10.8g; salt, 1.3g

Red peppers, onions and tomatoes dominate this salsa, which is flavoured with smoked chipotle chillies.

The salsa supplies vitamin C and lycopene — the red pigment in tomatoes that has been linked with a lower risk of stroke and prostate cancer. Four tablespoons count as one of your five-a-day and the product is low in fat and calories. But it has added sugar, like most of the dips here — roughly half a teaspoon in a 20g serving. It’s also relatively high in salt.

Taste: Sweet and smoky with a nice heat.

RATING 4/10

HOLY MOLY SMASHED AVOCADO

DIY: This is 100 per cent avocado, so you could make your own more cheaply

DIY: This is 100 per cent avocado, so you could make your own more cheaply

150g, £2.79

Per 100g: calories, 160; saturated fat, 2g; protein, 2g; sugar, 1g; salt, 0g

This is 100 per cent avocado, so you could make your own more cheaply. It is healthy — avocado is rich in monounsaturated fats, said to reduce heart disease risk, and the dip has no added sugar or salt. 

You’d need to eat 80g — just over half the pot — for it to count as one of your five-a-day; this will also supply nearly 20 per cent of your recommended daily fibre and 21 per cent of your daily vitamin E.

Taste: Velvet-smooth, buttery avocado.

RATING 9/10

WHERE THE RIVER BENDS JALOPENO, CORIANDER AND LEMON PEA DIP  

Hungry? You’d need to eat over half the pot  for it to count as one of your five-a-day

Hungry? You’d need to eat over half the pot  for it to count as one of your five-a-day

150g, £2.79

Per 100g: calories, 160; saturated fat, 2g; protein, 2g; sugar, 1g; salt, 0g

This is 100 per cent avocado, so you could make your own more cheaply. It is healthy — avocado is rich in monounsaturated fats, said to reduce heart disease risk, and the dip has no added sugar or salt. 

You’d need to eat 80g — just over half the pot — for it to count as one of your five-a-day; this will also supply nearly 20 per cent of your recommended daily fibre and 21 per cent of your daily vitamin E.

Taste: Velvet-smooth, buttery avocado.

RATING 7/10

OCADO GOLD BEETROOT AND MINT DIP

MiX: This is made with 39 per cent beetroot, plus full-fat yogurt and soft cheese

MiX: This is made with 39 per cent beetroot, plus full-fat yogurt and soft cheese

150g, £1.77

Per 100g: calories, 122; saturated fat, 5.2g; protein, 3.6g; sugar, 5.2g; salt, 1g

This is made with 39 per cent beetroot, plus full-fat yoghurt and soft cheese. Beetroot is rich in nitrates, compounds linked to reduced blood pressure, though the research is based on far greater quantities — a few cups of beetroot juice a day, perhaps. 

A 40g serving of the dip will provide a little bone-friendly calcium from the full-fat dairy, but also nearly 10 per cent of your daily saturated fat limit, too.

Taste: Fresh and minty but a bit runny.

RATING 3/10 

A LITTLE BIT FOOD COMPANY: THYME AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH DIP

Good choice! This contains negligible added sugar and only 5 per cent of your daily limit of salt in a two-tablespoon serving

Good choice! This contains negligible added sugar and only 5 per cent of your daily limit of salt in a two-tablespoon serving

200g, £3.95

Per 100g: calories, 142; saturated fat, 0.8g; protein, 0.9g; sugar, 5.6g; salt, 0.8g

Butternut squash, which makes up 42 per cent of this dip, is a good source of vitamin A, important for skin and eyes. 

This contains negligible added sugar and only 5 per cent of your daily limit of salt in a two-tablespoon serving. Other ingredients include onion, rapeseed oil, apple cider vinegar and yellow pepper; yellow peppers provide three times the vitamin C of oranges.

Taste: Sweet but vinegary.

RATING: 8/10 

 MR ORGANIC RED CHILLI & GINGER SALSA

Careful: Tomatoes make up 80 per cent of this salsa, but there's also added sugar

Careful: Tomatoes make up 80 per cent of this salsa, but there’s also added sugar

200g, £2.49 Per 100g: calories, 129; saturated fat, 1.7g; protein, 1.9g; sugar, 8.4g; salt, 0.8g

Tomatoes make up 80 per cent of this salsa, and 100g (5 tbsp) will count as one of your five-a-day. But because of the added sugar — about a quarter of a teaspoon per tablespoon serving — this wouldn’t be a great idea. 

The dip contains the antioxidant lycopene, which needs some fat to be absorbed properly, supplied here by sunflower oil, which is also a source of vitamin E. There is too little ginger to do anything but add flavour.

