Nutrients, Benefits, and How to Make It

Spinach dip is a tasty, easy-to-make dip that’s a perfect party food or appetizer for a crowd.

Still, not all spinach dips are created equal. Some are calorie-dense and contain a lot of saturated fat and sodium while others are lighter, filled with vegetables, and offer healthy fat and protein.

Both store-bought and homemade spinach dips can be healthy or unhealthy depending on the ingredients and what foods you serve it with.

This article explores spinach dip’s nutrients, benefits, and drawbacks, as well as tips for making your own healthy version.

Spinach dip is a popular party spread that can be served warm or cold and is often paired with bread, crackers, chips, or vegetables for dipping.

Recipes differ widely, though it’s typically made with a creamy base, herbs, spices, onion, garlic, and — necessarily — spinach.

Some spinach dips use dairy or plant-based yogurt as the base whereas others use mayonnaise or cream cheese. Depending on the recipe, the dip may include cheese or other vegetables like artichokes.

You can buy pre-made spinach dips at the grocery store or make it at home.

summary

Spinach dip’s common ingredients include a creamy base, spinach, and various herbs and spices. Heavy versions use mayonnaise or cream cheese as the base while lighter versions may use yogurt.

The calorie count and other nutrition facts depend on how the spinach dip is made.

For example, yogurt-based dips boast more protein and less fat than a mayonnaise or cream-cheese based dip. Adding cheese and oils will add fat, including some saturated fat from the cheese.

Nutrition facts for basic spinach dip recipes

The following chart outlines the nutrition facts for 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of homemade spinach dip made with yogurt, regular mayo with sour cream, or light mayo with light sour cream (1, 2, 3).

Nutrition facts for popular brands of spinach dip

The next chart reveals the nutrient facts for around 2 tablespoons (28–32 grams) of common store-bought spinach dips (4, 5, 6).

summary

Spinach dip typically contains 30–100 calories per 2-tablespoon (30-gram) serving. It’s generally low in fiber and moderate to high in fat.

Spinach dip tends to be more of an indulgent, occasional treat — but depending how you make it, it may offer some health benefits.

May boost your vegetable intake

The amount of spinach in spinach dip varies significantly from one brand to another, as well as one recipe to the next.

If you make it yourself, you can include more spinach and even other vegetables like artichokes, which can boost your veggie — and nutrient — intake.

Spinach (both fresh and frozen) is a good source of fiber, several B vitamins, and vitamins A, C, E, K. It also contains minerals like iron, magnesium, calcium, manganese, potassium, and copper (7, 8).

If you add artichokes, you’ll get extra fiber, folate, and vitamins C and K (9).

Serving this dip with veggie sticks made from carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, broccoli, celery, or zucchini may also help you meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) recommended 2–3 cups (120–200 grams) of vegetables per day (10).

Since only 9% of Americans meet this guidance, finding ways to eat more vegetables is essential for overall health (11).

May serve as a filling snack

Spinach dip made with Greek yogurt and vegetable oil-based mayonnaise may contribute protein and healthy fats to your diet, both of which can help you feel full (12, 13).

When paired with either high fiber veggies or fiber-rich whole grain crackers or bread, it may be even more filling (12, 13).

Choosing snacks that are enjoyable and filling may help you eat less overall and maintain a healthy weight. However, it can be easy to overeat snacks, so be sure to eat mindfully and stop when you’re full (13, 14).

summary

Versions of spinach dip made with plenty of veggies and sources of protein like Greek yogurt may boost your nutrient intake and help you stay full.

Some spinach dips provide very few nutrients and may contribute excess calories, saturated fat, and sodium to your diet.

May provide saturated fat

Depending on the recipe or product, spinach dip may be high in saturated fat — especially if it’s made with full fat cream cheese or other cheeses.

For example, 1/4 cup (60 grams) of store-bought spinach dip made with parmesan and cream cheese contains 6 grams of saturated fat (15).

While some studies suggest that too much saturated fat may raise cholesterol and your risk of heart disease and diabetes, other research has found no link between saturated fat intake — especially from dairy foods — and increased risk of heart disease (16, 17, 18, 19).

That said, the USDA recommends keeping saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total calories, or about 22 grams for someone eating 2,000 calories per day (10).

The American Heart Association (AHA) has an even lower threshold of less than 6% of calories, or 13 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet (20).

If you decide to watch your saturated fat intake, choose a yogurt-based spinach dip that’s light on the cheese — or skips it altogether.

May be calorie dense

Most spinach dips range from 50–100 calories per 2-tablespoon (30–gram) serving. Yet, it’s reasonable to assume that most people eat more than this amount of dip at one sitting. A more realistic serving size is probably 1/4 cup (60 grams), which packs 100–200 calories.

When paired with chips, bread, or crackers, spinach dip may easily become high in calories.

Studies indicate that eating high calorie snacks may lead you to eat more than necessary in a day, which may lead to weight gain (21).

To keep calories in check, choose yogurt-based spinach dip, serve with vegetables instead of chips, and limit yourself to small portions.

May be paired with refined carbs

Spinach dip is often served with chips, crackers, pita bread, or other white bread for dipping.

