A plate of hummus, vegetables, and chips. Hummus is a healthy dip.

It’s not a party without dip, and fortunately, there are plenty of healthier options instead of calorie-packed spinach dip and gooey seven-layer dip. In fact, some dips are actually good for you.

“Healthier dips can augment the diet with food groups that you’re falling short on,” says Joan Salge Blake, Ed.D., R.D.N., nutrition professor at Boston University.

Nutritious ingredients that Americans tend to not get enough of—like vegetables, beans, and dairy—now play a starring role in many of the dips you’ll find at the grocery store. We looked at the nutrition pros and cons of several popular dips, and came up with ways to make all of them healthier.  

Salsa

This all-vegetable condiment truly is a skinny dip. You can have half a cup for around 40 calories and get 2 ½ grams of fiber, plus the antioxidant lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C. Bonus: That amount counts as one of your daily vegetable servings. Hot salsas will also give you a hit of capsaicin, a plant chemical that some studies suggest help you feel more satisfied, possibly curbing calorie intake.

Watch out for: Sodium. Even a standard 2-tablespoon serving has around 250 mg—about 15 percent of the sodium most people should have in one day. “There’s quite a range in sodium among store-bought salsas, so you have to compare brands,” says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads CR’s food-testing lab. 

Make it healthier: Blend tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro, and jalapeños (if you like them) with a squeeze of lime juice in the food processor for a low-cal salsa with very little sodium.

Guacamole

The avocados that are the main ingredient in this creamy green dip are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, the type that helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol when consumed in place of saturated fats. Eating guacamole along with other vegetables can also help enhance the absorption of nutrients in the vegetables, such as alpha- and beta-carotene, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition.

More On Healthy Snacking

Watch out for: Oversized portions. “The drawback of guacamole is it can be high in calories,” Siegel says. A 2-tablespoon serving has about 50 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, 2 grams of fiber, and about 130 mg of sodium (although some brands have more). Spoon the serving size that makes sense for you onto a plate, so you can keep tabs on how much you’re eating.            

Make it healthier: Make a 50-50 mix of guacamole and lower-sodium salsa to tone down calories but still get loads of flavor and healthy fat, Salge Blake says. If you make your own guacamole, be sure the avocados are soft and ripe. You can speed ripening by putting the avocados in a paper bag with an apple or a banana. These fruits produce a gas called ethylene, which can trigger ripening in other fruits.

Hummus

This Middle Eastern dip is made from mashed chickpeas seasoned with lemon juice, garlic, and oil or tahini (sesame-seed paste). A 2-tablespoon serving has roughly 50 calories, 0.5 gram of saturated fat, and 114 mg of sodium. It also packs around 2 grams of fiber and 2.5 grams of protein—a satiating combo.

Watch out for: Overdoing the carb-rich chips or crackers. “We’re not falling short in the grain group,” Salge Blake says. Portion out a serving to stay balanced.

Make it healthier: “Hummus and other bean spreads pair well with crudités and wheat or multigrain crackers,” Siegel says. Try carrots and celery sticks, bell pepper strips, grape tomatoes, or fennel slices, but really, any veggie will do. Or serve it with half vegetables, half chips (and preferably make the chips whole-grain). “The crowd goes after both,” Salge Blake says. “as long as they’re present and convenient.” 

Greek Yogurt Dip

A newer alternative to sour cream-based dips, Greek yogurt dips are creamy but have far fewer calories and less fat—around 25 to 30 calories and 1 to 2.5 grams of fat per 2-tablespoon serving. They also tend to be higher in protein—around 2 grams per serving.

Watch out for: Hidden ingredients. Some contain nothing more than Greek yogurt and spices, like you’d make in your kitchen. Others mix in higher-calorie additions such as feta cheese and downright weird ones like menhaden fish oil. “You’ve really got to read the label,” Siegel says.

Make it healthier: Check the label to see how much of your daily need for bone-building calcium the dip has. The most calcium-rich Greek yogurt dips contain around 4 percent of the daily value—not too shabby for a 2-tablespoon serving. For those that contain less, you can mix equal parts dip with plain nonfat Greek yogurt to add in more nutrition per dunk, Salge Blake says.  

Ranch/Onion Dip

The quintessential party dip is a packet of onion soup or ranch mix blended with sour cream, or their premade refrigerated equivalents. While nutrition varies widely depending on the product, they’ll generally run you around 60 to 100 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat, 180 mg of sodium, and no fiber per 2-tablespoon serving.

Watch out for: Products made with full-fat sour cream; they’re higher in saturated fat. What’s more, they may not even taste better. “In the past when we’ve done taste tests of dips, we didn’t find much of a difference between reduced-fat and fat-free sour creams,” Siegel says.  

Make it healthier: Look for products made with nonfat Greek yogurt or reduced-fat or fat-free sour cream for a saturated-fat and calorie savings. You can also make your own by combining nonfat Greek yogurt with minced garlic, dill, and scallions.