Taste: Less chunky than most salsas, but the ginger really comes through. 

RATING 7/10 

MOORISH GARLIC AIOLI WITH SICILLIAN LEMON

Eek! The suggested 50g serving supplies a whopping 278 calories and 10 per cent of your daily saturated fat limit 

Eek! The suggested 50g serving supplies a whopping 278 calories and 10 per cent of your daily saturated fat limit 

150g, £1.99

Per 100g: calories, 556; saturated fat, 4.2g; protein, 0.5g; sugar, 1g; salt, trace

The suggested 50g serving supplies a whopping 278 calories and 10 per cent of your daily saturated fat limit. The culprit is full-fat mayonnaise, which is 92 per cent of the dip. Garlic purée and lemon juice make up 4 per cent each. 

The WHO recommends 2g to 5g garlic daily: it’s rich in the antioxidant allicin, thought to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, but it would be much better to have garlic cooked in a healthy meal.

Taste: Strongly garlicky.

RATING 1/10

Heavenly: Relax, it’s a healthy snack with good amounts of satiating protein...

Heavenly: Relax, it’s a healthy snack with good amounts of satiating protein…

THE VEGGIE PLOT CUCUMBER AND DILL SAVORY YOGURT 

150g, £1.79

Per 100g: calories, 58; saturated fat, 0.2g; protein, 9.2g; sugar, 1.7g; salt, 0.1g

This is just Greek yoghurt, cucumber and dill. You could have a half pot (75g) because it’s so low in calories and saturated fat. This would provide around 12 per cent of your daily calcium, good for bones, plus 20 per cent of the iodine needed for a healthy thyroid gland. 

There’s no added salt and if you eat it with a handful of vegetables or wholegrain breadsticks to top up your fibre, it’s a healthy snack with good amounts of satiating protein.

Taste: Like a herby tzatziki.

RATING: BEST PICK 

Not bad: The saturated fat content isn’t low but is balanced by lots of unsaturated fats, important for heart health

Not bad: The saturated fat content isn’t low but is balanced by lots of unsaturated fats, important for heart health

SABRA BABA GANOUSH AUBERGINE & TAHINI DIP

200g, £1.99

Per 100g: calories: 251; saturated fat, 2.8g; protein, 3.9g; sugar, 2.5g; salt, 1.6g

Aubergines — 41 per cent of this dip — are rich in anthocyanins, compounds in purple-skinned plants that may play a role in keeping arteries healthy. The saturated fat content isn’t low but is balanced by lots of unsaturated fats, important for heart health, which are supplied by the tahini (sesame paste). 

Tahini is also a valuable source of anaemia-protective iron, with about 5 per cent of your daily needs in two tablespoons of the dip, and about a tenth of your daily salt limit.

Taste: Creamy and smoky.

RATING 6/10 

Did you know? Artichokes are a good source of the B vitamin folate and magnesium

Did you know? Artichokes are a good source of the B vitamin folate and magnesium

ORGANICO SPRING ARTICHOKE DIP

140g, £3.10

Per 100g: calories, 149; saturated fat, 1.5g; protein, 1.4g; sugar, trace; salt, 2g

Made with 60 per cent artichokes plus onions, olive oil, herbs and lemon — although the fact they are organic won’t add anything nutritionally. Artichokes are a good source of the B vitamin folate and magnesium (two nutrients lacking in many diets), which can help reduce tiredness and fatigue. 

On the downside, this dip is high in salt, supplying an eighth of your daily limit in just two tablespoons (40g).

Taste: Delicate and fresh.

RATING 4/10

WAITROSE WORLD DELI CHARRED CORN CRUSH

Healthy: Corn, the main ingredient, is rich in zeaxanthin and lutein, which may help protect eyes from UV damage

Healthy: Corn, the main ingredient, is rich in zeaxanthin and lutein, which may help protect eyes from UV damage

160g, £2.60

Per 100g: calories, 133; saturated fat, 3.2g; protein, 4g; sugar, 4.4g; salt. 0.9g

This sweetcorn and cannellini bean dip topped with black turtle beans and red pepper feels more indulgent than the calorie count would indicate, though the suggested 80g serving should be your limit, as it contains 13 per cent of your daily saturated fat and 12 per cent of your daily salt (also 10 per cent of your daily fibre needs, which is a plus). 

Corn, the main ingredient, is rich in zeaxanthin and lutein, which may help protect eyes from UV damage.

Taste: Sweet and creamy.

RATING 8/10

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