If eaten in excess, refined carbs like these are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. They may also lead to blood sugar spikes, which in turn cause a crash in energy levels (22, 23).

Choosing whole grain carbs like whole grain crackers or whole wheat pita for dipping instead of refined carbs may reduce this snack’s effect on your blood sugar (24).

May be high in sodium

Spinach dip is often high in sodium, especially in large amounts or if served with salty chips or crackers (1, 4).

The AHA recommends that you keep sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day, and less than 1,500 mg per day if you have a high risk of heart disease (25).

Research indicates that excess sodium may contribute to elevated blood pressure and heart disease risk (26).

If you’re watching your sodium intake, you may want to make your own spinach dip and limit added salt and cheese, which can be high in sodium.

summary

Spinach dip is often high in sodium, paired with refined carbs, and calorie dense. For some individuals, its saturated fat content may also be worth noting. Overall, it’s worth keeping your intake in moderation.

The health effects of both store-bought and homemade dips differ depending on the ingredients. Notably, you have much more control over the ingredients — and therefore the nutritional value — if you make it yourself.

Ultimately, choosing one or the other depends on your nutrition needs, desire to cook, how you want to serve it (hot or cold), and how much time you have.

Distinctions of store-bought dips

Store-bought dips are often higher in sodium because salt is used not only as a flavoring but also as a preservative, extending the product’s shelf-life (27).

Spinach dip packets, which include seasonings for you to mix into homemade dip, tend to be high in sodium as well.

Plus, pre-made dips more likely contain added sugar, food stabilizers, and other additives.

Distinctions of homemade dips

Depending on the recipe, ingredients vary widely for homemade spinach dips.

More indulgent dips include cream cheese, mayonnaise, and cheeses like parmesan or mozzarella whereas lighter options are made with yogurt, more vegetables, and little or no cheese.

Homemade spinach dips are also sometimes served warm, which can be a nice treat — especially at a party.

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Store-bought spinach dips tend to have more preservatives and salt than homemade versions, while homemade versions are sometimes served warm and give you more control over the ingredients.

Here are a few easy tips for making nutritious spinach dip at home.

Load up on the veggies

The more spinach you add to your dip, the more nutritious it will be. You can also add other veggies like:

Serve with veggie sticks instead of crackers

Furthermore, you can serve your dip with sliced veggies rather than crackers or chips. Almost any fresh vegetable works great with spinach dip, but here are a few ideas:

Dehydrated vegetables or baked veggie chips are also good dipping options.

Use plain Greek yogurt

Plain Greek yogurt adds protein to your dip, which can make it more filling. While low fat Greek yogurt may reduce the saturated fat content of the dip, full fat Greek yogurt is creamier, creating a more satisfying texture and flavor.

You can use Greek yogurt in place of some or all of the mayonnaise and cream cheese in your recipe. You may still want to use small amounts of mayo, parmesan, or mozzarella for flavor and texture.

Limit the cheese, and choose healthy types

Cheese is a great way to flavor your spinach dip, but you may want to limit the total amount to keep calories, saturated fat, and sodium in check (19, 20).

You may also want to choose certain types over others. Good options include:

  • Parmesan. This cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. Although it’s higher in sodium than some other cheeses, a little goes a long way (28).
  • Cheddar. This popular orange cheese contains calcium, some protein, and small amounts of vitamin K2, which has been shown to support bone and heart health (29, 30).
  • Mozzarella. This soft, white cheese is commonly used in spinach dip. It’s lower in sodium and calories than many cheeses and may even contain probiotics, which boost your gut health (31, 32).

On the other hand, cream cheese tends to be high in calories. Consider cutting back on it or replacing it with Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.

Watch the added salt

Excess sodium and sugar may increase your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes (33, 34, 35).

Sodium is found in mayonnaise, cheese, and cream cheese — three common ingredients in spinach dips. Many recipes also call for additional salt.

If you already follow a low sodium diet, the salt in spinach dip may not be a concern. However, to be on the safe side, you may want to:

  • Limit the total amount of salt in your recipe.
  • Check the nutrient info for store-bought dips.
  • Use veggie sticks for dipping instead of salty chips or crackers.
  • Use fresh or dried herbs as seasoning instead of salt.

Serve with healthy accompaniments

If you choose to serve your veggie dip with crackers or chips, it’s best to choose healthy options made from whole grains. Options include:

  • veggie chips like kale, carrot, or beet chips
  • whole grain pita bread, toasted
  • whole grain crackers

summary

To make healthy spinach dip, load up on the veggies, choose small amounts of healthy cheese, watch the salt, and serve with veggie sticks or whole grain crackers.

The health effects of spinach dip depend entirely on how it’s made and what you serve it with.

Some recipes or pre-made dips contain a lot of sodium and calories, which you may want to limit.

However, you can make spinach dip a healthy snack or appetizer by using Greek yogurt, limiting added cheese, and serving it with vegetables or whole grain crackers for dipping.

Plus, spinach dip isn’t an everyday food for most people, so even the more indulgent recipes can be part of a healthy diet. Try to keep portion sizes moderate — about 1/4 cup (60 grams).

If you enjoy it most when it’s made with mayonnaise, cream cheese, and cheese, it’s OK to enjoy it on occasion.

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